Thursday, June 3, 2010

Crown's don't sit well

In Tohby Riddle's, The Royal Guest, (Hodder & Stoughton, 1993; Puffin 2008) the Queen is planning a trip to Australia, but there is talk about the cost. Luckily, a Mrs Jones from Padstow offers to put her up. She has plenty of room, not to mention a very comfortable inflatable mattress. All the Queen needs to bring is a her own sleeping bag.

Over the next few days, the Queen experiences everyday suburban life, playing cards with Mrs Jones and her friends and helping Mrs Jones take her cat to the vet on her way to a meeting with the Prime Minister.

After a hectic round of royal engagement, the Queen returns to spend her last night at Padstow. Before she leaves the next moring, she hands Mrs Jones a thankyou gift. It is the most delicately, crafted jewelled crown, one of the Queen's old favourites. Mrs Jones, who is busy packing the Queen's lunch, accepts the crown, joking that this must make her 'the Queen of Padstow'.

Although this is where the story ends, republican historian Mark McKenna has reflected on the crowning of Mrs Jones. In Symbols of Australia (2010), p.33 he wrote:

I've often imagined Mrs Jones sitting at her kitchen table, carefully placing the crown on her head. How strange it must have felt, this crown that jarred with her clothes and refused to sit straight on her hair. If the neighbours caught sight of her, they'd probably have thought she'd gone mad. After all, what good is a crown in Padstow? We know nothing of how long Mrs Jones reigned in her realm of Padstow, or whether she managed to find any loyal subjects, although given the wry delivery of her final line it would seem unlikely she persisted with the fantasy of being the Queen of Padstow.

The sight of any Australian wearing the crown of royalty - like the sight of the crowned Mrs Jones in Padstow - seems frankly absurd. Crowns do not sit well on Australian heads.