Jordan: One very sad day in the coming months or years, bells around the world will toll in a way that has not occurred in the living memory of most people on this planet.
News Clip: His Majesty the King passed peacefully away at a few minutes before 12.
Jordan: It has been more than 66 years since Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the second ascended the throne. During her record setting reign, she has come to define royalty for a huge portion of the world’s population. What is royalty in a rapidly changing world, or even in a rapidly changing monarchy? What happens in the hours and days after Her Majesty, who is now 93 passes away? What will change in the Commonwealth in Canada, in the world, even in her own family in the months and years that follow that. The royal family is one of the last visible links between Canada and the United Kingdom, and it is woven into our government in a way that most of us probably forgot after that grade school civics class. But the invisible ties are deep, and the queen’s passing will test them in ways that they’ve never being tested. So when the Queen is dead, how does her reign live on?
Jordan: I’m Jordan Heath Rawlings and this is The Big Story. Patricia Treble is one of Canada’s pre eminent royal watchers and reporters. She is a correspondent from Maclean’s, and you can find her at writeroyalty.com. Hi Patricia.
Patricia: Hi Jordan.
Jordan: How prepared is the world, especially Canada, but I guess just the world in general for what you called in your piece for Maclean’s the inevitable when Queen Elizabeth II passes?
Patricia: Queen Elizabeth the second I’m going to say.
Jordan: See there you go, we’ll set the tone.
Patricia: Queen Elizabeth two is a ship. She is simply the Queen. If you go around the world, she’s been monarch for so long. If you go around the world and you ask kids to draw a queen, they will draw her. They’ll put a tiara, a crown on her and they will draw her. Are we prepared? I mean, she’s 93. I mean, we know that the inevitable there’s actually a legal term it’s called the demise of the crown. Send a shiver down my throat, my spine. I don’t think anyone’s prepared for it. There are people who have made plans for it. We know what’s gonna happen. We know it’s inevitable. I mean she’s 93 but I think it’s gonna catch everyone off guard, and it is gonna be far more… far larger and far more emotional, even though those of us who’ve really thought about it know it’s gonna catch everyone off guard.
Jordan: Well a while ago, when we were both working for the same publication, you kind of walked me through what happens exactly when the Queen dies and it was fascinating. Can you explain the protocol? Like the on the ground protocol?
Patricia: So this isn’t something they put together at the last minute. Royal officials have been planning this, and they update their plans for decades. We know that the Queen’s funeral, the whole….. the 10 days from her death to her funeral is called London Bridge. And so the first thing that obviously happens, you know, is that her family is informed, and then the palace officials will inform the prime minister of Britain, and the protocol is simply London Bridge has fallen. I mean, that’s the code and everyone knows what that means and that kicks in a plan into place. So the realm countries, so nations that have the queen as head of state Canada, Australia, there’s 16 around the world, including Britain. They are informed, the governor general’s are informed. So everyone’s informed behind the scenes and everything is kicking into place and what every nation has is they have;There’s a box in a closet somewhere, and it has black armbands, and the black armbands are put on the left arm closest to the heart. You are in mourning for her, and so you’ll see everyone, you know, news announcers will have;Everyone has a black jacket in their newsroom, a closed tree somewhere, and that’s put on and then what’s happened is the announcement will be made through the press association, and instantly everyone around the world will break into broadcasts. You know, it is with the greatest sadness that Buckingham Palace has announced…. and what also happens is that everything stops. So if you’re on a hip hop, listening to a hip hop station, you’re going down the highway all of a sudden the music will turn because this is the sort of thing they prepare for, not just the queen, but huge disasters. You know the preparations are done, especially in Britain they’re done very regularly because they don’t want to catch people off guard and it can. So when the Queen mother died in 2002 it was Easter weekend, and the officials famously told the announcer that he didn’t have to change his tie. He was gonna put on a black tie. They said, oh no, you know, she’s 101 nobody’s gonna be really that interested. The blowback was significant, and they learned a lesson, and they also thought they thought, oh, she’s been around forever and there’s not gonna be that much interest. People were lined up to walk by her coffin at Westminster Hall. They were lined up, up over and under something like Eight Bridges in London. Westminster Hall was open 23 hours a day. It only closed one hour so that they could simply clean it.
Jordan: It’s the kind of thing that two people that don’t engage with the monarchy much, you kind of forget about it because it’s been stable for so long, and it lets you may not realize the weight of what’s going to come when something like this happens.
Patricia: Well, I mean, think about it, she’s been on the throne for 67 years, so she is now; She’s 93 so she’s been working three decades past the normal time people retire, and she’s still going. So I did statistics, and I realized that for Canadians, something like more than 85% of Canadians have known no other monarch. They were born in her reign, many died in her reign, and so the change will be just shocking. I mean, in many ways, your daily life is gonna continue, you’re gonna go to work, you’re going to do everything else, but there is this underlying fundamental process that there will be as I said to somebody I said the last breath of the queen is immediately followed by the first intake of breath of the new king, and that will be Charles. There is no doubt anyone who has this theory that they’re somehow gonna bypass him and go to William.
Jordan: A lot of people would like to see that.
Patricia: No. I don’t know why, because William has a young family and the duties are so onerous because people think oh she doesn’t really do much. She does a lot. They, you know, and the governor general here, and the Vice Regal’s the left hand’s governor, they do a lot, so why would you want a man who’s got young children to do that? You know, Charles has been groomed for this. He’s ready, and he’s taking over more and more of her duties. I mean, she still works, but 250 engagements a year? I mean, she’s not, you know, she’s not…. put up her feet.
Jordan: One of the reasons I wanted to talk to you is because in your piece you talked about sort of the context of the queen’s passing in the larger picture of a monarchy in transition. So in the bigger picture to the world that you describe, that’s basically only ever known one queen. What kinds of things come into play when this happens?
Patricia: So you’ve got things; So I mean, the first thing is that you know, Charles has to figure out what name he wants to be known as, because it’s not obvious that it’s gonna be; Is it gonna be Charles the Third? Yes, but he could pick other names. He’s Charles Philip Arthur George, he could technically pick any of those.
Jordan: But he could pick King George.
Patricia: Any of those he could become…. he would be King George the seventh. His grandfather was King George the sixth, so he could be King George the seventh. Well, his grandfather was Prince Albert, but when his brother older brother abdicated, you know, which was a huge scandal, rocked the throne to the foundations, he picked the name of his father. So you know George the fifth, George the sixth simply for continuity. He can pick any name he wants, and then what you also have to have is you have to have; they’ll be an accession council, which is a special version of the privy council will meet. You have to swear oaths, Parliament has to be recalled because everyone has to swear an oath to the new monarch, and you’ve got this whole….
Jordan: Wait. They have to come and like bend the knee?
Patricia: No, no, no. You just go back to….. Parliament will get usually get recalled within a few days. You swear an oath of allegiance to the new king, you have an oath of allegiance to the Queen when they’re sworn in and that’s it.
Jordan: These are the kinds of things I’ve never thought about having never seen this happen.
Patricia: Because you were born a Canadian. If you’ve ever been to a citizenship ceremony, you swear allegiance to the Queen because she is the head of state because she is the….. and this is what people don’t understand, and this is; When I was at this conference that was in University of Toronto last week. It was organized by the Institute for the Study of the Crown in Canada, and one of the big things is that most people don’t understand what the crown is. It’s at the heart of our entire country, and yet because we don’t study civics really anymore, people don’t understand it, and basically, what you’ve got is the monarch is the living embodiment of the state, and so the state always continues but the monarchs can come and go. The king is dead. Long live the queen! The queen is dead! Long live the king! And so you’ve got; She is the physical embodiment of that, and everything really flows from that. So you’ve got, you know, judicial power flows from the crown, legislative power flows from the crown, executive power flows from the crown, everything flows from that, and it is monarchical. So you have to change everything over, and let’s face it, you know, when we’re actually talking about the inevitable. When it happens, it’ll be 10 days of British precision, they have everything planned to the second. If you’re ever out sometimes four o’clock in the morning, five o’clock in the morning, you’ll see an entire carriage procession going by, and they’ve got men with stopwatches at the top because they know how long does it take to slow March from St James’s Palace to Westminster Hall, where her coffin, where she will lie in state for four days, takes exactly 28 minutes? They know it because they have timed it repeatedly, and everything is going to be very precise, and you’re gonna have this in Canada, too.
Jordan: What will the changing of monarchs mean for the future of the monarchy? There are a lot of people who want to abolish it, and there is a school of thought that the longevity and popularity of this queen was one of the things kind of holding that back.
Patricia: Yeah, there’s a lot of people who will say I’m a Republican, but I like her. Or I’m a Republican and I adore her, because she has been the ultimate constitutional monarch. She knows her bound, she knows where she can go, and the question is, is this the time when you’ve got the changing? You know, I don’t think you’re going to say at the twilight of your ranks you had a really long way, but we’re gonna throw you over, Goodbye. I think everyone’s realized that’s not gonna happen. But is now the time? So like Australia’s thinkings I was talking with one of the private secretaries for the governor of Queensland, and he said, you know, we think eventually we’re going to have another referendum on the monarchy. The last one which was back in the nineties, was defeated, and it wasn’t because they couldn’t find a better system, and that’s also the case. But you also have a case of, you know, if you’re gonna start opening things up, the problem in Canada, of course, is the crown’s at the very heart of the Constitution. So you’re not just making a tiny tweak.
Jordan: So what would have to change?
Patricia: You would simply have to rip out and rip up the Constitution. It needs unanimous consent, all provinces, everything. It’s…. to which everyone’s kind of going oh my. It can be done. There are ways you can tweak it, and there are ways that some people think it could also mark a rejuvenation of the crown. So one of the men who is speaking was Senator Serge Joyal who has…. I mean, he’s worked with something like 10 I think Governor generals and his secretary of state was on multiple royal tours. He’s very much a monarchist, and he’s thought really deeply about this, and he’s actually concerned about a few things that he thinks are diminishing the role of the crown in Canada, and he doesn’t think it’s a good thing and especially the governor general, who is, of course, the queen’s representative here. Her role in the legislative process in that normally what happens is…. has to give Royal consent for everything, of course, to become law, but only now has to go into parliament to do the signing twice a year. He doesn’t have to do it more, they don’t want to.
Jordan: So they do a bulk signing?
Patricia: No, they just…. somebody else can sign it. Um, it could be a…. Supreme Court justice can sign it, and he was quite critical. He did not name names, but it was clear what he was intending on. Is it the choice of who are; Who became governor general? Because he really says the role of the crown is very much shaped by the personalities of those who inhabit the roles. The governor general’s left hand as governor, and one of his big criticisms is that he thinks that the governor general’s are too young because this should be the culmination of a long career, they shouldn’t be thinking about what’s the next thing that they’re going to do after this? That this is just oh, it’s a five year thing and I’m gonna go on to do something else. These are the things that people never talk about that are kind of behind the scenes, and I think that in many ways is one of the issues about the crown is that; In my article talked about the fact that it’s like vaccines. It’s almost been too successful and so that has become simply assumed it’s always gonna be there, therefore, why do you need to have it? Because often what they do when they’re talking with the government, when they’re talking about issues that might be of conflict so that there might be an issue where the government and crown might be in conflict it’s done behind the scenes, it’s done very quietly. Somebody called it; It’s the fire extinguisher on the wall getting dusty, you don’t ever want to take it down because that’s way too public, you want to keep it on the wall and work out the problem and put out the fire. And they’ve done this to such an extent that when things kind of come up and their public people are are taken aback, I think it would help if people knew what the crown did, and again that goes back to school. I mean, the fact that there’s 1 half course in Ontario as the only mandated civics course in the country is crazy.
Jordan: Will that knowledge or lack of knowledge get better or worse when we actually confront a transition in the monarchy?
Patricia: I’m hoping it will get better because what’ll happen. They’ll be a lot of interest in what is this? I mean the first question is gonna be what is the crown?
Jordan: I mean, when we read the headline of your piece, it was a profoundly interesting question because we’ve never encountered it, and I’m learning a lot now.
Patricia: Ya, getting ready for the inevitable. Yeah, it’s just kind of, you know, nobody wants to talk about death. I mean, nobody wants to talk about death, but I mean, crown experts, and there are so many at this conference they came from all over the world, you know, their careers are talking about issues with the crown, and there has been bubbling up recently of issues involving the crown. So 2008, Stephen Harper was facing a potential defeat in the House of Commons. He wanted to probe Parliament, he went to the Governor General and the question was should the governor general have allowed him to do it? And she did. And most experts think, yes, she was probably right, but she has the right to say no. Another case came up very recently in British Columbia because they had an election it was very, very close. The party standings and the premier, who is a liberal, went to the left handed governor and wanted a dissolution, wanted to go to the polls again, and she said no. She then called the NDP leader and said can you form a government? And the NDP leader is now the premier. He could form a government, he could put together a coalition, and that is her right. They had just gone to the polls. She didn’t want to have them thrown back into the polls without talking to other leaders about whether they have, and that is the right of the crowd. And so you know some people think, oh, you know, what can the crown do? The crown actually has a lot of reserve powers because a lot of the powers, it’s…. they’re unwritten, they’re not spelled out, and so people assume that the crown is fixed, it’s a rock, it’s immobile. We know everything about it. It’s boring, it’s never gonna change, and 1 man said, he says, It’s like water, it’s malleable, it’s always changing.
Jordan: Give me an example from that conference of how drastically things can change for how the crown does business with one of its realms?
Patricia: So what you have is…. when you had the colonial situation, you really had one crown. But now there are 16 crowns, the 16 realm countries. So when you look at the crown in Canada versus the crown in say New Zealand, and this is one that came out in the conference. They are actually organized and run now completely differently. I mean, a lot of the basic fundamentals are the same. Obviously, the monarchy is the same, but how they’re run, and so what came out was, especially in New Zealand is one of the experts was David Williams, he’s from the University of Auckland. He called it the shape shifting crown, and so there they’ve got the treaty of Waitangi between the maori and the crown from 1840 and for a long time it was really ignored. It was you know, it was there, but you know, like our situation with our crowns relationship with the indigenous people here, the government’s relationship with the indigenous people here it was, you know, in name only. That has all completely changed since about the early 2000’s, especially the treaty of Waitangi is now a foundational document of that country, and it affects everything to do with that country, and he was giving examples. He was saying that it could be the biggest thing or the smallest thing, and one example he gave us, when diplomats predict present their credentials, you would present them to the governor general. Well, they have completely reorganized that whole process and now when the diplomats come, they first meet with the local mauri, they talk to the local mauri, they meet the local mauri. There’s a guard from from the local tribe there, and only then once that’s happened, do they then meet the governor general, and it’s a little… it could also be tiny little things. So it could be the fact that the robes of the Supreme Court justices there used to be the big, the red robes that we’re used to here. Their now black and they have embroidery which has significance for the mauri people, and it’s also the bigger thing. So you’ve got, as he said, his university has a provost who is in charge of mauri relations. So it’s becoming simply embedded in the DNA of Australia in a way that is not yet here. You can see changes here, but it would be interesting to see what happens in 20 years from now here versus what’s already happening in New Zealand.
Jordan: Is there concern amongst Canadian monarchists that the queen’s passing will kind of begin the end, or begin something totally different for the monarchy in Canada? Or is it just gonna be business as usual? I guess….like are we gonna put Charles on our money as soon as he becomes king?
Patricia: The question about Charles and the money, it keeps coming up. That is actually a decision that will have to be made. He technically does not have to be on the money. I would like to see him on the money. Um….
Jordan: I feel like a lot of Canadians would not. I’m making that up, perhaps.
Patricia: And that could very well be yeah. I think a lot of the changes are gonna come slowly, like I think some of the fundamental changes will come slowly. The question is gonna be like when does he do a coronation tour? I mean to be honest we didn’t really have the queen. The queen was, you know, a seat of the throne in 52. She came here for a tiny little visit in 57 but she didn’t want to come for her next big visit until 59. So I mean, seven years, that’s a long time. I don’t think we’re gonna see that. But the thing is, it’s not so much Charles, this is an institution that’s has been around for 1000 years and they take a long time and they know…. you know Charles no, he’s 70. He’s not hip and glamorous. Will and Kate are, Harry and Megan are. You know, you’ve always got the next generation. That’s the one thing about a monarchy, right? You’ve got the next generation. It is very much a family.
Jordan: Our culture demands change a lot faster than the royal family delivers.
Patricia: It does, but when you look at the monarchy, I mean everyone who looks at the crown, you know, well now up to what? The mid sixties. Look at how it functions in that Netflix series then, and look at the monarchy today. It’s a radically different institution, it’s simply that they move at a slower pace, that you don’t always notice those changes. When you get back to your question are monarchists anxious about the change? I think many are because it is the unknown. We’ve known who the queen is for so long, and this is simply the unknown. But that, in a way makes it interesting. I mean, you know, and this is the one thing that everyone was talking about at the conference was, and it wasn’t, you know, negative. You know what’s gonna happen after the queen, but that is simply going to be something that we have never witnessed. You know, when I look back, I was talking with my mother and, you know, she remembers the death of the last king. And she said she was in a hospital, and the reason she found out was it all a sudden everything went very quiet. She went out into the hallway and the doctors and nurses were weeping, and they were openly weeping for this man because he had gotten them through the war. They had all been together, and they knew he was woefully ill prepared for the crown, but he stepped up, he did his duty, you know, and it was that war generation. And I remember I asked her not that long ago, I said do you think it’ll be like that for this queen? And she looked and she said, I don’t know, but I think so. I think it’s gonna take people off guard by how much they actually like this lady, how much they miss this lady, how much they respect this lady and what she’s done. She’s doing it all so that she can pass it on to the next generation. She’s not doing it for her own, you know, glory, she’s not doing it to be a celeb to be on the cover of any magazine, she’s doing it to pass on the institution better to the next generation, and that’s her entire goal.
Jordan: Thanks Patricia.
Patricia: You’re more than welcome.
Jordan: Patricia Treble, a veteran royal watcher and reporter finder at Maclean’s, and at writeroyalty.com. That was The Big Story, for more from us, including yesterday’s Feral Pigs story, which grossed a lot of you out, made a lot of you hungry, you can find us at the bigstorypodcast.ca. You can find us on Twitter @thebigstoryfpn, and of course, you can find us everywhere you get podcasts Apple, Google, Stitcher, Spotify, Castbox, Luminary pick your favorite. Thanks for listening. I’m Jordan Heath Rawlings, we’ll talk tomorrow.
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