Wednesday 1 June 2022

A "Canadian Queen" - the Apostolic Delegation in Ottawa reports on Elizabeth II

Translations of reports from Vatican Apostolic Archive, Archive of the Nunciature of Canada fonds.

Idelbrando Antoniutti to Domenico Tardini 

25 February 1952


The British Royal Family and Canada


The death of His Majesty George VI of Great Britain and the accession to the throne of Queen Elizabeth also had the greatest resonance in this country. It seems superfluous to dwell on the editorials and chronicles that, for a few days, filled the local press, recalling everything that could be of interest to the public, with particular references to the official trips made to Canada by the late King, in 1939, and last October of the new Queen.

Catholic newspapers were not inferior to others in expressing national condolences, while the [Canadian] Episcopate interpreted the sentiments of the faithful in widely circulated public messages. In all Catholic churches, memorial ceremonies were celebrated with a sizable participation of authorities and the people, during which specific speeches were made. The Administrator of Canada [in place of the late Governor General], Hon. T. Rinfret and Prime Minister Hon. St. Laurent, together with various members of the Federal Government, attended the solemn ceremony which took place in the Catholic Cathedral of Ottawa. I [also] attended, accompanied by the staff of this [Apostolic] Delegation.

Alongside these manifestations, a new fact has caught the attention of the public. While in the official documents of the death of George VI, he is called “King of Great Britain, of Ireland, and of the British Dominions beyond the seas, defender of the faith etc." in the act of proclamation of the new Queen, she is called: “by the grace of God, Queen of this realm and of other realms and territories; head of the Commonwealth [...]" Dominions” have become “kingdoms” and “colonies “territories.”


At the receptions held for the Hon. Winston Churchill, during his recent visit to Canada [...] the Prime Minister, Hon. St-Laurent, always avoided any allusion to “Dominion” and “Empire” in his statements and speeches, always calling Canada by the name of  “Realm,” while the British Prime Minister, Hon. Winston Churchill, recalled significant episodes of the glories of the "Great Dominion" and the historical function of the Empire. All this solemn vocabulary came to an end in the official document of accession to the throne of Elizabeth II. It seems to be the starting point of a new constitutional evolution in the countries of the British Commonwealth, of which Canada is a part, and the decisive influence that this country has had in the modification of the aforementioned terminology is now recognized.


The British, as practical people, understood the need for the new title, in order to continue to maintain the unity of the countries of the Commonweatlh. It is now a question of how the rich and, at the same time, imprecise vocabulary of the British monarchical system will be interpreted. In this regard, it has already been stated that an innovation in speech is acceptable if the appellative “realms” is used to demonstrate the equality that must exist between all the countries of the British Commonwealth. But the same innovation would not be accepted if Britain wanted to use this title to strengthen imperial ties, contrary to the progress already made in the path of national independence of the various countries concerned.


Elizabeth II was here proclaimed Queen of Canada, and Canada, which of all the nations of the British Commonwealth was the first to recognize her as Queen, does not intend to return to its ancient imperial affiliation. This is the main aspect and meaning of the new situation. [...]


Idelbrando Antoniutti to Domenico Tardini 

6 June 1953


Elizabeth II Queen of Canada


I think it opportune to give your Most Reverend Excellency some thoughts on the participation of Canada, and particularly of Canadian Catholics, in the recent events that took place in London, on the occasion of the solemn coronation of Queen Elizabeth.

Elizabeth II is the first “Queen of Canada.” This title, already approved by the Federal Parliament of Ottawa [in February], had the august royal sanction in a document signed in London and personally remitted by the new Sovereign to the Prime Minister of Canada, Rt. Hon. Louis St-Laurent, who took part in the coronation on behalf of the Canadian government and people. [...]


It can be said that this visit consolidated the relations between the British Royal Family and Canada, and also facilitated the choice, for the first time, of a viceroy [Governor General] of Canaadian origin who, in 1952, became the official representative of the Crown in this nation. [Vincent Massey] [...]


The celebrations of this week therefore took on a historical-legal significance in Canada, since not only was the coronation of the new Queen celebrated, but the title given to the young monarch of “Queen of Canada” was publicly proclaimed. Perhaps the people did not follow the meaning of this juridical element, but the press and, even before the press, the authorities could not fail to take the utmost account of it.


It should be recognized that the respectful sympathy of the public towards Elizabeth II and her Family, and the specific title that has now been attributed to her, have everywhere given rise to a series of solemn and enthusiastic demonstrations.


The civil ceremonies had their most solemn expression in Ottawa. On the day of the coronation, impressive military parades were held in this capital, which ended in a public ceremony in Parliament Square, where the Governor General gave an appropriate address, followed by the Queen's Speech broadcast from London.


The ecclesiastical authorities took direct part in all civil ceremonies and also celebrated special religious functions. This [Canadian] Episcopate had indeed enjoined that, in all the churches, a special ceremony would take place to ask for Heaven’s assistance upon the new Sovereign and her subjects. Thus, alongside the commemorative functions held in the cathedrals and in all the parishes, the people felt that they were appropriately called to consider the Christian principles of the authority of the rulers and the dependence of the governed. [...]