A fascinating column by Andrew Coyne (Canada is a French country) about how Harper is subverting Quebec nationalists by reminding French-Canadians that Francis I was the first sovereign over Canada, and that Canadian history did not begin with the British Conquest under George II.
The nationalists’ conquêtisme, of course, was but a mirror to that of an earlier tradition of Anglo triumphalists, who also emphasized the Conquest (“Wolfe the dauntless hero came”) as the locus generis of the British ascendancy. As, in their own way, did a later generation of Canadian nationalists, for whom the British connection was a yoke to be thrown off, together with such colonial “relics” as the Crown, not merely to mollify Quebec but for the sake of our own psychological maturation as a people. You still hear a lot of that.Of course John Cabot landed in Newfoundland in 1497 in the name of Henry VII, which predates the landing by Jacques Cartier in 1534, so is not Canada originally an English country? Or are we to believe that because Newfoundland did not join Confederation until 1949, Newfoundland is therefore not really part of old Canada. The unbroken chain of sovereignty over Canadian territory began in 1497, a fact that was not even interrupted by the brief Cromwellian republic since a French king still ruled over most of Canada at the time.
But if the history of Canada is an unbroken chain of sovereignty, Francis to Elizabeth, Champlain to Johnston; if what is important about it is not the change from French to British rule but the continuity between them—if we are not a British monarchy, or even a French monarchy and then a British one, but simply a monarchy, throughout—then the Conquest is not the pivotal event in our history: it is just an event. The effect, in turn, is to deracinate the British inheritance. What is valuable is the inheritance—Crown, Parliament, the common law, the Constitution—not its Britishness.
Does Canada therefore have a longer continuous monarchy than even England?