A Royal Spin!
Even those who have lived in Canada all their lives are surprised to hear that the debonair Prime Minister of Canada, the Trudeau with the great hair and ease of manner with all, is not the highest-ranking executive authority in Canada. He retains leadership at “Her Majesty's Pleasure,” a quaint, if not archaic, description perhaps, but one not without its own anomalous charms.
So while Justin's spin on the wheel is welcomed as one more example of the bicycle's everyday place in Canadian society, it might be useful to consider its residence at the highest executive level.
The bicycle, of course, came into view as far back as the reign of Queen Victoria. It is said she owned Starley's “Royal Salvo” tricycle. Unfortunately, there's no evidence she ever rode it. Nor would she have been a candidate for the 1880s high wheel, or penny-farthing, for perhaps obvious physical reasons. By the time the more comfortable and easier-to-mount safety bicycle had come into popular use in the 1890s, Victoria would have long given into the sad, and now-disabused notion, that cycling is a young person's vocation.
Britain's (Canada's and the Empire's as well) next monarch was the Rabelaisian libertine Edward VII. His affairs were many, as extensive, one might say, as his girth, though he was considered a cycling enthusiast perhaps as a means to pursue new “friends.”
One of those “friends” inspired what is undoubtedly the best-known cycling ditty of all time, Harry Dacre's 1892 classic. We all know how it goes:
Give me your answer, do I'm half crazy
All for the love of you,”
It ends with the immortal words “a bicycle built for two.”
Popular belief is that it was a tip of the hat to Daisy Greville, one of Edward VII's many mistresses, but who was also described as a society cyclist who took independent pride in her Humber-model bike.
Likewise, King George V was an advocate for cycling and the recipient in 1921 of a model with links to Daisy's, the Beeston Humber Gents Number 1. His son, and the future Edward VIII, was often seen on a bicycle before World War One, but such enthusiasm was later overcome by the charms of the American and twice-divorced Wallis Simpson, for whom Edward surrendered his throne in 1936, paving the way for the tongue-tied George VI, immortalized by Colin Firth in The King's Speech.
Such regular commitment to a means of transport in those days associated with a more plebi- an class should have stood the
Royal Family in a somewhat populist mode, but for a long time such was not the case.
The term “Bicycle Monarchy” was a British rebuke of their own royalty, in contrast to that of similarly titled families in Scandinavia and the Low Countries, with particular reference to The Netherlands, where Royals were often seen publicly taking to the same cycling paths as their subjects.
British rulers by contrast were too often held back by the pomp and ceremony of their position. The less fashionable bicycle might have been acceptable for a young and future Queen Elizabeth, but would one day be replaced by limousines or a horse and carriage resembling that which one imagines Disney's Cinderella rides to the ball before losing her magic shoe.
It's not necessarily a fair commentary on their behavior, though images of heir-incumbent Charles on a bicycle suggest a man uncomfortable with the experience.
On the other hand, his children, William and Harry, not only enjoy “the wheel,” but also play a definitely downstream version of horse polo, the kind relying on a bicycle. William and Kate have likewise been pictured enthusiastically supporting their country's bicycling competitors at the 2012 London Olympic Games.
So, perhaps on their tour of Canada, the young Royals may find time to join Justin Trudeau for a ride on one of the country's designated trails. It would be purely symbolic, but over the years, such leadership has inspired others to take to the saddle as well.
Rio 2016 Team Canada gold medalists with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and The Honourable Carla Qualtrough; paracyclist Tristen Chernove (far right) with arm raised