Elizabeth II, symbolic journeys
Despite her duty of reserve, the symbolic weight of Elizabeth II, Head of State, first representative and guarantor of the unity of her kingdom, was often asserted during her official trips.
- 1964: shunned in Quebec
Elizabeth II’s travels to Canada were repeatedly marked by outbreaks of separatist fever in Quebec. In 1964, for her first visit as Queen of Canada, a crowd “undemonstrative” awaits him in front of the residence of the lieutenant-governor, writes Agence France-Presse. “A group of young people, on the edge of the sidewalk, ostensibly turn their backs”. Demonstrations by separatist groups were harshly repressed during the “Saturday of the truncheon”. In 1990, when the country was going through a new constitutional crisis linked to Quebec, the Queen gave a fiery speech to Parliament, written by herself and her close collaborators, and not by the Canadian government, as tradition dictates. “I hope from the bottom of my heart that Canadians will unite and stay together instead of insisting on differences that can only sow new seeds of division”she says.
- 1965: at the foot of the Berlin Wall
On May 27, 1965, more than a million Berliners came to cheer on the Queen during her six-hour visit to the divided city. “By her presence and by the enthusiasm she sparked, Elizabeth II, despite repeated assertions coming from the other side of the wall, confirmed that West Berlin belongs to the Western family”, writes Agence France-Presse. In front of the wall, the sovereign’s car stops for about three minutes. “Unlike other illustrious guests, Elizabeth II did not leave her seat to climb onto the platform that allows you to watch what is happening in East Berlin. It would have been unworthy of the queen”, describes the journalist. During his speech, “She didn’t shout I’m a Berliner like John F. Kennedy did in 1962 at the same place. But a queen does not operate by slogans and the density of the crowds over a total route of 36 kilometers, the warmth of the cheers, had nothing to envy to the memorable visit of President Kennedy.continues the agency.
- 1977: in Ulster despite the “trouble”
In 1977, the Queen celebrates the 25e anniversary of his coronation and is keen to travel to Northern Ireland, torn apart for eight years by the conflict between Protestant loyalists and Catholic separatists. In the days preceding his arrival, incendiary devices cause hundreds of thousands of pounds of damage in Belfast. To protect the queen, accompanied by prince Philip and his two youngest sons, an impressive device is deployed. A missile destroyer accompanies his yacht, the Britannia. More than 32,000 police and military are mobilized for the“monarch operation”. On August 11, the Queen goes to the University of Coleraine (80 km north-west of Belfast). Shortly before his arrival, the IRA claims to have planted a bomb there. Elizabeth II pronounces a fervent prayer for the restoration of peace, urging Protestants and Catholics to put an end to the “senseless violence”.
- 1991: Mandela, surprise guest
In 1991, Nelson Mandela, who had just been released from prison, was the guest of the Commonwealth summit in Harare (Zimbabwe). Then simple leader of the ANC, in a country still in full democratic transition, he does not have the rank to attend the banquet of the queen. She decides to break the protocol and invite him. In the days preceding this highly symbolic gesture, Elizabeth II had already come out of her reserve, congratulating herself that apartheid was “dying in South Africa” In the early 1980s, the Queen had given her discreet support to Canadian Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, who was campaigning for economic sanctions against South Africa, while his British counterpart, Margaret Thatcher, was opposed to them.