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  • The Secret of the Crown: Canada's Affair with Royalty by John Fraser
  • Jatinder Mann
John Fraser , The Secret of the Crown: Canada's Affair with Royalty (Toronto: House of Anansi Press, 2012), 304 pp. Cased. $29.95. ISBN 978-1-77089-035-0. Paper. $19.95. ISBN 978-1-77089-107-4.

This book written by John Fraser, Canadian journalist, author and academic, was published very soon after the marriage of Prince William and Princess Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, in 2012 when the British monarchy, or Canadian monarchy as he insists on calling it, was certainly experiencing a high point. Fraser quite openly admits that he is an ardent monarchist and that his work is polemical, personal and selective. I have to admit this honesty was actually quite refreshing, especially in contrast to other works which are obviously polemical but do not admit it. At the same time the book is unsurprisingly rather one-sided in its discussion of the monarchy in Canada, although to be fair it does not claim to be anything different.

The main themes that Fraser focuses on are the importance of the marriage of Will and Kate to the future of the Canadian monarchy, but also generally in the Commonwealth; the benefits of Canada remaining a constitutional monarchy; the role of the Governor General and Lieutenant Governors; the change in the nature of the British monarchy from deference to engagement with the people; and the future role of Prince Charles as King of Canada. Fraser devotes quite some time to discussing Will and Kate's impact on the future viability of the British monarchy and their positive reception on their tour of Canada shortly after their marriage. He actually makes several parallels between their tour and that of the then-recently crowned King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in 1939. Both were hugely popular and cemented the positions of both sets of royals, Fraser argues. Fraser also explores in some depth the positive way (in his opinion) in which the Canadian constitutional monarchy functions in terms of the Queen's position as Head of State, the Governor General as the monarch's official representative in Ottawa and the Lieutenant Governors as the monarch's representatives in the ten provinces. He even categorises the effectiveness of the Governor Generals since the Queen's coronation in 1953, starting with Vincent Massey, Canada's first Canadian-born Governor General.

Some beautifully illustrated photos of significant points in the history of the Canadian monarchy, including one of Prime Minister Trudeau's infamous pirouette behind the back of the Queen after he was not invited to a Head of State's dinner, which as Fraser quite rightly points out did not include Canada's Prime Minister, bring many of the book's stories to life. However, the book is very much made up of stories and personal anecdotes. Although I found it quite enjoyable to read and in several places quite humorous, Fraser's obvious love of the Canadian monarchy, and the Queen in particular, was at times a little overbearing. But I would still recommend the book, with the proviso that it is an openly polemical work made up primarily of stories and personal anecdotes, and therefore would be of more use to general readers rather than specialists in the field.

Jatinder Mann
King's College London and University College London


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