Entering the palace through the back door

Good morning everybody. A word from your head of state here. Now that I'm in charge there's gonna be some changes so smarten up. And fetch my regal trappings.

What's that from the cheap seats? Some mouldy old monarchist says I'm not head of state? Dust yourself off, dude. You probably think we're ruled by Good Queen Bess or something.

Zounds, rogue, woulds't wave a Constitution at me? Consign that hoary parchment to the flames and go bowl with Francis Drake. This is Postmodernia where self-esteem reigns supreme. And mine requires that I be head of state. Me me me.

Presumptuous? Moi? My consort and I brush aside such chatter. As does one Ms. Jean who appointed herself head of state recently and has forced her minions to defend the claim without shame. So why can't I?

Some quibblers may object that I'm a lot further from the seat of power than Ms. Jean since Stephen Harper hasn't appointed me to anything. And, regrettably, I am still waiting for him to run out of other right-wingers, this being Canada, and give me a Senate seat. (By the way, I hope I wasn't out of line with that "belly" crack in August.) Or, à la Peter Sellers in The Party, have somebody in the PMO read my name off the wrong list while distracted by their BlackBerry.

Meanwhile my lack of appointed office makes my act of usurpation far less perilous than that just attempted from behind the curtains at Rideau Hall. For out of the billowing monarchist dust rides the pertinent objection that if Michaëlle Jean is our head of state, we have a prime minister appointed by a person he appointed. In which case it really is high time we replaced the maple leaf on our flag with a banana.

Would the prorogation crisis last fall have been less troublesome if this tight closed circle really described supreme power in Canada? What if Mr. Harper made John Baird head of state? Would you feel less archaic?

Some Citizen letter-writers offered support to Ms. Jean on the grounds that the monarchy is ridiculous. Not compared to their argument. For pace King James I think we can safely say No Queen, no Governor General. When I'm in office, people who can't grasp that point are headed for the Tower. And I don't mean the Peace Tower.

Drawn into this typically silly Canadian spat, a spokesperson for Buckingham Palace offered drily: "In terms of her official title, I presume the Queen is head of state in Canada." And for those who claim official titles are for Elizabethan chumps in huge frill collars and Ms. Jean holds the job "de facto" which is good enough for government work, well, so will I as soon as you louts get in line behind my pretentions. With the Dominion Institute saying 92 per cent of Canadians can't identify our head of state, I like my chances of confusing my way into the post.

Adrienne Clarkson tried, calling herself "Canadian Head of State" in a 2004 speech and "the head of state in Canada" in her memoirs. But if logic is not another relic of the Shakespearean Age of incoherent darkness, this assertion raises the question of succession. Even generally excellent or at least stable political systems run into terrible problems if they lack an orderly system for transferring supreme power. So how did Ms. Clarkson pass the job to Ms. Jean?

I understand how Elizabeth II got whatever her job is from George VI. But this Clarkson-Jean line baffles me, unless it's a CBC thing. And who's now the heir apparent? Strombo? Wikipedia says Ms. Jean was appointed by Queen Elizabeth II but that's obviously codswallop unless you buy into that Queen-as-head-of-state rubbish.

It horrifies people in this hyper-democratic age of scrambling to loot the treasury that the Queen is not elected. But I call it an advantage of constitutional monarchy that the referee is not also a player. Besides, if lack of electability is an asset, I'm probably the best qualified person in the country.

If it's not, the obvious retort to Lady Jean Grey is that if she fancies a go at supreme power she is welcome to seek, first, the abolition of constitutional monarchy in Canada and, second, election as our first president. But you can see why she'd prefer a shortcut.

Me too. I'm definitely entering the palace by the back door. King John. Who could object to the sound of that? Oh, and what am I bid for the post of Sheriff of Nottingham, with its attractive freelance revenue-raising possibilities?

So welcome to Robsonia. I'm pleased preparations are under way to house me at public expense in a comfortable residence (especially compared with that junk-heap at 24 Sussex) with a solicitous staff to keep away the importunate masses and convey the royal medications at suitable hours. And look, the walls are festooned with soft, padded material for my regal comfort.

Yup, there's perks to being Emperor of the Universe.

[First published in the Ottawa Citizen]

ColumnsJohn Robson