Page 3 of 3
contextualised in the broader political progressions of the era, the movement towardsmass democratisation as a result of the legislative reforms in 1867 and 1884contributing to the channeling of popular political energies into a form of jingoisticimperialism with notions of racialist superiority buttressing ideas of divinely ordaineddomination.
Such imperial nationalism required the active co-operation of therather aloof Queen Victoria, who after a prolonged and unpopular absence from thepublic limelight re-entered high society with unparalleled grandeur in the twentyyears preceding the
fin de siècle,
undergoing a profound transformation from the socalled
petulant widow to imperial matriarch
and in doing so becoming the iconicfigure in the imagery and imagination of empire.
The gradual atrophy of the crown
s effective political prerogative throughout thenineteenth century enabled it to discharge the duties of an apolitical constitutionalfigurehead with far greater efficacy than previous politically pro-active incumbents.Indeed , such perceived non-partisanship provided the newly constituted imperialmonarchy, as envisaged and effectuated under the premiership of Disraeli, to appearas truly representative of the global British imperial family, ensuring in the longerterm that moves among settler colonies towards greater political autonomy would notnecessarily appear incongruous with their traditional sentimental fealty to the throne;the reigning King or Queen appearing merely as a disinterested party whose solicitudeextended equally to all his/hers
realms and territories.
However such an apoliticalperception of the monarchy was at times at odds with the practice, the Britishgovernment occasionally utilised royal tours and crown symbolism as a means of promoting their own foreign policy interests, this being the case in 1939 when KingGeorge VI embarked on a tour of Canada. It was anticipated that the lavishing of thepersonal attention of the sovereign upon his Canadian subjects would under gird theunity and interdependence of the empire and curtail nascent signs of isolationism inthe event of imminent war.
According to historians David Cannadine and Peter Marshall colonial Britonsaspired to mould their newly acquired landscapes into sociological replicas of theidealized home country, importing and endeavouring to perpetuate the conservativegradated social structures and societal mores prevailing in Victorian Britain. IndeedPeter Gibbons and Andrew Porter have lucubrated further on what might be termed aform of colonial cultural dissonance, that is the desire to recreate the stability andsecurity of the familiar as a reaction to an alien and amorphous geo-cultural climate.
Britain and Empire, 1880-
1945 (New York, 2002), p.5.
Simon C. Smith,
British Imperialism 1750-1970
(New York, 1998), p.79.
Ornamentalism: How the British saw their Empire
(New York, 2002),p.101
The BBC, the CBC, and the 1939 Royal Tour of Canada
, Cultural andSocial History 2006, p.432.
Cultural Colonization and National Identity
New Zealand Journal of History
, Vol.36, Part 1 (Auckland 2000), pp. 7, 8 and Andrew Porter,
Empires in the Mind
The Cambridge Illustrated History of the British Empire
(Cambridge, 1996), p. 186.