Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Culture: Seeing the Queen('s Hat)

For most of her "walkabout," this was what could be seen of Queen Elizabeth--her pink hat--on 6-July-2010

TORONTO, ONTARIO - It seems like time to sing:
My country 'tis of thee,
Sweet land of liberty
Of thee I sing...
Wait a minute, better start that one again:
God save our gracious Queen,
Long live our noble Queen,
God save the Queen.
Send her victorious,
Happy and glorious,
Long to reign over us;
God save the Queen.
For someone who grew up in the United States, the concept of having royalty as one's head of state is not an easy concept to grasp. For that matter, many Canadians don't seem to have a clear understanding of the Queen's actual role in their government. Some think the concept of royalty is outdated and that Canada needs to "grow up." Yet, there isn't much ambiguity about the nation's feelings about this Queen. Queen Elizabeth II is a beloved figure in this country, and after seeing how her final public appearance in Canada was handled earlier today, it's not hard to understand why.

The Queen's flag flew high above all the other flags at Queen's Park in Toronto, Ontario on 6-July-2010

By the time I arrived at Queen's Park this morning, several hundred people were already awaiting the public appearance of the Queen, scheduled for 10:30. Several hundred more would arrive before we saw her. Fences were laid out in Queen's Park to allow quite a number of people to line a long path through the park. As I took a place on high ground away from the pathway, the discussion around me speculated that she wouldn't actually walk along all the designated paths. "After all, she is 84 years old," noted someone standing near me. This was a completely incorrect prediction; she would cover every inch of the designated pathway.

One of the clearer views of Queen Elizabeth was obtained as she started her walk out of Queen's Park in Toronto, Ontario on 6-July-2010

After other dignitaries, including Governor General Michaƫlle Jean and Mayor David Miller, arrived and took their places, Queen Elizabeth appeared out of the building, right on time. With other women wearing fancy hats in the party, some were confused about who was who, but once she came into sight, there was no question. She was the only one dressed in pink, with a wonderful pink hat. As she started to take her walkabout, the most frequent comment from those around me was an excited, "I see her hat! I see her hat!"

Follow the angles of the cameras and one could determine Queen Elizabeth's location in the crowd in Toronto, Ontario on 6-July-2010

Indeed for most of the walkabout, all we could see was her hat. "She's not a very tall woman, you know," said one of my fellow bystanders. Besides following where the cameras seemed to be pointed, we quickly learned to follow a tall Mountie who tended to walk a bit in front of her, and Prime Minister Stephen Harper who tended to be just behind.

Queen Elizabeth entered the vehicle that would take her to the airport and away from Canada on 6-July-2010

Most of us didn't get to speak to Queen Elizabeth. We didn't even really get to see her very clearly before she was whisked away to the airport. But, she kept to the schedule, acted in a dignified manner, and met all expectations by walking around the entire park. It was symbolic of the dignity, maturity, and connection with the people that she has shown throughout her reign. As someone near me put it, "That was so cool. I'm so glad I came."

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