EDITORIAL

A land that ruled the waves can also waive the rules

Peter C. Newman August 10 1981
EDITORIAL

A land that ruled the waves can also waive the rules

Peter C. Newman August 10 1981

A land that ruled the waves can also waive the rules

EDITORIAL

Peter C. Newman

This is the confession of a closet monarchist. It probably started back during Centennial Year, while I was touring the national pavilions at Expo 67. Each country had tried not only to portray itself in the best possible light but to capture and present its own character. Some nations succeeded better than others, few more so than the British.

For me, the U.K. pavilion turned out to be the biggest surprise of the fair. Stodgy on the outside —so much so that it attracted relatively sparse crowds— the British display, at first glance, wasn’t that startling. The building set out to celebrate the history of the English-speaking peoples by quite accurately and not very subtly documenting the influence that the U.K.’s explorers, writers and inventors have exercised over the evolution of the civilized world. What made the exhibit unusual were the delightful touches of selfdeprecating humor. In the midst of all the historical pageants, industrial marvels and visages of literary giants, there had been planted a deliberately untidy clump of bushes with burrs and toy singing birds. A hand-lettered sign pushed into the soil read: IS THERE UNDER HEAVEN A MORE GLORIOUS AND REFRESHING OBJECT THAN AN IMPREGNABLE HEDGE?

Seeing how the British had managed to turn what

could have been the stuffy ceremony between two wedding-cake figures into a warm and joyful human event last week, I felt a resurgence of the sentiment that I had come away with from Expo 67: admiration of the British aptitude for exercising precisely the proper sense of occasion, and doing so with flair and wit.

Watching the sea of splendidly behaved humanity surge from St. Paul’s Cathedral the three kilometres to Buckingham Palace, it was easy to understand why the British have survived such loss of supremacy with so indomitable a spirit. It was also dramatically evident how much more meaningful it is to celebrate real live people—especially as charming a couple as the Prince and Princess of Wales—than to be stuck with commemorating dates and events, as we tend to do on national occasions. Yet again, there was that touch of irreverence, probably best caught by Alastair Burnet, a commentator for Britain’s ITV network, who remarked that the wedding was such a grand occasion, “even the horses seemed to be smiling.”

Every country needs the uniting continuity of symbolic (as well as political) leadership. Canadians, enjoying the kinship of the Commonwealth link, can claim a little of the royal sentiment sweeping Britain as our own.

When their turn comes, long may Charles and Lady Di reign over us.