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Who Cares About the Royal Baby?

We went to Quebec's finest British novelty store to figure out why anyone in Canada should give a shit about the monarchy.
July 24, 2013, 5:15pm

The Royal baby makes Diane Hodges want to twist and shout. Photos by Joel Balsam. My first reaction to the wall-to-wall news coverage that a couple of tax-funded billionaires—in some far away island across the ocean—were having a baby was probably a lot like yours: who the hell cares!? Being born “vaginally” from two human adults is not BREAKING NEWS, CNN:

After shaking my fist at my laptop for a few minutes I stuck my hand in my pocket to fish for a pack of gum, and out fell out a Canadian $20 bill where, low and behold, the Queen of England was looking up at me. That’s because after 146 years as a country, Canada is still a part of the Commonwealth, and according to a 2012 Canadian Press survey 51% of Canadians are still down with that.

Sure, most of the Monarchy’s power is symbolic, but did you know that as part of our Constitution, Stephen Harper, King Robbie Ford, Governor General David Johnston is Canada’s true head of state? In reality, his job entails shaking hands and signing what he is told to sign, but one only needs to point to 2008 when the fate of the country was in the governor general’s hands. In that case, Michaëlle Jean, the governor general at the time, decided to side with Harper and prorogue parliament (end work for the holidays) to prevent an election.


So, why don’t we get rid of the royals’ inbred influence over Canada? The only way to get the Monarchy out of Canadian politics would be to change the Constitution, by getting all provinces to agree. That’s like seeing a Sopranos movie—never going to happen.

Quebec is a province that would most definitely tell the governor general and any other British influence to GTFO. Only 24% of Quebecers, according to that survey I mentioned, support the Queen. In my mind, that sounds pretty generous.

Quebec is a province where separatists (like these people I interviewed) live. It’s a province where a complaint was made about the Englishness of the word “pasta” on a menu, and yet we’re okay with pizzaghetti. It’s a province where a girl had to quit her job at a grocery store for speaking English while working. It’s also a province where a store exists for the sole purpose of selling British swag, and according to its owner Diane Hodges, a lot of French-Canadians are obsessed. I wondered if she could tell me what the big deal about the Monarchy is.

Bramble House in Montreal is your one-stop shop to appease any British fetish you might have.

VICE: Why do you love the Monarchy?
Diane: I was raised in those traditions. My mom is from Northern Ireland, and my Dad is from England. I loved the Beatles. I just loved everything British. It’s just a cooler culture because it’s so condensed. They seem to have a richer history in terms of music, especially in the 60s, when everybody was looking at England. But also, my Dad was in the War, so we’ve always had that relationship with them. There’s a meme that goes around the Internet that says anything said with a British accent is sexy, I mean there’s something to be said for that accent too.


Do you get a lot of flak for having a store in Quebec?
We’re the only shop that is exclusively British; even all our signs are in English we’re almost arrogant about it at this point.

Quebec’s relationship with the British is a bit different. The rest of Canada is pretty strong with the Commonwealth, but in Quebec there are some tender points. I think their beef is not with Britain. I have so many French-Canadian customers that are absolute anglophiles—they adore England, they are mad for the Queen, they love everything Royal.

English people: questioning your masculinity since 927 AD.

Has there been an influx of people buying British stuff because of Will and Kate?
I think the Royal Engagement launched a kind of renewed interest in the Monarchy, and that’s when I saw a big spike in new people coming in, because they wanted to know more about the Engagement. Then they got married and then there was the Jubilee, now the baby. So every year there has been something going on in England that has had a kind of significance globally.

Why do people even like the Royals?
Because they are the voice of the people, all of their work, they generate a lot of income for England, and they do a lot of good. I know a lot of people don’t see that, they just see the life of privilege and assume that they are just takers. Anyone that’s grown up with the Royals knows that’s not what you see. What you see is they are always out there plugging some charity or another, and that’s their job.


But do we need to give them so much attention?
Will and Kate, something about them has captured a lot of people’s imaginations. They’re just such a nice couple. I think Kanye West and Kim Kardashian get a lot more attention than they do, but nobody complains about it. I find it so much more offensive when Kanye and Kardashian are in the news, I mean what are they doing for me?

Diane is throwing a Royal baby shower at Bramble House this Saturday. Be there in time for tea!

Joel likes tea. Tweet him: @JoelBalsam

VICE cares about the #RoyalBaby:

We Went Along to the Royal Baby Party at St Mary’s Hospital