By Dr. Michael W. Higgins, President and Vice-Chancellor of Corpus Christi-St. Marks at UBC
The past week has seen the UK, the Commonwealth (what is left of it) and, well, the world-at-large, honour the multi-decade rule of that Britannic Majesty we know as Elizabeth II of the House of Windsor.
And it has been a genuinely festive time, in spite of republican resentment, the resurrected tropes of the anti-monarchists, the perfervid zeal of the monarchists, the befuddlement of large swaths of the public disengaged from political theatre, and the easy comforts proffered by a trip down nostalgia lane.
All that aside, I not only like and admire this Queen, I see the value of what she represents: continuity, stability, historical memory, a vibrant commonweal. For sure, there is much to lament, much to decry in the institution of the monarchy—and we know those deficiencies only to well—and the crass celebritization of many of the “Royals” with its Hollywoodish resonance is unhelpful.
After all, the monarch is a symbol not a celebrity.
The commodification of the monarchy is understandable but the deeper truth of the office of sovereignty is eclipsed when the tawdry, the entrepreneurial, specious relevance, and endless leaks of family dysfunction dominate.
Elizabeth II sees her anointing as a vocation, a summons to duty, a living witness to the Christian truths that underpin British society. For many, she is an anachronism, a residual figure of a once Christian nation. And certainly there is ample sociological data that would support the reality of the dechristianized political and social culture over which she reigns. But that does not deter her; her faith sustains her.
How many Heads of State are there who equal her integrity and steadfastness? How many leaders—political or spiritual—have such staying power?
She is much loved not because of her corgis, horses, hats, or wayward children, but because she is Queen, this Queen, a symbol that empowers and not a celebrity that wanes, an office holder who takes her solemn oath with solemn dignity.
What’s not to like and admire.