This is my home as it stood in the summer of 1916. The regimental band photographed here in front of the main veranda and imperial draperies is that of the 208th Battalion (Canadian Irish). The gentleman in the white overalls to the far right was the owner at the time, and something of a mover and shaker for Prime Minister William Lyon Mackenzie King, the longest serving premier in British Commonwealth history, who served at the top of Canadian government for an incredible 21 plus years. Only Australia's Sir Robert Menzies and Britain's Sir Robert Walpole and Lord Liverpool come close.
In the 1920s and 30s, Mackenzie King frequented "Maplehurst" (the name of my property owing to a single or number of giant maple trees that graced and still grace the acred estate). In his famous diary he writes about his time here, his futilty against the local Tory stronghold and about evenings dancing away on the veranda above. It is thankfully not a "heritage property" (yet), though the township has made no secret of its desire to make it one. Over my cold dead body tax collectors, but rest assured that the ghost of Mackenzie King is safe in this old haunt, and I have no plans to vandalize the historical heritage of this site. Here below is a photograph of him on the property with the ladies who dwelled at Maplehurst. Interestingly, that maple standing directly behind him is still there. Evidently trees live longer than prime ministers, even really really long serving ones.
And here I come to the crux of my problem: the difficulty of paying true homage to a man I can't quite bring myself to admire. Mackenzie King for all his incredible strengths as a politician was in many respects a strange bird, not least his views on the monarchy at a time when its prestige was at it maximum, which I find perplexing for a man of his era.
Hereward Senior's article in 1971 entitled "Royalty and Mr. King" gives us a hint of what he thought about it. "As a democrat, he recognized its popular character. As a decent man, he appreciated the personal qualities of the King and Queen. Yet he felt rather vaguely that monarchy was wicked and really un-American. He noted that the Pilgrim Fathers wanted to get away from this sort of thing."
"Mackenzie King thought that the contemporary Canadian attitude towards the Monarchy was 'akin to the worship of idols' and also 'too much the worship of power and position.' Here he missed the point completely. The power was at that time in his own hands, not the King's, and although the Prime Minister was respected and feared, there was a notable absence of reverence...could it be that King felt that the deference accorded the Royal Family rightly belonged to him?"
"Although he lived in the age of Stalin and Hitler, King worried about the possible dangers of deference to the Royal Family, and did not see the Monarchy as democracy's first line of defence against the personality cult. King's conscience troubled him about the number of aristocratic guests at the residence of the Governor-General and the Lieutenant-Governors. Yet he describes in his diary the great pleasure he took in the official visit of Shirley Temple to Ottawa. It is a commentary on his sense of proportion that he wished to protect Canadian society from the contamination of aristocratic guests in Government House, but enjoyed providing the red carpet for the hero of Hollywood."