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How Monarchy Saved the Media (This Week)

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Ah, the week of Victoria Day. That quintessentially Canadian time of year when the nation's news editors have all either split town or are too hungover to work, leaving hapless deputies across the land furrowing their brows and wondering how to fill a full editorial page when only half the staff is still standing upright.

"Hey," someone inevitably slurs, "how about if we just do a piece on Victoria Day itself?"

Did you know Victoria Day was first celebrated in 1845 and early festivities included the burning of a miniature schoolhouse? Well, you would if you read the Globe and Mail's lead editorial on Monday, which spends a couple paragraphs regurgitating the holiday's Wikipedia page before reaching the steadfast conclusion that despite everything else going on in this crazy nation of ours, "our dedication to a holiday near the end of May has remained stalwart."

But some of us are clearly more stalwart than others. Janice Kennedy in the Ottawa Citizen, for instance, thinks that Victoria Day is a little too weird and monarchical for her tastes, and suggests we simply rebrand the thing "May long weekend" instead of going through the "annual dilemma" of trying to understand why we celebrate Queen Elizabeth's official birthday on her long-dead great-great-grandmother's.

"Heresy!" respond our pals over at Sun TV, who must be pleased as punch that they finally have a Bill O'Reilly-style "War on [Insert Holiday Here]" to get all righteous about.

"Progressives don't like history" so they obviously hate Queen Victoria announces Brian Tilley, who can't even be bothered to wait until the camera stops rolling to indulge in his Vicky Day boozing. "I'm sure if you were to ask the gatekeepers of our society they would say we shouldn't talk about her and we shouldn't mark this day," he says. But Tilley knows we should talk about her constantly, because he's under the adorable impression that the United Kingdom remained an absolute monarchy well into the 1860s, and therefore it was the Queen herself who "brought responsible government to Canada." So stop taking so much credit, John A.!

Tilley's colleague David Menzies, is even more livid over  these progressive history-hating anti-Victoria Day types.

"I'm surprised Victoria Day isn't called Gay Multicultural Transgendered Day," he says. "And I bet you within our lifetime it will be!" I think Menzies is being a little disingenuous here, as in my experience it's the gay multicultural transgendered community who tend to be the biggest supporters of aging queens.

Of course, this year's Victoria week was uniquely special since we were able to engage in the never-tiresome debate about the appropriate role of royal symbolism right in the faces of actual royals! With Prince Charles and his current wife in town, perhaps someone could squeeze out a couple hundred words about why England's most inbred power couple makes us proud to be Canadian, said the nation's editors. Or not, whatever.

The National Post's Scott Stinson keeps himself awake long enough to note that yeah, people sure are looking at Prince Charles walk around and stuff. " The hand shakers are unanimous," he reports, "it was pretty great." He also notes the royal couple "drew a diverse audience" during their Toronto tour that "was not entirely composed of grey-haired British expats." He then proceeds to interview a grey-haired British expat, because I mean, there's effort, and then there's clearly-drew-the-short-straw-at-that-morning's-editorial-meeting effort.

Much more serious is Christina Blizzard at the Toronto Sun. When future historians inevitably study this most consequential of four-day vacations, Blizzard will doubtless emerge a leading scholar, considering she managed to churn out three separate columns on the subject. "Anyone who thinks we don't care about the Royals should think again," she says, noting that "we are not Americans. We are Canadians," and oh lord here we go.

Look, the debate as to whether or not Canada is well-served by the monarchy and its various symbolic reminders is a fun and interesting one, but I can't help but feel we've been having it an awful lot lately. Charles and Camilla are the third team of royals to visit this country in three years, after all, and one gets the impression partisans of both sides are starting to run out of steam. In my own capacity as a pro bono spokesperson for Canada's anti-monarchist cause, I received all the traditional media requests this week, yet when repeatedly asked "what I thought" of the Prince and his bride, I keep thinking back to Christopher Hitchen's famously fatigued response to a similar query about David Cameron: "I don't."

Unfortunately, we'll all have to keep thinking about queens and princes for at least little while longer. Her Majesty's Diamond Jubilee seems to be the party that just won't stop, and even though we've already worked our way through the anniversary of the ascension (February 6), the Queen's real birthday (April 21), her official birthday (May 21), and now the commemorative royal visit, there's still the anniversary of the coronation (June 2) to endure, which guarantees at least another two weeks of royal gushing -- from the CBC's endless re-opening of their royal archives, to the National Post's six-day "make-your-own-monarch" life size paper doll giveaway (really). Increasingly drained republicans and monarchists will continue to devote column space to shouting past each other, and little ground will be conceded or compromised. The reign of King Chuck will march ever closer.

It's enough to make you want a holiday.