OHMS? – No, they serve us
It had not been my plan to write this last post before Christmas in defence of the monarchy, but the recent op-ed of Roy Wood demands a response. Meanwhile, to all, I send my best wishes for a very Merry Christmas and a healthy, prosperous New Year.
You ask, Mr. Wood, in your post of 18 December if the House of Windsor might fade to black – as you would prefer. My answer is, I hope not. I applaud your passion, but it is misplaced. Much would be lost.
You waste too many words, Sir, on the alleged behaviour of a single member of the royal family. You paint all with a single brush. Let’s agree that – as a family – the royal family is little different than any other family. Within their ranks, now and in the past, there exists the brilliant and the dull, the impaired and the perfect, the righteous and the rogue, those who stayed home and those who wandered. They are created as are we all, born as are we all, raised and educated as are we all, take careers as do we all, marry, procreate, perhaps divorce, and die as do we all. Within that family, one finds the trials, the tribulations, the joys, the despair, the successes and the failures, the courage and the cowardice as you find in any family. Surely you would not have us judge your kin by the reported actions of only one of them – I would not.
My own ancestors were Bretons who became the Stewards to the Kings of Scotland. My only claim to royalty is through the illegitimate daughter of King James IV Stewart, Janet la Belle Ecossaise, my 12th great grandmother, although I suppose I could also claim a seat at the table through Janet’s illegitimate son fathered by the King of France. My point being that if you are a royal, the records have been well maintained – for obvious reasons – but also that they reveal that most of us have some royal blood. More than has been recorded, probably.
In 1966, in the Officer’s Mess at Wolsely Barracks, London, Ontario, I stood with three other officers in training – wet behind the ears we were – discussing the new Canadian flag. We were all of the opinion that we could not see the reason behind the change and that it was “wrong”. A Captain – and at that time, Captains were gods – entered. The senior of our number explained our position and queried him for his. I shall never forget his response, “I swore my allegiance to the Queen, as did all of you. The flag is of no consequence.” Four young officers were immediately educated. His words were true. And to prevent digression, I assert that the Regimental Colours are not simply a flag.
It is so in all countries of the Commonwealth. The military is clearly separated from the political. The Commander-in-Chief of the Canadian Forces is the Governor General who is the viceregal representative of the Monarch. There can be no military action that is not authorized by the GG – and therefore, the Queen. Politicians do not have the authority. That should be a comfort when you look at other countries and see those who gain power – by election, by coup, by any means – and possess the wherewithal to master or muster or vanquish the masses. Hence, the monarchy provides us with a protection from democracy gone wrong and guarantees the democratic process. There is value there. Far from being undemocratic, the monarchy is our guarantee of democracy.
I applaud you for not making the argument that so many do in ignorance that the monarchy is an economic drain. It is not. The Royal Family is a net economic benefit – particularly to the UK – but also throughout the Commonwealth.
Within the Commonwealth, while it is no longer the British Commonwealth but rather The Commonwealth of Nations, most of the fifty-plus nations are former British territories. Among them, Canada was the first independent member of the British Commonwealth and the first voluntary member of The Commonwealth of Nations. In my career, I have been blessed to have worked with a number of our Commonwealth allies including in particular through the Commonwealth Defence Science Organization (CDSO) at a meeting in New Zealand while the first Gulf War was in the early stages. What bound us was our common monarch, our common language, our common customs, and our common foes. What resulted is an apolitical organization of friends without mistrust, without hidden agenda, without power plays, willing to share our successes and failures unselfishly. This was unique among the international organizations with whom I was involved including the UN, NATO, TTCP, and the Five Eyes. Members came from the West Indies, Oceania, Africa, Europe, and Asia. Canada alone came from North America. Believe me, the Commonwealth organizations have a much different, much preferred, much more cooperative “air” than any other international organization. We are commonwealth under a common monarch.
Would I prefer to be a member of the Royal Family than a commoner? No. The job is far too demanding. Each of the male members has undertaken a military career and served in many cases in dangerous roles and in war. The Falklands, Afghanistan, and piloting a rescue helicopter are all recent. The Queen herself served during WWII. But upon return from uniformed service, each undertakes a service to country and humanity – a service that would not otherwise be performed.
Their leadership, their public position, their active involvement benefits many.
We are well-served by our royalty.