Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Queen of Canada Rededicates Vimy Memorial

The following is the text of the speech made 9 April at the rededication of the Vimy Memorial in France:

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Ladies and gentleman, in any national story there are moments and places, sometimes far from home, which in retrospect can be seen as fixed points about which the course of history turns; moments which distinguish that nation forever. Those who seek the foundations of Canada's distinction would do well to begin here at Vimy.

Until this day 90 years ago, Vimy Ridge had been impregnable; a lesson learned at terrible cost to the armies of France and Britain. For the Allies, this ridge had become a symbol of futility and despair. It was against this forbidding challenge that the four divisions of the Canadian Corps were brought together as a single army for the first time.

In a matter of a few hours, on this cold and inclement Easter Monday morning, the Canadians became masters of the ridge and accomplished what many had thought impossible. Their victory was the fruit not only of an ingenious battle plan drawn up by Canadian commanders, but especially of courage and determination with which Canadian soldiers carried out their mission.

No fewer than four Canadians were awarded the Victoria Cross for conspicuous bravery during the battle, though it could easily be said that every soldier in the field demonstrated conspicuous bravery, such was the verve of the Canadian attack. It was a stunning victory. More, in capturing this formidable objective, the Canadian Corps transformed Vimy Ridge from a symbol of despair into a source of inspiration. After two-and-a-half years of deadly stalemate, it now seemed possible that the Allies would prevail and peace might one day be restored.

Here on this hallowed ground, where so much has been sacrificed, we're commemorating their courage and achievement. Their victory gave more than hope, it allowed Canada, which deserved it so much, to take its place on the world stage as a proud, sovereign nation, strong and free. Canada's commemorative monument at Vimy shows Canada's great strength and its commitment to freedom and also shows the deep solidarity that links Canada and France.

And lastly, it certainly shows the bravery, courage and sacrifice of the courageous Canadians that inspired a young nation to become a great nation.

To their eternal remembrance, to Canada, and to all who would serve the cause of freedom, I rededicate this magnificently restored memorial.

Bless you Ma'am.

The Vimy Memorial was originally dedicated by Edward VIII as King of Canada on 26 July 1936.
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Seumas Gagne said...

It's a moving speech, as one would expect from someone who has lived so long with the responsibility of contemplation.

Your reverence for the Queen is fascinating to me. My mother was English, and she felt the same way, but all of my relatives in England would sooner do away with the whole monarchy / peerage system. Would it still be England without a monarch? Seems like a farily dreary prospect to me.

But what is that line from Evita? "Distance lends enchantment" Here's to a little distance that can let us see the pale glimmer of enchantment that hovers over our grim world still.

michael sean morris said...

The world's pre-eminent social democracies (Holland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden) are all monarchies, and all are hugely popular (80%+ approval rates). England would do well to toss out the peerage (as Blair has attempted, in reforming the Lords) in favour of a meritocracy.

Not that I have any problem with aristocrats (although the sight of a few in gibbets would cheer me temporarily, I wouldn't like to see them killed) but it seems wrong-headed to say you can do away with classism by stripping them of their titles. Canada has no titles, and still classism exists.

I don't think democracy necessarily produces better leaders, in which any petty bigot can vote for an overbearing cokehead fratboy to become, oh, say, President.

England has always had a love/hate thing for the monarchy, as depicted in the film "Mrs. Brown", when half of Parliament supported turfing out Queen Victoria because she was in mourning.

Some day I'll blog about it, because I don't even fully understand it myself, this reverence. It's just always been there. I have a feeling it's probably costing me readers writing about it so much but I don't care.

Whenever I'm having a bad day she cheers me up in a way nobody else can.

Michele said...

That was beautiful - thanks for posting it. As a Yank married to a Kiwi - I was glad to know about Gallipoli and ANZAC day before we met...

michael sean morris said...

Welcome Michele! I don't believe you've ever commented before, and if you have I'm sorry for not remembering.

And you're welcome. I published a similar message from Commonwealth Day on March 18th.