Prince Brad Pitt? I beg your pardon?
It was Canada Day, you see, and I was on the radio with a republican-type fellow. Vancouver’s CKNW had thought it would be fun to have me debate the monarchy with an anti-monarchy person.
A person then proceeded to declare Prince William and Kate — more properly referred to as the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge — were about as relevant to modern-day Canada as movie stars.
Why not make Brad Pitt our head of state, then, the republican asked?
It was a startling proposition, almost as startling a proposition as having me on the radio to assume the role of the defender of Her Majesty in the first place. I am, after all, a proud Irishman, and the Irish aren’t particularly known for their enthusiasm for the Crown.
At the age of 16, in fact, I stalked the halls of Calgary’s Bishop Carroll High School every St. Patrick’s Day with my chum James Keelaghan — now a very successful folk singer — wearing army fatigues, and black arm bands. Jim and I wore the black arm bands to deplore the continued occupation of Ireland by the British. Our teachers and peers were completely indifferent to our protest, which made us want to protest even more.
But there I was on CKNW, three-plus decades later, gamely trying to debate the republican guy, worried I would sound like I am in love with the monarchy, which I decidedly am not. But the Brad Pitt quip riled me.
Her Majesty, I told this fellow, is someone I have come to have a high regard for — my disdain for unelected Kings and Queens notwithstanding. As someone who has worked in politics, I said, I have come to be an admirer of the Queen for her canny political instincts, and for her ability to avoid the political missteps that befall so many others.
The Queen’s remarkable resilience — outlasting scores of prime ministers and presidents, whilst quietly providing sage counsel to them all — is ample proof she is no mere Hollywood-style puppet.
In fact, I said — warming to the idea of debating the republican quipster — the Queen has a finer appreciation of Canada’s history, and Canada’s significance, than any Hollywood starlet ever could. She has been with us through innumerable crises, and provided us with a sense of continuity and constancy our politicians never, ever will.
Sure, the monarchy isn’t very democratic, and it costs taxpayers money, and it is largely irrelevant to the everyday lives of Joe and Jane Frontporch. But the same thing can be said of the Senate — which, unlike the monarchy, periodically attempts to impose its undemocratic will on the democratically elected House of Commons.
The monarchy, I suggested to the anti-monarchy mouthpiece, doesn’t hurt anyone. Moreover, if it makes some Canadians feel good — and God knows, in the nasty, brutish and short-sighted Stephen Harper era, feeling good about something is a rare occurrence — then what’s the harm?
William and Kate are charming and seem genuinely smitten with Canada: We could do a lot worse.
As we signed off, I had to grant one thing to my anti-monarchy sparring partner. Prince Pitt is a non-starter. But Princess Angelina Jolie? If it were ever to come to pass, I predict a surge in support in the monarchy.