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Royal representation, ceremony, and cultural identity in the building of the Canadian nation, 1860-1911 Henry, Wade Andrew

Abstract

The process of nation-building in nineteenth century Canada involved the production of national symbols which could transcend sub-national loyalties, such as class, gender, ethnic, and religious identities, and unite the residents of the Canadian nation. While the symbols were many and varied, in this study I analyse the manner in which the Canadian state and civil society used royal ceremonies and representations to define and unify the Canadian nation between 1860 and 1911. The study focusses on the Canadian observances of Queen Victoria's Golden and Diamond Jubilees, her Memorial Services, the Coronation and Memorial Services of Edward VII, the Coronation of George V, and the royal visits of the Prince of Wales (Edward VII) in 1860 and the Duke of Cornwall and York (George V) in 1901. Regarding society and social relations as neither static nor fixed, but multiple and contradictory, I use the concept of cultural hegemony combined with elements from the "new" cultural history to examine the complex nature of power, identity, and royal representation in the nation-building process. Specifically, I argue that male members of the middle class articulated representations of themselves, women, the upper and lower classes, and the monarchy in order to legitimise their social authority and consolidate themselves as a cultural hegemony in the new national society. In turn, women and the upper and working classes resisted these representations with images of their own designed to empower themselves. The traditional elite claimed public and royal affirmation of their leadership; women and the working class sought an equal place in the nation. Complicating matters, however, were ethnic and religious identities which impinged upon class and gender loyalties and further altered the nature of royal representation and the formation and negotiation of a cultural hegemony. French Canadians, Irish Catholics, Jews, African and Asian Canadians, and the Peoples of the First Nations added their voices—and imagery—to the process of nation-building as each articulated representations of the monarchy in order to counter the dominant interpretations emanating from Protestants and whites. By doing so, they sought to either negotiate themselves a place within a wider hegemony or demand that their rights—and their place within the Canadian nation—be respected. Royal ceremonies and representations, then, were not trivial events in Canadian history. They comprised a fundamental feature in national imagery and played a vital part in the building of the Canadian nation.

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