If you were hoping to get a free portrait of the Queen to hang in your bedroom or to gift to that special someone, you missed your chance.
The Canadian federal government is discontinuing its initiative to distribute print posters featuring an image of Queen Elizabeth to Canadians. The project started in 2002 and allowed any Canadian to fill out an online form, or to mail or fax a request for the portrait, which was shipped anywhere in Canada free of charge.
In a statement to HuffPost Canada, a representative of the Department of Canadian Heritage said the move is intended to reflect growing environmental and cost concerns.
“The new policy to phase out the printing and distribution program was taken after careful study, taking into account escalating costs and the environmental impact,” the statement said. “Digital availability offers Canadians greater flexibility in the format and size they wish to print and makes the portrait universally accessible.”
Since 2010, the image provided by the government is of Queen Elizabeth during a visit to Rideau Hall that same year. The image is still available for download, as well as official images of the Queen and husband Prince Philip from 2005, and an image of just Prince Philip for all of you Duke of Edinburgh fans out there.
According to Heritage Canada, interest in free photos of the Queen has increased in recent years. Since 2016, an average of 5,000 portraits have been distributed every year.
The importance of Queen portraits
Robert Finch is the chairman of the Monarchist League of Canada, which promotes and educates Canadians on the role of the monarchy in Canada. He says the discontinuation of the print portraits is concerning.
“In the everyday life, I think it is important for Canadians to sort of have that gentle reminder that we live under the crown,” he told HuffPost. ”So the most common way to get that message across is a picture of the Queen in public spaces.”
Finch says he worries that having to print off their own photos will dissuade people from displaying an image of the monarch.
“By going digital exclusively, you do end up with a gap,” he said. “You have people in remote parts of the country who don’t have access to local copy-shops, you have older Canadians who maybe aren’t that tech-savvy.”
Watch: Security-conscious Queen Elizabeth asks if automatic checkouts can be ‘diddled.’ Story continues below.
Finch said his organization received a number of portraits from the government, and will continue to sell them to Canadians for a $20 shipping fee until they run out.
“[This week] we’ve received hundreds and hundreds of requests,” he said.
Finch says Monarchist League hopes to collaborate with Heritage Canada to find other ways to distribute the free photos.
“Heritage has always been a good supporter of us. We just have to sort of come to a solution to this particular problem,” he said. “I don’t quite know what the solution is or how we’re going to get there. But I’m confident we’ll find something.”
Fun with flags
If you’re bummed that you aren’t able to get a free official Canadian portrait of the Queen, you can instead get a flag that was flown from Parliament free and shipped directly to your home — if you’re willing to wait over 100 years, that is.
Every weekday, the designated flag master at Canada’s Parliament changes the maple leaf flag hanging from the Peace Tower and gives it away to the public. The program started in 1994, but since then thousands have signed up to receive the flags, leading to a stated wait-time of over 100 years for flags flown from the Peace Tower or other parts of Parliament.
In a statement to HuffPost, a representative from Public Services and Procurement Canada — which manages the flag distribution — said interest in the flags has spiked recently.
As of this month, there are over 62,000 requests for flags waiting in the system.
The online form seems simple — no more complex than signing up for a newsletter or making a dinner reservation. Assuming flags in the future haven’t been replaced by holograms or whatever, your grandchildren or even great-grandchildren could end up with a pretty patriotic package on their front step in the next century.