Opinion » Maxed Out

Happy birthday Alexandrina

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Let's see, sun? Check. Warmer temps? Check. Blue sky? Check. Spring skiing? Check. Victoria Day weekend? Huh? Yer kidding? Already? Uh, so it is. Check.

Yes, as she reportedly used to do to palace staff, Queen Victoria's managed to sneak up on me at the outset of Whistler's tenuous, but promising, hold on what we in the Great White North like to euphemistically call summer... ish. Summerish is the brief, frequently absent period between the shoulder-seasons of winter, which we like to call, well, winter. We just call it that for a lot longer than most people in North America, which includes Mexico, whose official language — Mexican — has no actual word for winter. But I digress.

Victoria Day Weekend, not to belabour the obvious, was named for Queen Victoria, monarch of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, Empress of India and reputed party girl. Known to her close friends as Your Highness, Victoria reigned as queen from 1819 to 1901 when her rule came to an end because of an inherited genetic condition known as death.

Contrary to popular belief, Queen Victoria's name was not Victoria. It was Alexandrina. We can all count ourselves lucky we're not celebrating Alexandrina Day Weekend if for no other reason it would sound too Lewis Carroll to be believed. Interestingly — and I use the word interestingly because if I used a word that more aptly described how uninteresting what follows is you probably wouldn't bother reading it — Lewis Carroll was a pseudonym for Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, pseudonym itself being a pseudonym for alias which bears a remarkable resemblance to Alice which is what Lewis Carroll is best known for... in Wonderland.

I only mention this fascinating factoid because I can't for the life of me figure out how, exactly, Queen Victoria came to be called Queen Victoria. The Queen part I understand. But the Victoria part... well, these are the facts. Her father was Edward Augustus, known to his close friends as Prince Edward, Duke of Kent and Strathearn. Her mother was Marie Luise Viktoria, whose aliases included Princess Victoria of Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld, Princess of Leiningen and Duchess of Kent. She was German and, quite possibly, had personally invaded all of those places herself.

But it raises an interesting question — op. cit. "interestingly" — doesn't it? It was common practice at the time, in both England and Germany, for children to bear the last name of their father, unless, understandably, the child's mother wasn't married at the time of birth. Okay, I'm not suggesting anything here but just sayin'.

In order to keep this column from being bogged down by the weight of history, let me stop and welcome our American visitors and help clear up any confusion they may be suffering because they've just found out this weekend is Victoria Day Weekend, and a long one at that. They are likely confused because (a) they're American — no slight here; as a recovering American myself, I've always found Canadian customs confusing — (b) next weekend is, in the U.S.A. Memorial Day Weekend, also a long one, and (c) as a rule, Americans don't understand why everyone else in the world does things differently, especially Canadians, who they see as just the same as them, but with different money and states called provinces.

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