The Queen of Canada seen from Quebec

Queen for 70 years, Elizabeth II does not yet hold the record for longevity of reign over Canada. It was Louis XIV, the Sun King, who reigned the longest in the area bearing that name: 72 years. Elizabeth II’s amazing longevity nonetheless puts her, in terms of duration, at the forefront of her great-grandmother Queen Victoria, who is also ruler of Canada, like so many other areas of a vast empire on which the sun never sets.

Under his rule, 17 prime ministers succeeded one another at the head of Quebec, from Maurice Duplessis to François Legault. That amazing longevity didn’t stop Queen Elizabeth II from being one of the most disliked rulers of all time, at least in Quebec. According to data from a Léger poll, just 12% of Quebecers supported the monarchy in 2021. In fact, 74% of Quebecers believe a crown simply doesn’t need to rule them. This number even rises to 81% when only French-speaking Quebecers are surveyed.

This deep lack of love for the monarchy has been maintained at a very high level since the 1960s, at a time when a global questioning of the existing regime of government, combined with an appetite for republican principles, saw the royal institution inherit a safe distance from the colonial era.


In 1964, a visit by Queen Elizabeth II led to an uproar in Quebec. In the previous year, the Front de libération du Québec (FLQ) switched from bombing to looting armories and armories to hoard war materials. The Quebec revolutionaries want to go underground, following the example of Che Guevara in Cuba. Symbols of British colonialism – monuments, armed forces, Her Majesty’s Post – are under attack.

The visit of the Queen and her husband was scheduled for October 1964. Immediately after the announcement he was denounced by young pro-independence activists. Pierre Bourgault, the President of the Rally for National Independence (RIN), wrote to Buckingham Palace to publicly announce that the Queen was not welcome in Quebec. The media relays the affront and keeps the suspense going.

At a time when the assassination of John F. Kennedy is still fresh in everyone’s mind and the excitement of FLQ is palpable, even the new ways of accommodating political protest through mass demonstrations have authorities fearing the worst.

Are the separatists threatening the safety of the royal couple? The President of RIN makes sure no, while letting go of the fact that you never know: a madman, he says, or someone malicious, might make regrettable gestures under the circumstances. The voltage increases. The security services are nervous. People understand that times have changed unlike previous royal visits. In other words, Her Majesty’s subjects have two choices on this visit: stay home with a shrug, or join the monarchy’s opponents.

Pro-independence protesters gather at the Durocher Center in Lower Town Quebec in preparation for a large opposition demonstration. A banner waved above their heads gives a precise idea of ​​the feelings that inspire them: “The people, our only sovereign”. Her objective: to block the road that the queen must lead to her residence within the walls of the citadel, sitting on the ground without moving, according to the then new practice of the sit in. However, the protesters are quickly surrounded by the police forces agitated around them. They won’t work. Those who nonetheless dare to challenge the authorities to show their disgust for the monarchy face blunt charges from the police. Images broadcast on television show bodies being battered with batons in the middle of deserted streets, unsuccessfully trying to protect themselves.

The actual symbol of the queen doesn’t go down very well. When Canadian National President Donald Gordon announced in 1954 that a new hotel under construction in Montreal would bear the sovereign’s name, demonstrations of outrage were heard. The figureheads of French-Canadian society clamored for this grand hotel to bear a local name, such as that of De Maisonneuve, the city’s founder. Why do you call this establishment The Queen Elizabeth? When the hotel was dedicated in 1958, an entire gathering of American personalities was invited, emphasizing the idea of ​​expropriation. The Queen herself will only visit the house very briefly in the following year.

The triumph of 1951

In 1951, before her coronation, the Princess first came to Canada, accompanied by her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, on a visit to this dominion of the British Commonwealth. The couple got off their plane in Montreal at Dorval Airport to immediately board a train that stopped at Anse aux Foulons. The princess had time on the way, reports The duty with patriotic attention to detail, a “maple nut ice cream drizzled with maple syrup”.

In Quebec, the heir to the throne is basically following in the footsteps of General Wolfe, to whom she owes rulership of that territory. She entered the spot where the general had landed his troops on September 13, 1759, the base of his attack, and boarded a convertible limousine to climb Gilmour Hill like him before reaching the Plains of Abraham. Who cares ? The Princess and her husband experienced a truly triumphant reception from the populace.

The streets are crowded with crowds agitated with lots of advertising. Individuals go on crazy races to try to follow the royal limousine. Several buildings in Quebec are decked out in the colors of the United Kingdom, as on previous royal visits. The reporter from Have to responsible for following the future sovereign as well as monarchical stereotypes state that the princess “is an elegant young woman, prettier and slimmer than the photographs have shown her to us”.

British flags were hoisted in front of the Quebec Parliament. On the building’s lawns, the crowd takes up all the space, as enthusiastically as possible. Some wave small Union Jacks. Under the enthusiastic eyes of Prime Minister Maurice Duplessis, the princess and future queen signed the guest book. Photos immortalize the meeting. The future sovereign then went to Laval University, where she was dressed in all the regalia of a prelate of the Church by Ms.GR Ferdinand Vandry. She will then remain in the citadel, protected by the Royal 22e Regiment, at one of his two official residences in Canada.

Aside from an accidental landing on November 24, 1953 in Gander, Newfoundland, for technical reasons, the princess-turned-queen did not officially set foot in Quebec until 1957. She rarely does so, alongside Hull, on the fringes of a stint in Ottawa, where in October she will open the session of the new parliament, now controlled by Conservative John G. Diefenbaker after June’s election.

The Queen returned in 1959, this time notably to inaugurate the St. Lawrence Seaway. This huge project promises to change the face of international trade. On June 26, she occupied the centerpiece of a ceremony together with US President Dwight D. Eisenhower. The two heads of state lead the Britannia, Her Majesty’s private ship for 44 years. The day before she spent a very short night in Montreal in the chic hotel that bears her name.

In the days of Meech Lake

Although the figure of the Queen featured prominently during the official ceremonies of these international events, the 1967 World’s Fair and the 1976 Olympic Games, it was not until 1987 that she officially entered Quebec for the first time since 1964. The Quebec independence movement was then at its lowest ebb, in the Followed by René Lévesque’s “beau risque” and the Meech Lake constitutional agreement, which the sovereign publicly endorsed before ending.

The Queen took advantage of this calm climate to go to Quebec, where she was received soberly by Robert Bourassa, before making a trip to Bas-Saint-Laurent and Cap-Tourmente to watch the snow geese migration. On the program for this stopover in the east of the territory: Quebec, Sillery, Cap-Tourmente, Rivière-du-Loup, La Pocatière. She will make another very brief stop to highlight the 125e anniversary of the Confederation. To mark the occasion, she has been invited to a reception by Prime Minister Brian Mulroney at the Canadian Museum of Civilization in Hull.

The Queen’s symbol, rarely present in flesh and blood but represented by a number of Governors-General, is nonetheless an everyday part of Canadian life. The official currency has shown variations of its image engraved on steel plates for decades. How many stamps with his bust have been printed since he ascended the throne in 1952? Overall, if we add up the different mintage of these little jagged stamps, we have to consider that Canadian languages ​​will have licked the back of millions of Her Majesty’s stamps. In 1953, the first Canadian postage stamp bearing the image of the sovereign had a face value of 1p. Since then, about every year, the posts have offered one or more new portrayals of the Queen of Canada. 72 different postage stamps with his image were issued in Canada. The price of a postage stamp for domestic use today is $1.07.

arm wrestling

In principle, the queen derives her authority from God. His supreme authority was invoked by those in power to justify the occasional political arm wrestling. In 1962, to express his refusal to negotiate pay rises in the civil service, Prime Minister Jean Lesage threw out a theatrical sentence: “The Queen does not negotiate with her subjects. He was immediately refuted by René Lévesque, one of his most influential ministers. In 2014, former Lieutenant Governor Lise Thibault invoked the sanctity of the monarchy she claimed to embody in court to ward off accusations of embezzlement that were raining down on her.

On the occasion of the Queen’s jubilee in 2012, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper multiplied the honors for Elizabeth II: ceremonies, new official portrait, commemorative stained glass in Ottawa. In various state buildings, works of art were replaced by representations of the sovereign. In the foyer of the Federal Foreign Office in the federal capital, two paintings by the painter Alfred Pellan were therefore withdrawn from the public, and depictions of Elizabeth II were shown instead.

The monarch’s death comes shortly after the passage of Bill 86 in Quebec on the conferral of the crown by the National Assembly. Approved on June 4, 2021 by the Queen’s representative to the province, Lieutenant Governor J. Michel Doyon, the law aimed to prevent the disruption of Quebec’s legislative, executive and judicial powers following the death or even abdication of Elizabeth II . This precaution had been necessitated by the 1982 reform of the National Assembly Act, which did not specify whether the Chamber survived the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace. In conversation with The duty In 2019, Professor Patrick Taillon at the Faculty of Law at the University of Laval spoke of a “small time bomb”. The state eventually defused it, which will allow for the slow succession to the throne that will see the birth of a new sovereign.

With David Noel

Canada’s longest reign

To see in the video

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