Two Love Letters to the Queen

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As the Queen celebrates her Platinum Jubilee, a Canadian artist and a Canadian writer look back on ‘growing up’ with the Queen.

Photo: Platinum Jubilee: Queen images projected onto Stonehenge and Marble Arch to celebrate monarch’s 70th anniversary (Sky News)

The Queen receives sackloads of mail (Image: Press Association)

31 May 2022 | James Porteous | Clipper Media News

Owen Grant Innes was one of Kay Burley’s guests on Sky News this morning and he talked quite emotionally about his youth in Canada.

He recounted that, since Canada was a member of the Commonwealth, his school class would stand up every morning and sing and hear ‘God Save the Queen,’ and how the memory has remained so strong that he has published an art book, Duty; A Love Letter to Queen Elizabeth II, which pays tribute to her. (see more below)

As I know, this was very common. Not just in school, but at the first showing each day in movie theatres and at sporting events and…

Like him, I always thought this was ‘just the way it was’ and never complained or questioned the routine.

It was only many years later that he realized that the affinity he felt, I felt, and many of us felt, not only lives on but remains an emotional attachment.

After all, she was, and is, the Queen. Full stop. 

And although I did not live in Great Britain, and at that point had not even been on a visit, I instinctively enjoyed and appreciated the pomp and circumstance, the sense of history, and even the security derived from knowing that the past could live in harmony with the present and the future. 

And why wouldn’t it? You don’t have to ‘save’ history. It just is.

Or so we thought. 

In recent years there has much talk about ‘dumping’ the Monarchy in the UK and as a Canadian, it is none of my business, but I always think it is a shame to destroy history just so you can show the world you are capable of doing so.

To say nothing of the nightmare that could (would) be President Boris.

And I feel the same about this so-called movement to tame history. 

Our global goal now, we are told, is to ‘create’ a ‘universal history,’ one that removes the blemishes, the joys, the mistakes, and the achievements, all of which would be replaced by a hodgepodge world of new and homogenous nation-state marketplaces.

Anyone who has walked down the streets of Toronto over the past 10 years can tell you how this plays out.

All vestiges of the past are being erased and replaced with parkettes and mile after mile of condos meant to house the next generation of up-and-comers who are hellbent on finally achieving million-dollar debts.

It is not just soulless, it is a curated vapidness. And unlike the age-old buildings they have replaced, these sky-high fortresses are forever.

So, yes, I will most certainly be watching Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee, and yes, I will even wish I could attend a street party or two.

And I will also take a moment to remember and be thankful for this anchor to the past that even now helps define my place in the world. 

God Save the Queen.

James Porteous | Clipper Music

A love letter to the Queen

Artist Owen Grant Innes pictured at his citizenship ceremony in London. Photo submitted.
Artist Owen Grant Innes pictured at his citizenship ceremony in London. Photo submitted.

As the Queen celebrates her Platinum Jubilee, a Canadian artist reflects on his fine art book, Duty; A Love Letter to Queen Elizabeth II, which pays tribute to her.

03 May 2022 | Owen Grant Innes | New Canadian Media

I had the enormous privilege to become a dual Canadian – British Citizen  last year. It was a wonderful milestone to fully belong in the land that I had adopted as my new home.

During the ceremony, I swore allegiance to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, Her Heirs and Successors. Tears swelled as I read the words. 

It was truly a meaningful moment. I had come full circle in my life, with the Queen once again guiding me through a landmark occasion.

Cover of book Duty; A Love Letter to Queen Elizabeth II

I began my life in Nova Scotia, the most British of Canadian provinces. As a young boy in the 1960s, who preferred pink over blue, there was an enormous sense of not belonging, of living in a world that had not yet carved out a place for a child like me. 

In the accepted definition of masculinity of the day, it was difficult for me to fit into the certain expectations of how a life should be lived. Somehow, it was the Queen who gave me a place to belong. 

She connected me to a world beyond my own, through a sense of history, tradition, and the vastness of the Commonwealth.

I felt a bond with distant countries and far off lands; places I had only seen on a map.

Her keep-calm-and-carry-on steadfastness was an abstract and distant relationship, but it was true, it was constant, and it was a comfort, then and still is today. 

Our affinity as sovereign and subject was solidified. My Queen was there to keep me safe, to remind me that I and other minorities, including new Canadians, are not alone. Far from it. As the Queen of more than 50 countries in the Commonwealth, she represents one third of the world’s population.

From my earliest school days, I can remember singing: “God Save the Queen” every morning, staring in admiration at the framed black and white photograph of our beautiful queen, hanging above the chalkboards in every classroom. 

Leading us in song was music coming through the loudspeaker, hanging next to the portrait of Elizabeth II. She was ever-present and always looking over us.

Lonely childhood

I became an artist and found my way in the world, as the world around me changed and became more accepting of people who didn’t fit the binary norms of my lonely childhood.

Through it all, the Queen remained constant, leading these changes big and small. Her Majesty, as head of state and head of the Church of England, in signing legislation into law (Decriminalization of Homosexuality in 1967, the Marriage Act of 2013 and calling on her government in 2017 to continue to defend the rights of her LQBTQ+ subjects) has walked alongside us as we have made tremendous steps forward.

Soon, we will celebrate the Platinum Jubilee marking the 70-year-reign of Elizabeth II, the longest British Monarch to ever serve her people.

It’s a momentous occasion and a rare example of someone who made a vow as a young princess in 1947 and more than seven decades later, still honours this promise.

In a radio broadcast at the time, “with a whole Empire listening,” she said: “I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.”

I wanted to mark this occasion with my own personal gift to the Queen; a gift symbolic of the path I walked as an artist after she first lead me to the intersection of the many roads that one can walk down in a bigger world with room for us all, including people like me.

Thus, an art book was born. Duty; A Love Letter to Queen Elizabeth II, looks back at many of the moments in history when Queen Elizabeth II was there for us all, leading us through both joyful and sorrowful times.

She has been our rudder for seven decades, serving as head of state at countless ceremonies, forever planting trees, opening parliaments, and helping us digest many world events as they unfolded, simply by being there.

As a Canadian speaking to Your Majesty in an era of post-colonialism, I say to you: Thank you for all you have done for the British Commonwealth, your endless dedication, and your tireless commitment to us all.


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