Arctic Adventure 41 – Royalty

Queen Victoria wearing her small diamond crown.  Photograph by Alexander Bassano, 1882

Queen Victoria wearing her small diamond crown. Photograph by Alexander Bassano, 1882

The third Monday of May is the annual Victoria Day public/bank holiday in Canada – in memory of Queen Victoria who was the reigning monarch at the time modern Canada was founded. It traditionally marks the start of summer throughout most of Canada. It is the long week-end when people venture out on their first camping trip for the season or start planting flower and vegetable seedlings in their gardens. In Cambridge Bay it is the culmination of the annual Omingmak Frolics which is held to celebrate the coming of the warmer weather.

Today I therefore wanted to explore some of the interesting royalty trivia and connections to this part of the world. May 24th – Queen Victoria’s actual birthday – was declared a holiday by the Canadian Government in 1854 and was always celebrated on that day, no matter what day of the week it fell on. It was only in 1952 that the Monday prior to May 24 was made Victoria Day to provide a consistent long week-end. A very little known fact to many people (including myself until today !) is that the day also marks Canada’s official celebration of current monarch Queen Elizabeth’s birthday. (Her birthday is actually on April 21 but she has traditionally marked that in private and even in the UK her birthday is officially celebrated in June.)

Victoria Island – where Cambridge Bay is located – is named after Queen Victoria. Cambridge Bay is named after Prince Adolphus, Duke of Cambridge who was uncle to Queen Victoria. In April 2011 the title of Duke of Cambridge was bestowed upon Prince William and his wife Catherine became The Duchess of Cambridge.

In doing my work in Cambridge Bay I recently came across a lease agreement between the company I work for – Inukshuk Enterprises – and Her Majesty the Queen. It is for the rental of a house in CB owned by Inukshuk to a Canadian Government Department – and quite an amusing concept that the Her Majesty should have any interest in such minute detail as a rental property in nether CB ! It highlights the somewhat quaint protocol that still exists.   Queen Elizabeth is queen of Canada – because Canada remains a member of the British Commonwealth – but her “interests” in Canada are “managed” by the Governor General of Canada through the Government of Canada. The GG is appointed by the Queen based on recommendation from the Canadian Prime Minister who is technically subject to the GG as the monarch’s representative. All a bit confusing and much of it seems ceremonial.

When I was back in Edmonton recently I noticed the Union Jack – officially known as the Royal Union Flag – flying over the Alberta Provincial Legislature (provincial parliament). According to my research Alberta is a staunch supporter of the monarchy and follow the little know protocol of flying the flag in recognition of Canada’s ongoing membership in the commonwealth.

One final bit of trivia. Queen Elizabeth II will, if she is still reigning on September 9, 2015, overtake her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria, (63 years 216 days) as the longest reigning female monarch in the world and the longest reigning British monarch ever; but still only around # 48 on the list of longest reigning monarchs worldwide.

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