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Canadian transplant marches to royal beat

When I was born in Montreal in the mid-’50s, I was blessed with a privilege I wouldn’t learn to appreciate until my adult years — my Canadian citizenship birthright.

I was and forever will be a member of a Commonwealth country. How cool is that?

In 1964, Canadian Prime Minister Lester B. Pearson created a committee to redesign the Canadian flag, which then featured a red field with the Canadian coat of arms on the lower right and the Union Jack in the upper left corner.

In January 1965, Canada adopted its new flag. Shortly after, Queen Elizabeth II signed a royal proclamation accepting Canada’s new iconic flag, and the new flag was raised Feb. 5 on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. Canada would keep her independence and forever remain part of the global British Commonwealth.

The Canadian emblem would be the maple leaf. Thousands of years before the arrival of Canadian settlers, the Indigenous peoples already had discovered the value of maple sap and its food properties.

The maple leaf symbolizes the national treasure, the maple tree. The flag’s red color represents the autumn colors the maple tree displays. The red bars represent the Canadian greatness from coast to coast, and finally the white background symbolizes snow, something Canada has plenty of.

At 9 years old, I was somewhat confused why we needed to change our flag. My grade-three teacher was very concise in explaining to our class, as all other teachers were with theirs, why we no longer needed to sing “God Save the Queen” after prayers at the start of each school day. But I liked singing “God Save the Queen”!

I was in awe of the royal pomp and circumstance, and most of all I was drawn into the ancient history of the British royal clans. My father, who was 100% British, filled in all the juicy details not taught in school. By the time I was an adult, I not only loved the bagpipes, I wore a kilt and even served in the Royal Canadian Air Force.

Here is why I find the British royal lineage so fascinating. Did you know Queen Elizabeth ll is a descendant of Henry Vlll’s sister, Queen Margaret of Scotland (the grandmother of Mary Queen of Scots)? Three hundred years later, Queen Victoria would rule for 64 prosperous years. Victoria’s great-great-granddaughter was Queen Elizabeth ll, who as you know, served as queen for 70 years and 214 days, the longest monarchy in history.

So as they laid Queen Elizabeth ll to rest alongside her late husband, Prince Philip, I reflected back on my youth and what the queen of England meant to me.

She was my commonality; she was my history; she was my pride. Yes, I am — and always will be — Canadian. Or should I say American-Canadian? Hmmmm.

Either way, I do have some extremely deep British roots, and I proudly share those roots with my new American family and friends. I brought my pride with me (including my love for Benny Hill and Mr. Bean) when I moved to the United States way back in 1990.

So if I am sad watching my queen one last time, I am overjoyed I got to experience her reign and all she did for the world since the end of World War ll.

Now, Charles as king? That’s going to take some getting used to.

“God Save the King.”

Richard Hunter lives in Jacksonville.