This year, Pippa Middleton wore a red striped dress to watch the men’s singles tennis tournament at Wimbledon. No great powers of research were required to ascertain this fact: the Vancouver Sun ran a gallery of 28 photographs, half of Ms. Middleton sitting in the stands not doing much at all, and the other half of tennis players who distinguished themselves, on that day, by the act of being seen by the royal aunty.
Aside from a comely appearance, the famous Pippa is famous for being the sister of the woman who married the man who will one day be king, if his elders get on with dying off. Pippa’s claim to fame is now greater because her sister Kate shimmied her way into and out of some very posh maternity clothes while incubating yet another monarch-in-waiting, Prince George by name.
No explanation was offered as to why the young royals chose to name their child after a smelly pulp-mill town with a reputation for gang wars and crystal meth, but let’s leave that aside for the moment. This July, the government of Quebec joined in the legal challenge of an act of the Canadian Parliament, which changes the rules under which the crown is handed down.
The rules were first changed in England, where the monarchs actually live, and concern such things as gender equality and freedom of religion. If George had been a Georgette, the old rules would have required her to wait for just about every royal male in the U.K. to die off before she could take the throne. Also, should George grow up and decide to marry a Roman Catholic, he will no longer be barred from assuming his kingdom. No word yet on how that will translate if the Roman Catholic in question turns out to be a man.
Should the prince himself at some point in his life turn aside from the Anglican Catholic faith and embrace the Roman one, the picture changes. Roman Catholics are, by ancient tradition, forbidden to rule England. Apparently there were some difficulties, back in the day. This August, the Ontario Superior Court rejected an application by Bryan Teskey, a Roman Catholic Ontario man, to repeal the changes to the Act of Succession on the grounds that they discriminate against his religion.
Mr. Teskey’s claim was rejected, not on its merits, but because as a commoner, he had “no legal standing” in the matter. Having no possibility of inheriting the throne, he had no right to sue over the constitutionality of the rules governing succession. According to the Ottawa Citizen, Teskey has put his own nascent law career on hold in order to pursue an appeal in this case.
A word of utterly unqualified – in both senses of the word – advice for Mr. Teskey. Refocus. True, it’s a clear violation of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms that you can’t be King or Queen of Canada because you’re Catholic, but the problem runs a little deeper than that. Hanging on the gate at Buckingham Palace is a large sign that reads, “no Canadians need apply,” and rest assured, it doesn’t refer to butlers, footmen, or maids.
There’s nothing in the Constitution that says our head of state has to be a foreigner, it’s just the way things are. No Canadian is ever going to occupy that throne. Wouldn’t that make a great constitutional challenge? Picture the headlines: Supreme Court Rules Succession Law Discriminates Against Everybody.
And it’s not only native-born Canadians who have no chance of ascending our country’s throne (although we don’t actually have a throne, that’s in England too). In fact, the Act of Succession, though it no longer discriminates against women or the spouses of Catholics, still bars entry to all but the inbred descendants of a gang of mad despots who would outshine some of the worst dictators in the world today.
If you can’t trace your lineage to a brutal ruler who poisoned his enemies and burned people alive for disagreeing with him over questions of religious practice, don’t bother to drop off your resume, the position of monarch will never be open to you. This is no laughing matter in a world where celebrity is the brightest of all the shining prizes.
Consider Miley Cyrus. A song and dance artist whose ambition outstrips her talent, Cyrus is without royal connections, and so in order to achieve stardom is reduced to spicing up her performances with pornography. She might get photographed at Wimbledon if she shows up nude and twerks a ball boy, but she will never know the kind of easy fame that falls upon the relatives of royalty.
Not only does Middleton’s royal-connected status guarantee that she will be photographed at fashionable sporting events, it brought her a 400,000-pound advance from Penguin for her book on party planning. All she ever had to do to attract the world’s attention was show up at her sister’s wedding with a bum that looks good in a designer bridesmaid’s dress.
No amount of tinkering will bring the monarchy into the 21st century. It is a vestige of a darker time, when England was Syria, only worse. If you want fairness and equality of opportunity, call out the tumbrels. Failing that, choose the successor to the throne by a lottery covering the entire population of the Commonwealth. Canada has better things to do than perfect a bill of rights for princesses.
Al Pope won the Canadian Community Newspaper Award for best columnist in 2013. He also won the Ma Murray Award for Best Columnist in B.C./Yukon in 2010 and 2002.