Sixty Joyless De-Britished Uncrowned Commonpoor Years (1949-2009)

Elizabeth II Vice-Regal Saint: Remembering Paul Comtois (1895–1966), Lt.-Governor of Québec
Britannic Inheritance: Britain's proud legacy. What legacy will America leave?
English Debate: Daniel Hannan revels in making mince meat of Gordon Brown
Crazy Canucks: British MP banned from Canada on national security grounds
Happy St. Patrick's: Will Ireland ever return to the Commonwealth?
Voyage Through the Commonwealth: World cruise around the faded bits of pink.
No Queen for the Green: The Green Party of Canada votes to dispense with monarchy.
"Sir Edward Kennedy": The Queen has awarded the senator an honorary Knighthood.
President Obama: Hates Britain, but is keen to meet the Queen?
The Princess Royal: Princess Anne "outstanding" in Australia.
H.M.S. Victory: In 1744, 1000 sailors went down with a cargo of gold.
Queen's Commonwealth: Britain is letting the Commonwealth die.
Justice Kirby: His support for monarchy almost lost him appointment to High Court
Royal Military Academy: Sandhurst abolishes the Apostles' Creed.
Air Marshal Alec Maisner, R.I.P. Half Polish, half German and 100% British.
Cherie Blair: Not a vain, self regarding, shallow thinking viper after all.
Harry Potter: Celebrated rich kid thinks the Royals should not be celebrated
The Royal Jelly: A new king has been coronated, and his subjects are in a merry mood
Victoria Cross: Australian TROOPER MARK DONALDSON awarded the VC
Godless Buses: Royal Navy veteran, Ron Heather, refuses to drive his bus
Labour's Class War: To expunge those with the slightest pretensions to gentility
100 Top English Novels of All Time: The Essential Fictional Library
BIG BEN: Celebrating 150 Years of the Clock Tower

Wednesday, 11 April 2007

Rideau Hall's Lèse Majesté

The National Post asks what is becoming of Rideau Hall? Indeed. The article below by Julie Smyth is not for the loyalist and constitutionalist faint of heart. The whole thing smacks of Lèse majesté, a conscious endeavor by the governor-general and her staff to downgrade the Queen and our royal history in order to be more "relevant", "modern" and "contemporary" to Canadians. Obviously the governor-general as the personal representative of Her Majesty is not one who should be downplaying the royal connection, undermining the Crown and hollowing out the symbolic power of the monarchy, yet that is exactly what Her Excellency and her staff are doing to further their own particular tastes and agendas. Sticking royal portraits in bathrooms and cloakrooms, segregating British governors-general off to more obscure corners of the official residence and relegating the only image of Her Majesty to the back wall in order to make room for more "edgy" contemporary art is an outrage. The Crown is not some stuffy relic of the past, but an honourable institution that is central to our country's story. Who in the blazes do they think they are?

by Julie Smyth, National Post

Just months after Michaelle Jean took over as Governor-General, she made a change that would begin to alter the look and feel of Rideau Hall. She replaced the showpiece art in the Ballroom, where prime ministers and Cabinet are sworn in and where the country's highest honours, such as the Order of Canada, are handed out at the official residence.

Ms. Jean was visiting The Confederation Centre of the Arts, and spotted a 1964 work by the late Quebec artist Jean Paul Lemieux called Charlottetown Revisited, which represents the Fathers of Confederation and the turning point in Canada's history.

Her choice bumped a 1979 portrait of the Queen and Duke of Edinburgh with Parliament Hill in the background. That portrait, also by Mr. Lemieux, is now on the back wall. The switch was made to better reflect Ms. Jean's vision -- she wanted a strong image of Canada.

One shift led to another: A large painting of Queen Victoria that used to be at the back of the Ballroom was relocated to the Tent room, where the Governor-General hosts large dinners. The Ballroom acquired smaller images of Queen Victoria and her husband, which were hung in a corner.

The changes have continued, as a tour this week revealed, and are part of a deliberate effort by Ms. Jean to make the home more relevant, contemporary and a showcase for Canadian work that reflects stories about Canada. But as a result, Ms. Jean, who is an avid art lover, is highlighting paintings that draw less and less on the office's British traditions.

While the governor-general represents the Queen in this country, the increased emphasis on Canada means less on the royal family past or present. The Lemieux portrait is the only one of the Queen on display. "That's it as far as Her Majesty is concerned," said Fabienne Fusade, interpretation and exhibition planner at Rideau Hall. "We really want to create a Canadian interior. So some of the old furniture pieces, part of our history, they are very important, we don't want to get rid of them but ... it is all about Canada."

The changes include a gradual shift to modernize the art that predates Ms. Jean's time in office. No longer in the residence: a more traditional portrait of the Queen, as well as images of the Queen's father, King George VI, and the Queen Mother that once graced the entrance. They are now in the Senate. "They were huge ... and they did not really speak to people. It wasn't relevant any more," says Ms. Fusade. "They had become a bit of an anachronism here. It fit when you thought of the history of the place ... but it did not fit any more with the current role of the Governor-General. That is certainly something that Ms. [Adrienne] Clarkson started to change and with Ms. Jean it has taken a more edgy feeling to it."

Some works by British artists have been put in storage or relocated to other residences by the National Capital Commission, which looks after the Crown collection of art.

Some royal portraits have been moved from a drawing room to near the lower-level staff entrance, cloakroom and public toilets. These include: two portraits of Princess Louise of Prussia, Duchess of Connaught, who was married to the Duke of Connaught, the son of Queen Victoria and the first member of the royal family to become governor- general of Canada, as well as a portrait of Princess Helena, daughter of Queen Victoria.

The paintings have been grouped into a "spouses theme." Portraits of spouses also line the stairwell leading to the area with the public washrooms, which has not amused some wives of former governors-general; the National Capital Commission is trying to compensate by repainting the area to make it a "more prestigious" space.

There is some royal art -- Queen Alexandra and King Edward -- outside the suite for visiting heads of state.

The art collection manoeuvring is one of many ways Ms. Jean is setting a more modern tone; she has established a video blog to discuss art with Canadians, introduced a provocative modern exhibition from Montreal and wants to use the home to celebrate young Canadian artists as much as possible. Even her private quarters are a reflection of a different era at the home -- she has converted a bedroom that once housed a chapel put in by Georges Vanier, a devoted Catholic, into living space to accommodate her young daughter Marie-Eden. The chapel's furniture -- pews, chairs and an altar that are Canadian antiques -- have been relocated to another space designated as an ecumenical chapel. She has also added a swing set in the private back garden for her daughter.

Throughout the home, the art collection has been grouped in themes to reflect her vision, so the large portrait of Queen Victoria is now on show with the portraits of all British-born governors- general, the idea being to keep history in one place. The front entrance of Rideau Hall now showcases portraits of Canadian- born governors-general as a way of making a big impression upon entering the home.

One of the biggest indicators of Ms. Jean's goals is the Ambassadors' Room, a space for rotating art exhibits, which houses the contemporary work of five Quebec artists she selected from the Musee d'art contemporain de Montreal. Some are abstract in nature and one, Vivre aux depens d'autrui, a 2003 work by Michel Boulanger, centres on Disney-inspired cartoons to display more serious messages. The title translates to "Living at the expense of others" and shows a series of characters, including one holding a gun to another's head. Much of the art in the exhibit is provocative and the intent is to stimulate debate.

For her office, Ms. Jean has chosen an abstract piece, also on loan from the Musee d'art contemporain de Montreal ? Paul Emile Borduas' Sans titre (no. 66).

The pine-panelled Pauline Vanier Room, named after the former governor-general's spouse, has been updated with several newer pieces of art. The room, which is used for meetings with visiting heads of state, includes a 1996 work by David Thauberger called Food Shoppe, and a 2001 painting by Charles Pachter called Shadow Barn.

The Reception Room, the oldest room in the residence, which once held portraits of governors-general, is full of Canadian art selected by Ms. Jean, including works by Alberta-born William Kurelek from the 1970s that depict the story of Ukrainian immigrants coming to Canada. There is also a 1991 piece by Vancouver-born Wanda Koop, Untitled #4 (Notes for Prelude to War), of a robot representing the growing role of technology in warfare.

"This is the hub of Rideau Hall ... so it was very important for her to make a strong impression, Also, there are a lot of photo ops that happen here -- to have a portrait as a background is not really great," says Ms. Fusade, "to have contemporary art speaks more about today."

The following is an editorial response in today's National Post

The downgrading of the Queen of Canada and her family at Rideau Hall was reported on by Julie Smyth in Saturday's National Post. Royal portraits have been systematically deported to more obscure positions; some have been moved out of the building altogether.

Rideau Hall is not "Canada's national home," as the Governor- General's Web site now says. It is the home of the representative of Queen Elizabeth, and it is not primarily an art gallery, as the current resident, Michaelle Jean, and her staff seem to think. To be sure, this nationally important house should appeal in various ways to Canadians and also to visitors from abroad. Like all human beings, we have eyes through which our minds, imaginations and sensibilities are shaped. But our lives as visual creatures should not displace our allegiance to our head of state, our constitutional order and our history.

History itself has been demoted and ghettoized, the British-born governors general being ethnically profiled and their portraits grouped with Queen Victoria.

These moves may or may not be stealth republicanism, or an attempted constitutional amendment by curatorial decree. But Ms. Jean and her staff are evidently trying to siphon off the great symbolic power of the monarchy, to further their particular tastes and agendas. If they continue on this path, they will undermine a highly honourable office, and consequently validate the warnings offered by Ms. Jean's detractors at the time she was appointed.


Roy Eappen said...

I have emailed Rideau Hall. And posted

similar posts

over the last few days. I suggest we all show Rideau hall that we are displeased.

Beaverbrook said...

The whole attitude is just unashamedly and transparently regicidal. Because that is the end result of the determined path they are on.

redtown said...

The Liberals may be gone, but in Paul Martin's appointment of this politically-correct, affirmative-action, transparently iconoclastic GG
(who had no other qualifications but those), the Liberals have left us with "the gift that keeps giving..."

It's going to get worse before it gets better. I suggest everyone renew their memberships in the Monarchist League.

Splendor Sine Occasu said...

It's going to get worse before it gets better. I suggest everyone renew their memberships in the Monarchist League.

Don't waste your money. I've been to their message board, and they should be more accurately named the "Governor's General League of Canada". They fawn for her, and her predecessor, Pretender Queen Adrienne I more than they do Her Majesty!

'been around the block said...

I remember reading a profile in The New Yorker of Harold Wilson, Britain’s Labour PM during the 1970s.

On becoming the Prime Minister, he had been greatly annoyed to discover that he was required to meet with the Queen once a week, to go over the nation’s business in the “Red Boxes,” a requirement of all PMs. As a member of the Labour Party he had no fondness for Royalty and thought that this hour spent with the Queen, would be, in fact, a Royal waste of time.

It was wonderful to read how his opinion of Queen Elizabeth II changed. He said that he was astonished at how knowledgeable she was of world and Commonwealth affairs and how generous she was in sharing her knowledge and wisdom gained from her many years as the British Monarch.

He discovered that she was an extremely hard working and deeply engaged woman, and he found himself looking forward to his weekly meetings with her.

Michaelle Jean would do well to do some homework about her adopted land and the Monarch she represents. It is the height of arrogance to assume that she knows better than we do–and to go about making changes to create Rideau Hall in her image. What gall.

I was distressed when Paul Martin appointed her the GG, and feel that her appointment was the Liberals’ slap in the face to Royalist and conservative Canadians. I still do.

redtown said...

At the top of the League's message board this morning are a string of posts critical of the current regime at Rideau Hall.

Then in the League's current issue of Canadian Monarchist News is a lengthy lead article critical of Ms. Jean, noting
"doubts about her judgment", "conduct has been troubling", and "turmoil in the Official Household".

Just because a few individual members may fawn over her hardly makes the MLC a cheerleader for Ms.Jean.

My bigger point is that only organized and persistent political action can stem the tide of regicide, and the Monarchist League is the best vehicle.

Beaverbrook said...

We need the MLC, that's for sure. There are the regulars over at the Board who fawn over the modernizing influence of the last two ggs, which is inevitable given the political neutrality at the League. But I was happy to read the Hamilton Chairman lace into Her Excellency in today's NP Comments. I also noticed our friend, JJ McCollough, fight back without nary a mention of his republican credentials. It must be terrible for him to be so outnumbered all the time on this issue.

Anonymous said...

Not to worry, you chaps, it isn't a specifically Canadian problem. Just think of the Blairites' purge of old portraits of Pitt and Disraeli and Prince Albert and so forth, in Downing Street and the ministries, in favour of modernist-brutalist "masterpieces" of conceptual art. All splurges of vivid colours and hideous shapes with the small caption, "Racism" or some such thing. Very representative of modern Britian, I dare say. And if there's anything other than Maori art in that beehive thing in New Zealand, I would be vastly surprised.


JJ said...

Here was the letter of mine they ran in today's Post:

"The National Post is a wonderful newspaper in many ways, but I must say I am becoming increasingly fatigued by this editorial page's consistently overblown, cloyingly defensive, and increasing paranoid monarchism. At a time when there are no shortage of enormously important developments occurring across the globe on a daily basis, the Post's editorial board will never miss an opportunity to shuffle one of these stories to the backburner in order to document the latest (real or imagined) slight against our poor Queen.

Conspiracy theories of "stealth republicanism" notwithstanding, is the shuffling around of a few portraits at Rideau Hall really the second-most important story of the day, deserving of a lead editorial? The Ukraine is on the brink of political collapse, Iran continues to rattle its nuclear saber, a two-tier clinic has just reopened in BC, and Ontario is poised to enter a provincial election. Does the interior design of the Governor General's mansion really take precedence over all of this?

Sometimes it feels like I am reading the monthly newsletter of the Monarchist League of Canada and not a national newspaper."

-J.J. McCullough

The National Post has consistently been taking a hardline monarchist stance on every single little issue that even remotely affects the monarchy in even the most abstract, symbolic ways. I've been reading the paper for a long time, however, and I never remember this kind of reactionary tone before. I suspect in the last little while they must have hired some real fire-breathing monarchist to their editorial board, and the rest of the staff just goes along with it, because the issue "seems conservative." Which is a problem, I, as a conservative republican, often find frustrating in many contexts.

They have run quite a few of my letters in the last little while, however, so the paper is open to publishing alternative points of view. We republicans do not seem to have the obsessive letter-writing furry that monarchists do, however, sending out the rallying cry to mobilize our troops and so on, the way I see here, and in the MLC.

I don't see it as a problem of being outnumbered per se, I think it's just a matter of facing down a very loud, vocal, and obsessive minority whose admittedly skilled tactics have made "their side" seem far more powerful and mainstream than it actually is.

David Wozney said...

Julie Smyth wrote: "...Michaelle Jean took over as Governor-General...".

The Governor General of Canada is a "corporation sole", according to Elizabeth the Second in this web page document. A "corporation sole" is defined and recognized as being a corporation.

It is a fiction that a corporation is a person.

"A corporation is a fiction, by definition, ..." according to Patrick Healy in a statement that can be read here.

"A corporation is a 'fiction' as it has no separate existence, no physical body and no 'mind'", according to this presentation by Joanne Klineberg.

Splendor Sine Occasu said...

Well, I was booted off the MLC message board for critising Pretender Queen Adrienne I and her replacement, Mme. Jean, so I would say that they are much more of a GG fan club than they are interested in protecting the Canadian monarchy.

Ever since I started reading the National Post in the late 90's, it's editorial board has consistently been pro-monarchy. It is one of the few, if not only, pro-monarch mainstream media outlets in the Dominion. That alone is reason enough for me to continue purchasing that paper.

JJ said...

I would dispute that. Their board was a strong critic of the lavish spending of Ms. Clarkson, something that most monarchists at the time were very defensive about. I'd be curious to know if they also supported Preston Manning's boycott of Ms. Clarkson's swearing-in ceremony back in 1999.

Matt Bondy said...

Beaverbrook et al;

I've been a member of the MLC for about 5 years now. I think it might be a bit inaccurate to say that a lot of MLC members fawn over the 'modernisation' that's taken place at the GG residence (and Office in general) recently.

The League's non-partisan nature is perhaps its greatest asset and weapon.


Stop by the blog and tell me how ya 'really feel' :)


Splendor Sine Occasu said...

Yes, the National Post rightly criticised the lavish spending of Pretender Queen Adrienne I and her pompous tenure as Governor General, however, it always defended the institution of monarchy and the Sovereign herself.

I don't mind that the MLC is non-partisan, but that they defended the champagn socialist republican Trojan horse, Pretender Queen Adrienne I at every turn, and booted me off the board simply for criticising her and Mme. Jean struck me as rather silly, since neither embody what a real Governor General should be.

redtown said...

The following are my email to the Prime Minister, and the response from his office. His forwarding my email to Rideau Hall will fall on deaf ears,
but the more who contact the PM, the more likely he'll "advise" her to restrain herself.
So keep those letters pouring into the PM and your MP ! The PM's email address is:


Dear Prime Minister,

I write to protest the ongoing 'regicide' at Rideau Hall. Ms. Jean's actions to bury all references to Her Majesty and our Canadian Monarchy,
recently reported in the National Post, are deplorably iconoclastic.

I appreciate your past support for the Monarchy, and respectfully urge you to try to impress upon the GG that
Her Majesty, not Ms. Jean, is Queen of Canada.


On behalf of the Right Honourable Stephen Harper, I would like to acknowledge receipt of your e-mail.

You may be assured that your comments have been carefully reviewed. I have taken the liberty of forwarding your message to
the Office of the Secretary to Her Excellency the Right Honourable Michaëlle Jean, the Governor General of Canada, for consideration.

Thank you for writing to the Prime Minister.

M. Bredeson
Executive Correspondence Officer
for the Prime Minister's Office

Anonymous said...

It's a form letter, dude.. They won't do any forwarding since they don't give a crap about this issue. The Prime Minister is busy actually doing important things, like dealing with a war in Afghanistan, trying to fix the environment etc.

Michael said...

It's a form letter response, yes, but having once worked for an MPP, I can tell you that these letters are counted. For an MP to receive just ten letters on an issue is considered a "landslide" of public opinion. If the PM gets a few hundred letters on this issue, he will take note and there's a good chance he'll act.