The Battle of Passchendaele ended 100 years ago today. It is also called the Third Battle of Ypres and the “Muddy-est, Bloody-est of the whole war”. The latter is what Alberta infantryman Arthur Turner called it in his diary.
Passchendaele is a small village in Belgium near Ypres close to the border with France. British troops came to the aid of the French there in July 1917. Australian and New Zealand divisions were brought in early in September, then the Canadian Corps in October.
The Canadians weren’t supposed to be involved. They’d just come off the terrible Battle of Vimy Ridge in July. They were assigned to diversionary attacks on the Germans occupying nearby Lens, France. But the British Commander, General Douglas Haig, ordered them in over the protests of the Canadian Commander General Arthur Currie. Too much of a mess, too uncertain of a strategic gain, and the likelihood of too many casualties.
Be that as it may, General Haig was Commander in Chief and so his plan went ahead. And that meant reinforcements. The British and ANZAC troops were exhausted and their numbers drastically depleted. They pulled out and four divisions of the Canadian Corps moved in.
General Currie decided the first thing to do was clean up the place. The Canadians had fought two years earlier at the 2nd Battle of Ypres, and Currie and the men could see the bodies still there. Bodies of men, mules and horses had been churned up from their shallow graves by the renewed fighting. So they reburied the dead, built roads and board walks, brought in supplies.
Battle of Mud
The 2nd Battle of Ypres was marked by gas warfare, the 3rd Battle by mud. Complete desolation of the land from the years of battle and heavy rains caused the drainage system to collapse. “The mud is a worse enemy than the German” said NZ divisional commander Sir Andrew Russell.
Two months of horrific fighting and losses by both sides, but the Canadian troops prevailed. The Germans were pushed back and the battle ended November 10th.
Then in December, General Haig pulled out the Allied troops guarding this patch of land won at such expense. The Germans moved in again. After two more battles of Ypres, the Allied Forces won it back by the end of the war a year later.
British soldier and poet Siegfried Sassoon was not at Passchendaele. He was in hospital, but could well imagine what it was like. He could imagine too the process of ‘king and country’ that took so many young men to fields of slaughter like it. In October 1918 he wrote Memorial Tablet.
In honour of Ikea opening a store in Dartmouth NS, The Manatee published an article about a couple divorcing after a trip to the new Ikea. Very funny – the story and Facebook comments. The Manatee is a satirical magazine, so of course this article wasn’t actually true. But the Facebook stories about Ikea assembly were. One person thought maybe they should point out, hey, this story isn’t real, you know. Clearly someone who has never assembled an Ikea product. Keep your innocence, my dear, stay away from the store.
In the past, I have assembled Ikea furniture and have watched while someone else did. Nevermore, nevermore. However, dismantling an Ikea chair and reassembling it seemed do-able. A hand-me-down, I liked the chair a lot but the cover desperately needed washing.
Still, I was nervous. Maybe buying a new cover would be safer. So I googled Ikea chairs and covers. Do you know how many identical looking bentwood chairs Ikea makes? And chair covers? All with different model names and tiny differences in shape and size. With fitted chair covers, a millimetre matters. Buying online was pretty much a shot in the dark.
Maybe I should wait until the Dartmouth Ikea opens and go there. I’d have to take the chair, of course, so I could directly compare it to what was in stock. Picturing that trip, I decided to take the cover off.
How hard could it be?
I had the advantage of an assembled chair in front of me. I should have taken photos first. But I was fooled into complacency by lots of zippers and velcro fasteners. They must mean easy removal.
I started opening fasteners. Then I saw the screws in the frame went through the fabric. You have to take them out to slide the cover off. So I get the Allen key. Soon the chair was in pieces – seat and back section and two arm and base sections. Ok, start peeling the cover off. Ikea chair covers fit very tightly, to give their sleek look.
Using hands, feet, elbows and knees to hold and peel, I looked anything but sleek when my husband walked in. What are you doing? Eating bonbons and watching tv, what the hell does it look like? Fortunately, that thought stayed in my head. I had chosen an evening when he was out to do this job. Best for the chair and our marriage. I should have picked a weekend! He quickly disappeared, presumably joining the cats and dog wherever they were hiding. I got the cover off.
It looked fine after washing. Now to reverse the process. Just as difficult. Just as much cursing on Ikea and all things Swedish. This time I needed help. One person to hold the chair parts in place, the other to use the Allen key and curse.
After several hours, we got it put together. I’d walk past it just to admire its beauty (never mind the few rumples in the cover). Next day, I saw black hair on the seat and lower back. The cat with fine, sticky, shedding hair had claimed it.
Oh no you don’t! That cover is never ever coming off again! A towel didn’t help. She just pulled it down and bunched it under her so she could spread her hair all across the back.
So I strapped a car seat cover around it. That fixed her. Of course, it ruins the visual of the sleek Scandinavian design too. But that cover is never ever coming off again. So it’s either the car seat or cat hair. Likely both.
Twenty years ago today Diana, Princess of Wales died at the age of 36. She was the daughter of the 8th Earl Spencer and 15 times great-granddaughter of King Henry VII. She was the ex-wife of Prince Charles, also 15x-great-grandchild of Henry VII.
Diana’s line comes from Princess Mary, daughter of Henry VII. Charles traces his ancestry from Henry VII’s heir, Henry VIII. Her family therefore is nobility while his is royalty. Her sons, however, are royals and direct heirs to the British throne.
Spencer Family Tree – from Edward IV to Diana
18th century Lady Diana Spencer
A several times great-aunt, and name-sake, of Diana’s almost took the same path from nobility to royalty. (See her highlighted in chart.) That earlier Lady Diana Spencer‘s grandmother tried to arrange her marriage to Frederick, heir apparent of George II. But he married Princess Augusta of Saxe-Gotha. Frederick died before his father and his son became the next king, George III.
While Frederick was Prince of Wales, his grandfather George I created the title of Duke of Edinburgh for him. His son inherited the title but it “merged into the Crown” when he became king in 1760.
Two more times the title was created and died out before King George VI re-created it for Philip Mountbatten in 1947. In order for it to pass to Prince Philip’s youngest son Edward, as planned, instead of to eldest son Charles, as it would through rules of primogeniture, it will likely have to officially end and be re-created once more.
So had history played out differently, another Lady Diana Spencer would have been in line to be Queen. But ‘our’ Lady Diana is the only Spencer who actually married into the top echelon of the Royals. The People’s Princess, PM Tony Blair called her, “queen of people’s hearts,” she hoped to be. A fairy tale princess she certainly was.
David Duke said “we’re going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump” during the violent white supremacist rally in Charlottesville VA on Saturday. David Duke, former Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, using the president’s name as justification – that’s ballsy, I thought.
My husband said Trump’s brand is his name, and nothing is more important to him than his brand. Trump Tower, Trump Water, Trump Steaks, Trump University. Donald Trump emblazons everything he does with his name. Looking at it that way, Duke’s statement is even ballsier!
So I thought Donald Trump would unleash his full fury on David Duke personally and, by extension, all the white supremacists, neo-Nazis and Klan members at the rally and in the United States.
But he didn’t. Trump did not thunder about his name being taken in vain. Instead, In a mealy-mouthed ‘everybody is responsible, therefore nobody is responsible’ type of statement, he let the white supremacist organizations off the hook. He said: “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides. On many sides.”
Omit those last three words, and it’s a vague decrying of violence and racism. But at least it doesn’t imply that blame should not be placed on torch-carrying, Swastika flag-waving racists.
Given his history with David Duke and white supremacists, it particularly behoved the president to speak out loud and clearly against domestic terrorism that is inspired by racism. The virulently racist factions of the far right supported his candidacy and still support him.
On Saturday, David Duke linked the Trump brand to organized American white supremacists. On that same day, other brands distanced themselves immediately from any implied association with the groups rallying in Charlottesville. The Detroit Red Wings, the NHL, Tiki Brand. Even webhost GoDaddy told The Daily Stormer to move its website to another provider.
Finally on Monday, Trump spoke again. About two minutes, with the first minute devoted to how great he has been for the US economy. Then he did name “the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups” as repugnant. Such as it is, it’s about time!
The groups that were at the Virginia rally are terrifying. Seeing the Nazi flag on parade in an American city is spine-chilling. As Republican Senator for Utah Orrin Hatch tweeted, “My brother didn’t give his life fighting Hitler for Nazi ideas to go unchallenged here at home.”
The Confederate flag, representative of America’s Civil War, a division between North and South over the socio-economic institution of slavery. The Ku Klux Klan, no longer wearing white robes and pointy hats, but still carrying fiery torches.
The Klan is a home-grown American terrorist organization. It predates Hitler’s Nazi Party by half a century, based on the same kind of racist ideology. Astoundingly, it is still alive and well in the US. And they see President Trump as their man. Surely not good for the Trump brand.
The mother of the kid who drove into the crowd and killed Heather Heyer and injured many others said that she thought her son was going to an event that “had something to do with Trump”. That’s maybe the most telling statement of all.
So, for Canada Day, I looked for Canadian songs that evoke a sense of place, of history. Those songs that everybody knows a few lines of, to sing at public events and maybe around campfires.
The anthems, hymns, folk songs and popular songs that have become ingrained in our national psyche. The nation’s songbook, I suppose.
Canada is a big country, with vastly different geographies and histories. So songs may reflect its whole or, more likely, its parts. But the great songs, the memorable songs, can resonate with the whole even while speaking about a part.
“O Canada” is obvious: “the true North strong and free”. I leave to others the revived dispute about the words “In all thy sons command” but recommend Robert Harris’ wonderful piece on the anthem’s history on The Sunday Edition June 25th.
“The Maple Leaf Forever” is the older anthem, written in 1867 by Alexander Muir. But I don’t think it’s well known. I needed help to find out what it sounded like. On YouTube, you can see Anne Murray singing it at the closing of the Toronto Maple Leaf Gardens in 1999. A lovely and singable tune, but it has not survived as a well-known national song.
I can’t think of any other national hymns or unofficial anthems that exist in Canada and are played, along with the national anthem, at official events. “God Save The Queen” is played at Royal and Vice-Regal events. And, Lord spare us, maybe the Centennial “Ca-na-da” song is still played somewhere. But for regular national events, our roster of music is much thinner than in the USA. There, many national hymns, marches and unofficial anthems are still played regularly and are in the nation’s corporate memory. (See my A Nation’s Songs.)
Provincial anthems? There’s the “Ode to Newfoundland”, a national anthem until 1949. My favourite rendition is by Vonnie Barron and Esther Squires, although its release in the 1980s caused controversy due to its unorthodox arrangement. Thankfully, changing it to Ode to Newfoundland and Labrador, to my knowledge, isn’t under discussion. (Click Vonnie and Esther’s names to listen.)
Quebec has loads of national anthems. “O Canada” was originally one of them. “Gens du pays” is an unofficial anthem from 1975 by Gilles Vigneault. Another is “Mon pays” written in 1964 by Gilles Vigneault for an NFB film. A decade later, the tune became a big part of the disco era. “From New York to LA” puts English words, and an American story, to the tune. It was a huge hit for Acadian singer Patsy Gallant, from Campbellton NB. Something quintessentially Canadian here – international fame derived from going to the US. But also quintessentially New Brunswick where, at least in the Acadian parts, people switch without effort or accent between French and English. (Hear both – click video boxes below names.)
Ontario’s unofficial anthem is “A Place to Stand” aka Ontari-ari-ari-o. Again, please Lord, spare us. PEI has an official anthem, “The Island Hymn”. Having such strong musical traditions, I have no idea why PEI would choose this other than it was written by Lucy Maud Montgomery. Alberta and British Columbia apparently had provincial anthems commissioned. The people of both provinces firmly rejected them. I couldn’t even find the BC one online. I did find the commissioned Alberta anthem on YouTube. It’s fine in the tourism ad it features in. But singing it at state events or around a bonfire? Not imaginable.
My Canadian Songs
I made my own list of songs that speak to me about Canada and its parts.
“Let Me Fish Off Cape St. Mary’s”. Easy choice for Newfoundland, it paints a picture of a place and way of life. (See my Mr. Otto Kelland about its author.)
“Farewell to Nova Scotia”. The unofficial anthem and a favourite of late night singsongs everywhere a Nova Scotian may be. Many beautiful songs about places are about leaving them, as is this one.
“Sudbury Saturday Night” by Stompin’ Tom Connor. Perfectly encapsulates small-town Ontario, all of small-town Canada. (See my Stompin’ Tom Revisited.)
“Qu’appelle Valley Saskatchewan”. Buffy Ste. Marie’s 1976 evocation of her home and people with a voice that sends shivers through you.
“Four Strong Winds” by Ian and Sylvia, Alberta’s unofficial anthem. As I’ve written, I think it’s the perfect Canadian song. It could be the flip side of “Farewell to Nova Scotia”, musically and demographically. It’s about going to rather than leaving. A little scared – it’s cold – but hopeful – there’s work.
The throat singing of Tanya Tagaq viscerally conjures the land and peoples of the far north. Stan Rogers’ “North West Passage” tells the flip side of her story. It is about newcomers who explore the northern lands and sea. Men determined to overcome the rigours of the land and the climate, but who fail in their attempt.
For New Brunswick, I couldn’t think of any song even though I live here. Then I remembered hearing a song on the radio by David Myles. It’s “Don’t Drive Through” (see it here). It extols the beauty of the province, but with a bit of tongue in cheek about those who see NB as only a highway to somewhere else. According to CBC, there has been discussion about adopting “St. Anne’s Reel” as a provincial anthem. No, fiddle reels are great but you have to be able to sing an anthem.
For the remaining provinces, I couldn’t come up with anything. Songs about Canada or that make a little bit of Canadian pride when you hear them? Gordon Lightfoot’s “Railroad Trilogy”. Stompin’ Tom’s “Hockey Song” and, of course, the Hockey Night in Canada theme music. I’m not a hockey fan but, yes, I’ve watched minor league games in small-town arenas and NHL games on television.
Jim’s Canadian Songs
I asked my husband what he thought of as Canadian songs, not just songs by Canadian singers. Neil Young’s “Helpless” because of “There is a town in north Ontario.” For many Americans, he says, it was the first realization that Neil Young was Canadian. And I remember thinking wow, he said Ontario!
Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You” with its map of Canada and “I could drink a case of you”. In “River”, she wishes she had “a river I could skate away on.” Both songs (on the Blue album) reference Canada, by name or imagery. But they are about absence, of and from Canada. Despite the evident longing, they hold Canada at a distance.
“Acadian Driftwood”, the Band’s song about the Deportation of the Acadians. A powerful history of a people thrown out of their homeland. All but one of the band members were Canadian, and they wrote just as insightfully about American history. “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”, for example. In both songs, geopolitics intertwine with individuals to tell the story.
From driftwood to rocks – and trees – and water
My mind back in the Maritimes, I thought of Rita McNeil’s “Workin’ Man”. This strong and angry tribute to Nova Scotia coal miners is a great example of the universality of a specific place. Wherever there are miners, you’ll find musicians who have covered her song with as much personal feeling and intensity as do she and the Men of the Deep.
All while thinking about this, a couple words and a tune kept popping into my head. Rocks and trees and trees and rocks — and water. The Arrogant Worms’ “Rocks and Trees” can hardly be counted among the reverent Canadian songs, but it’s spot on.
From More in Anger (1958), a collection of essays by American social critic and satirist Marya Mannes. From 1904 to 1990, her life spanned most of the 20th century.
A fictional life-story of a man who, Mannes says, “drew strength” from the “poisoned climate of McCarthy”. Just change a few words and, maybe, ‘plus ça change…’?
The Brotherhood of Hate: Three Portraits (Pt. II)
If you should come across Charlie Mattson and his family barbecuing in the back yard of their Darien home, you would think they came straight off the cover of the Saturday Evening Post. There is the jolly father-chef in his apron, the pretty – but not too pretty – wife in slacks, the twelve-year-old boy with the T shirt and the crew cut, and the teen-age girl in heavy white socks and loafers, blue-jeaned, sweatered and pony-tailed. They appear to be having a genuinely good time.
There is no reason, really, why they shouldn’t. Charlie has a good job in a factory sub-contracted to a defense plant, his family is healthy, and he is a pillar of his American Legion Post, the Presbyterian church, the Kiwanis and the weekly poker group. One reason for this is his good nature, another is his repertory of jokes, mainly for male consumption. Charlie rolls ’em in the aisles.
Yet Charlie is one of those men who was, whether he admits it or not, happiest in the war. He got overseas late in the game, but not too late to taste the liberation of Paris and the advance into Germany, and he can never forget the excitement and fulfilment of either. Nor can he forget the German girl he shacked up with after the surrender, in the months of occupation that followed. Ruins, starvation and all, he found the Germans very much to his liking, and he joined a number of other Americans in wondering why the hell they had fought the Krauts instead of the Frogs. Fundamentally, the Germans had the right ideas, and one of those was plumbing.
The nearest he could come to those war days now were bull sessions at the Post, where the men would reminisce about the war and the women they had. But the years after the war were a letdown to men like Charlie. They were conscious of a great lack: there was no place to go, nothing to do, no direction, really. They were disgusted with the untidiness and frustration of civilian life, and they began to blame it on all sorts of things, beginning with socialism (the bastard Truman and his goddam Fair Deal) and ending with Jews, foreigners, do-gooders, pinkos and longhairs.
It was small wonder then that when the Junior Senator from Wisconsin began raising his voice in 1952, Charlie began to listen. Here, at last, was a call to action, a new kind of war for good Americans to wage. McCarthy gave men like Charlie a motive and a function: to rid this country of the traitors in its midst, to hunt down the enemy, to restore America to its rightful owners and guardians. The bugle had sounded and Charlie Mattson joined the colors.
But things have died down a bit since, partly because most of the reds had been smoked out, and partly because there was nobody left in the government who had the guts to keep up the fight against subversion. For there was no doubt in Charlie’s mind that his country was in constant danger of penetration, that the wrong people were getting back into power, and that the only reason the Russians were ahead of us was that they stole our secrets.
But what can you do when people are dumb? Make money and mind your own business and tell your children what the score is. If folks can’t realize, for instance, that this whole integration business is one more communist plot and that the Supreme Court is playing right into their hands, it’s their funeral. [pp 84-86]
Charlie Mattson would be the father or grandfather of one type of Trump voter: the white man from the Rust Belt. The man who remembers, and wants back, those good factory jobs. Donald Trump says he’ll restore the jobs, restore “Made in the USA”, restore America. Many want to believe that. And some want the “call to action” that he appears to promise. No matter what it costs in the long run. No matter what it costs others, and us all.
Sixty-five years ago today, Great Britain’s King George VI died at the age of 56. The King is dead, long live the Queen.
George VI’s daughter became Queen Elizabeth II. My mother clipped and saved newspaper articles about those events. These are just a few from her scrapbooks. Click on the images for a larger view.
From George VI to Elizabeth II
In Canada, as in the UK and throughout the Commonwealth, changes had to be made.
And there were tributes to the late King. The photo below is of one in Tillsonburg ON. My grandparents, Charley and Minnie Burwell, are there – at the bottom left.
Three Queens and a King
When George VI died, Elizabeth became the only reigning monarch. But she was one of three women in England called Queen. The others were Queen Elizabeth, widow of King George VI, and Queen Mary, his mother and widow of George V.
Present also was a king of Great Britain, one who abdicated. The Duke of Windsor, formerly Edward VIII, attended the funeral of his brother and successor. (See The King and Us Feb 16, 2011)
What didn’t happen
George VI had made plans for a “health cruise” to South Africa. His daughter Elizabeth was to represent him on a planned tour to Australia and New Zealand. While they were gone, his younger brother Prince Henry, Duke of Gloucester would take care of royal matters at home. But none of it happened, due to the King’s death.Another might-have-been in the Duke’s family was a Royal wedding. His niece, Princess Margaret, and his wife’s nephew were an item for a time. But it didn’t happen.
In his first hundred hours – from midday Friday to this afternoon, President Donald Trump has been busy.
Signing executive orders:
Directing all federal agencies to ease the “regulatory burdens” of ObamaCare by waiving or deferring any provision that puts a “fiscal burden on any State” or clients, insurers, medical services and manufacturers. Not included are the specifics on what and how.
Imposing a hiring freeze for federal government workers, excluding the military.
Withdrawing the USA from the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal. He also plans to renegotiate NAFTA.
Reinstating a ban on federal funds for international development NGOs that provide abortion information or services. First brought in by Ronald Reagan in 1984, this “Mexico City Policy” can adversely affect health care provision for people around the world.
Reviving the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, as well as related orders that would expedite their environmental assessment process.
Trump has also told large corporations that he will cut taxes, fast-track their factory openings and remove 75% of government regulations affecting their operation. That’s the carrot. The stick is “substantial border tax” on companies that move production outside the US.
Sunday, he said discussions would begin on moving the US embassy in Israel to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. With Israel and Palestine both having claims to Jerusalem, that puts the cat amongst the pigeons. He named son-in-law Jared Kushner as senior White House advisor and said Kushner would be part of Middle East negotiations. “If [Jared] can’t produce peace in the Middle East, nobody can.” Dad-in-law just made the job even more difficult.
Trump’s minions have been busy too. On Friday, the White House website was updated. Gone were pages on climate change, civil rights, LGBT and disabled peoples concerns.
Spokeswoman Kellyanne Conway gave us a new term for lies: alternate facts. She did that after Sean Spicer, Trump’s press secretary, tore strips off the media for publishing photos and estimates of the crowd size at Trump’s inauguration. Spicer gave much larger figures not backed up by any evidence whatsoever. “Alternate facts” Conway explained.
Trump, his staff and federal offices are not the only ones sweeping with a new broom. On Monday, the Texas Supreme Court said it will revisit a 2015 case allowing spousal benefits for gay city employees.
All this in 100 hours – after a bizarre inauguration day.
Trump’s inauguration speech emphasized the ME in aMErica. He went on to insult 40 years worth of presidents sitting beside him in decrying the nest-feathering and self-serving of the previous administrations.
Then he watched the parade. He had wanted a tank in it. I don’t know if it was due to the “optics” or the damage one would inflict on the pavement, but I’m glad the answer was no.
His last public function was attending the inaugural balls that, at $50 a ticket, were overpriced. In the First Dance with the First Lady to the song ‘My Way’, he smirked and mouthed the words “my way” directly to the camera. OMG!
I didn’t think it could get worse than that, or more surreal. It has. And it’s only been half a week.
Yesterday, in Value Village in Saint John, I saw a woman with George Orwell’s 1984 in her shopping cart. I wonder how many copies of it have sold lately.
I’ve been thinking about Ian Tyson lately. With the recent death of Leonard Cohen, the songs and the songwriters of Canada – and an era – have been heard a lot.
One song that often sneaks into my head is Four Strong Winds, the most evocative, and most Canadian of songs. Written by Ian Tyson, recorded by Ian & Sylvia in 1963, then by almost everybody else.
Four strong winds that blow lonely
Seven seas that run high
Could be any part of Canada. West, east, south or north – strong winds blow; seas, lakes, rivers run high. But it’s Alberta in the song. And, for many people for many years, it’s been Alberta in the reality. Going out west for work. Ranch work. Before oil.
It is the reality for Mr. Tyson. He’s owned a working ranch in Alberta for decades. And he’s kept writing and singing songs. Unlike many of his contemporaries, he didn’t settle in the States. With many of them, he spent time in California and New York in the 1960s and 1970s. Then he came home.
Born in British Columbia, he worked the rodeos. Then the music, and his time with Sylvia (Fricker) Tyson. The years of his Four Strong Winds and Someday Soon and her You Were On My Mind. Many more too but, for those three songs alone, they deserve to be canonized.
Think I’ll go out to Alberta…
Four Strong Winds is about Canada. The distances that make leaving one part of the country for another a big deal. Winters that make you think twice. “And those winds sure can blow cold way out there.” In the song, it’s Alberta’s winds but it could be almost anywhere, in winter.
There still are ranches in Alberta, there is still a beef industry. There are cowboys, but fewer of them. It is all still part of the mythology of place. But oil took over the reality. The westward drift of labour continued, in search of oil work. The lure of the big bucks. Then, as the economy elsewhere faltered, it was simply the lure of a job – any job. But Stetsons and roper boots come out, at least during the Stampede when everybody’s a cowboy.
The song is about more too. It’s about the bittersweetness of leaving the familiar for somewhere new. Leaving the beloved, hoping that time and distance can be bridged. Knowing that it can’t, and maybe that’s a good thing. “Our good times are all gone, and I’m bound for moving on.”
So there’s the story of Canada, and the human heart – in two verses and a chorus. Thank you, Ian Tyson.
For the story of the woman he would send the fare, see MacLean’s from 2012. And at American Songwriter, Rick Moore discusses the lyrics and slight changes made by other artists.
Happy anniversary, Elizabeth and Philip. November 20th marks 69 years since their wedding. Four children, 8 grandchildren, 5 great-grandchildren. Three heirs apparent to the British throne – son, grandson, great-grandson.
On November 20, 1947 a Princess married her prince. Her prince was a Royal Navy Lieutenant and somewhere in line for the shaky throne of Greece. She was heir to the British throne.
So that Philip would have British royal credentials, the bride’s father conferred HRH status on him, then titles. On his wedding day, Philip became HRH Duke of Edinburgh, Earl of Merioneth and Baron Greenwich. In 1957 his wife, then Queen, made him a Prince of the United Kingdom.
Their wedding was the first big royal event after World War II. Six years of war had exhausted the British people and British resources. A news clipping (CP Nov. 19, 1947) my mother kept says British china manufacturers “can’t spare the time or the materials” to make wedding collectibles. The Royals and government knew, however, that after years of privation the nation wanted to enjoy something beautiful. So lavish, but not too lavish.
Princess Elizabeth’s Wedding scrapbook
Every step of the wedding planning was reported. Everyone, I imagine, followed along as if they were in the wedding party. My mother did. She made a scrapbook called “Princess Elizabeth’s Wedding”. I took the clippings here from it.
At the time, she lived in a farmhouse north of Belmont in southwestern Ontario. Dad drove a milk truck and installed glass. Mom looked after two small children. The people who owned the farm and their animals provided her only regular company. Dad worked long hours. Mom was home alone a lot.
So in 1947 Mom spent a lot of time, I think, reading about the upcoming wedding. Dad would have been interested too. He had a soft spot for Princess Elizabeth. She had signed up for service during the war, she knew how to strip down an engine and rebuild it – that meant a lot to him. A mechanic in the RCEME, he worked on those same engines in the UK at the same time.
Elizabeth and Philip had five years of what passes as ordinary life for royals. He continued in the Navy. They had two babies. Then five years later, her father died. Everything changed for her and Philip.
She became Queen Elizabeth II. He became first and foremost the Queen’s husband. Two more children. Nearly seven decades after that wedding, Elizabeth and Philip are still cutting ribbons and unveiling plaques. They are the foundation of a Royal Family that, despite predictions of its demise and its own drama and trauma, seems to be going strong. Long may they live.
Newfoundland Mi'kmaq, family history, Coronation Street, etc.