A Sidney resident is inviting the public to help mark the platinum jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II with a tea party at Saanich Peninsula Presbyterian Church in the 9200-block of East Saanich on June 4 at 3 p.m.
“I’m from England and England and the Queen means a lot to me,” said Janet Smith, who is organizing the event. Whereas the United Kingdom is marking the Queen’s 70th anniversary on the British throne with close to 1,500 public events and almost 1,800 private events between June 2 and 5, Smith said she has heard little about events in Canada.
Queen Elizabeth II became the longest-reigning British monarch on Sept. 9, 2015, when she surpassed the reign of her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria (who had ruled for 63 years and 216 days) and currently holds the distinction of being the longest-reigning living monarch after she had succeeded her father King George VI following his death on Feb. 6, 1952. Louis XIV still holds the all-time record for the longest verified reign with 72 years and 110 days.
Given the size and scope of celebrations in the United Kingdom, Smith said she thought she should give the occasion some local recognition.
Smith, who was born in the Leicestershire region of the United Kingdom but also lived for a long time in Kent before emigrating to Canada in 1971 when she married, said the party is open to anyone and everyone. The suggested dress code for the occasion is red, white and blue and Smith is asking attendees to bring a British party dish.
“We are just stepping out and hoping that things will work out and that we will have a good afternoon,” she said. “We bought some flags, some balloons, some bunting and we got table cloths. So we want to decorate it with a Union Jack and we actually got a cut-out of the Queen herself.”
Currently scheduled for the parking lot, it will move indoors in case of rain.
Smith said she is not sure why the Queen’s platinum jubilee is not getting much attention in Canada from her perspective.
“I find it very disappointing because she is a very important person and 70 years (on the British throne) is quite an achievement. It’s something to celebrate. But I see or hear nothing in Canada and I feel it’s a very sad thing that we are not celebrating. She is our queen.”
The upcoming celebrations coincide with questions about the health of the monarch, who celebrated her 96th birthday in April, as well as the British monarchy itself. While Queen Elizabeth II enjoys high personal approval in the United Kingdom, the institution faces ongoing questions about its legitimacy, costs and relevancy.
Barbados became the latest Commonwealth country in late 2021 to drop the Queen as monarch in cutting its last colonial ties, leaving just 15 former colonies, including Canada, with the reigning UK monarch as official head of state.
Recent polls have also shown growing support for Canada’s conversion from a constitutional monarchy to a republic with a non-royal figure as head of state.
Smith finds this development very disappointing. “It’s the historical aspect that I like (about the monarchy),” she said, pointing to the longevity of the institution and the respect it has generated. Canada, she acknowledged, would not lose much by being indifferent to the monarchy or even dropping it. “It would become much more like the U.S.,” she said. “There is some dignity and pride in having the Queen (or any future monarch) as head of state.”
Many Sidney residents likely share that perspective. According to the 2016 census, 5,205 of Sidney’s then 11,125 residents claimed English as their ethnic origin and 1,160 residents — around 10 per cent — identified the United Kingdom as their place of birth.
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