Victoria Day has been called many things, but the most unrealistically optimistic description I’ve run across is this one: “This long weekend holiday is sometimes informally considered as marking the beginning of the summer season in Canada.”
This notion was obviously written by some Wikipedia contributor who has never been to Canada, at least not during the May Long, that’s for sure. (And BTW, what’s this “summer” thing that people keep talking about, staring wistfully off into some fantasy world of hope and dreams?)
The third week in every Canadian month of May we Canucks celebrate Queen Victoria, who died 113 years ago and was the Queen of Victoria, B.C., where she built the Empress Hotel and invented High Tea.
Old photographs reveal that she was a formidable woman (as in “hefty”) who somewhat resembled Winston Churchill wearing a funny hat and shawl.
And history tells us we celebrate a special holiday for her on account of she was the very first Queen of Canada and because she looked quite mean in all her portraits so politicians were scared enough to honour her with a holiday of her very own so that she wouldn’t be mad at Canada and do something like ban the sport of hockey or require that all Canadians must speak with a pronounced British accent.
But for the terminally confused like Yours Truly, this weekend is also traditionally a celebration of the current monarch Liz 2, even though it’s still attributed to Vicky 1 in name. Here’s an explanation from TimeandDate.com:
After (Queen Victoria’s) death, in 1901, May 25 became known as Empire Day. The sovereign’s official birthday was still celebrated, often on the King’s or Queen’s actual birthday. In 1952, Empire Day was moved to the Monday before May 25 and since 1953, the official birthday of Queen Elizabeth II has been celebrated on this date in Canada.
In 1958, Empire Day became known as Commonwealth Day, which was moved to the second Monday in March. The Monday before May 25 then became known as Victoria Day, which is a Canadian statutory holiday.”
Say what? Clear as the proverbial mud on the shores of the mighty Great Lakes.
This seriously confusing little historical blah blah blah must surely have been written by the Senate or some other self-appointed political machination whose members were too busy filing expense claims to bother being coherent.
Or put another way: too busy making cents to make sense. (Sorry.)
Be that as it may, I believe it is my patriot duty to expound upon this long-gone Queen we honour every May Long, particularly in the interest of coming up with something to ramble about that might be of interest to several readers.
So here, according to my several painstaking minutes of research in order to present some meaning and depth to this hallowed weekend, and in order to fill my allotted column space with things you never wanted to know about good old Queen Vicky, are some of those very things you never wanted to know, but are nonetheless quite true (according to CityNews.ca):
• Queen Victoria’s first name wasn’t “Queen.” It was Alexandrina, and her nickname when she was a little kid was “Drina” (not to be confused with “Drano,” which is a popular plumbing decomposition solution).
• She ascended to the throne when she was 18 and died when she was 81. Coincidence?
• She was the first member of the Royal Family to suffer from hemophilia; however, she never publicly expressed any anti-gay sentiment.
• Because she was Queen, she had to propose to her future husband Al instead of visa versa. BTW, Al’s highfalutin handle (not kidding) was Prince Albert of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha.
• Supposedly, Queen V started the tradition of bride’s wearing white. (Before her wedding in 1840, brides wore armour.)
• When her husband Al died in 1861, Victoria wore only black for the next 40 years, until the day she died. (Obviously there were no grey areas in her sense of fashion.)
• She had nine children and was the great-great-grandmother of the current Queen Elizabeth II. (You can tell they are related on account of their crowns and jewels are strikingly similar.)
• She was named the 18th greatest Briton in a BBC poll conducted in 2002. Winston Churchill was number one. (Coincidence?) Victoria was beaten out by, among others, Princess Diana (No. 3), William Shakespeare (No. 5) and John Lennon (No. 8). She was followed on the list by Paul McCartney. (She beat not one but three Beatles? The BBC is obviously flawed. And insane.)
• She lived through at least six assassination attempts. (Two unsuccessful attempts were murder by taunting, and the other four tries were at night and since she was always wearing black, the assassins missed.)
• And finally, perhaps the most telling of all Queen Victoria factoids, an interesting little indulgence that may explain why she is the longest serving sovereign in history.
And I quote: “Queen Victoria liked to drink a concoction called Vin Mariani. One of its main ingredients? Cocaine.” (No wonder May 24 is such a party weekend!)
The Queen of May Long ruled for an amazing 63 years, 216 days.
But wait a minute! Current Queen Elizabeth II (named after the Alberta highway QE 2) is still reining cats and dogs at 62 years, 101 days as of today. And everybody hopes she breaks the record, and then some.
But to do that, she might need a little something in her tea.
Happy May Long!
Harley Hay is a local freelance writer, award-winning author, filmmaker and musician. His column appears on Saturdays in the Advocate. His books can be found at Chapters, Coles and Sunworks in Red Deer.