THE QUEEN will not be making an appearance at the royal wedding.
It’s not really her turn in the sun, you see. Also, she might melt in it.
We speak, of course, of the version of Her Majesty who once reigned from Victoria’s Royal London Wax Museum.
Alas, she has been exiled in cold storage since 2010, when the wretched Roundheads of the Provincial Capital Commission crowbarred the tourist attraction out of the CPR Steamship building on the Inner Harbour. And although she has made brief cameo appearances at other royal-related events since then, this won’t be one of them.
“This event is not for the Queen or Queen Victoria,” says Ken Lane, who owned the wax museum and still maintains its 320 figures. “The focus is on the next generation.”
Or, rather, the generation after that: the Queen’s grandsons, William and Harry, and their respective partners, Kate and Meghan.
They, as opposed to the next-in-line but sadly glamour-free Charles and Camilla, are the ones people are gaga about. (Let’s be honest: Many view the line of succession like a three-act concert where the Rolling Stones open the show and the Beatles close it, but in the middle you have to sit through the Ray Conniff Singers.)
Lane’s wax monarch last emerged in 2016 when, with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge visiting the capital, Queen Elizabeth II and Queen Victoria made a brief appearance on Vancouver’s Global television, along with a couple of opera chairs once used by (the real) Charles and Diana. “Squire Barnes was quite pleased to be sitting in Diana’s chair,” Lane says.
Otherwise, the figures are kept in climate-controlled storage, safe from pests and vermin. Included are everyone from Elvis to Lee Harvey Oswald to Margaret Thatcher and Marilyn Monroe. “The last figure we actually brought in was Obama,” Lane says. They had a wax William but plans for a Kate went kaput when the museum, a Victoria institution for half a century, lost its home. Lane still hopes to find a new location, but despite searching as far afield as Winnipeg, he has been unable to find anything suitable.
The exhibits require more care than you might think. Lane used to bring in a hairdresser once a year to shampoo and reset the female figures’ real human hair, which came from Italy. Moving them was always a delicate operation (the exception was Queen Victoria who, being in a wheelchair, could be rolled from place to place).
Preparing them for display takes time — “You need a couple of days to bring a figure out” — and they can’t just be plunked anywhere. Can’t stick them outside for fear that the wind will kick up and sandblast the wax. Can’t stick them in retail windows, either.
“No, they’ll melt in the sun.”
Right now, the Monarchist League of Canada — Lane is the local chairman — has a royal wedding window display at Douglas Street’s Gala Fabrics that features, among other elements, a fancy suit worn on the body of what in wax museum days was Capt. Mark Phillips, the (now former) husband of Princess Anne. There’s no melting hazard, though, since this figure — like Anne Boleyn — has no head. (Don’t mess with the royals.)
If the Douglas display seems like relatively low-key way for a supposed bastion of the monarchy like Victoria to celebrate, well, maybe the bastion isn’t as solid as it once was. Other Canadians might think of this as this charmingly dotty, tea-stained echo of Olde England, to be trotted out and dusted off every time a royal gets married/buried or a corgi croaks, or whatever, but that image is fading fast, if not already gone. (Twenty years ago, at the first Times Colonist Book Sale, every word on royalty sold out. This year, the volunteers were making jokes about turning the display table on its back with its legs in the air, because it was dead. Royalty books were about as popular as Bill Cosby’s biography.)
That shift will please the dour, didactic republicans who, the poetry having been sucked from their souls (I may be reflecting a personal bias here), would prefer Canada adopt an alternative like the one that can currently be found tweeting about Stormy Daniels from the Oval Office.
Or perhaps Canadians, caught up in the fairy tale/Entertainment Tonight aspect of next week’s wedding, will embrace the monarchy again — though the glamour factor might not be the best reason for doing so.
“The monarchy is integral to how Canada functions,” Lane says, “outside of and beyond personalities and celebrity status.”