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The Queen Gave me Medals, But no Cufflinks

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A while back, in both the Sun newspapers and Maclean's magazine, I noticed that perennial columnist Alan Fotheringham was preening and puffing about his relationship with the Queen Elizabeth with whom, he reminds us, he's had tea three times.

In the Sun he wrote: "I just assume that she reads my column. So it was no surprise that three weeks ago I received a request (order?) from Buckingham Palace that I was to appear at 6:00 p.m. on May 14 at the Toronto Lawn Tennis Club for a small ceremony to receive the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Medal. The (order?) request was arranged through Art Eggleton, who was Toronto's mayor from 1980 to 1991 and is now a distinguished member of our Senate in Ottawa."

A lot of us in the media know Foth, and his penchant for hyperbole. We don't take him too seriously, which is probably wise, since I'm not sure he takes himself that seriously. That said, I'd be surprised if the Queen ever read his column.

Foth makes a bigger deal of having tea with the Queen that the facts warrant, since covering Royal tours it's pretty hard not to have tea (or a drink) with the Queen. She traditionally meets those of the media who follow her around.

I, too, have had tea with the Queen while covering Royal tours. My most notable feat was being the "official" senior media representative on one of those tours and spoke on behalf of colleagues. The media spokesman on Royal tours traditionally was awarded a pair or Royal cufflinks at the end of the visit.

Alas, for me, I had written irreverently about a drunken Haida Indian in the Queen Charlotte's stealing the show by staggering and weaving on the red carpet, much to the amusement of Prince Philip who nudged the Queen to take note. The article was not appreciated, nor was my observation that Prince Philip looked aghast at receiving another cowboy that he was expected to wear in Calgary.

I think I became the first Royal Tour media honcho not to get a set of cufflinks in gratitude for loyal press leadership. I apparently set a poor example.

So tea with the Queen while covering the Royals is not necessarily a mark of distinction.

As for Fotheringham, I've known him for longer than most -- since the mid-1950s when I returned to the University of B.C. after serving in the Korean war. We both wrote for the university newspaper Ubyssey. In those days, Foth was a campus bigshot humour columnist, I was a struggling sports writer for UBC's secondary games.

Then, only the other day, there was a glowing article in the same beloved Sun that Columnist Chris Blizzard, "our expert on all things Royal," was to be "awarded the Queen's Diamond Jubilee medal at a special ceremony on June 18 at Roy Thomson Hall."

According to Chris: "It is a huge honour and a privilege to receive such an award from Her Majesty."

Editor-in-Chief James Wallace said "the signal honour" is "well-deserved," since at Queen's Park Chris is considered "royalty" among journalists. (I bet that's news to her!)

So I guess Chris' medal takes precedence over Foth's -- or at least Roy Thomson Hall is arguably a more prestigious setting than Toronto Lawn for an investiture.

Personally, I'm pleased for both of them, though I admit to feeling a bit second-class.

I received a Queen's Jubilee Medal back in January -- but it came in the mail, recommended by a Veterans' group. No investiture, no Senator involved, no "order" from Buckingham Palace. No accolades from the editor-in chief who didn't even know of the "award" -- one of 60,000 such medals issued to "deserving" Canadians.

What hurts is that ten years ago I also got the gold medal issued on the 50th anniversary of the Queen's reign. It also came in the mail. Again no E-i-C tributes. My wife Yvonne has both medals framed and hanging on a wall in the kitchen.

We have quite a few medals on the wall -- the most significant being my father's -- Order of the Bath, Military Cross and bar, Military Medal and bar, and wartime service medals. Three WWII service medals are mine, and three Korean service medals, plus two Korean medals.

I don't spend much time thinking about medals -- but I kind of miss not getting those cufflinks 40 years ago.

 
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