On the third Queen's birthday holiday this year, Dr Glenn Davies asks if it’s time we replaced this outdated occasion with a day that celebrates Australian achievements.
EARLIER THIS YEAR, I wrote on how Queensland was to become a little less "Queenie" with the move of the Queen’s Birthday holiday from the second Monday in June to the first Monday in October, in 2016.
While the date of the Queen’s Birthday public holiday has changed repeatedly in recent years, a bolder reform would have been to change the holiday completely.
I’ve written before that it has always seemed absurd that Australians acknowledge the birthday of Queen Elizabeth II at a completely different time to her actual birthday.
Like the Queen, Paddington Bear also has two birthdays a year. The marmalade-loving bear from deepest, darkest Peru has birthdays on 25 June and 25 December. For Queen Elizabeth II who turned 90 on 21 April 2016, there was also a weekend of 90th birthday celebrations in Britain over the 10-12 June weekend.
The idea of two birthday celebrations was introduced 250 years ago. Earl Charles Spencer, brother of the late Princess Diana, recently stated the Queen received a second multi-day celebration thanks to historical tradition.
As Earl Charles Spencer said on Today:
‘[George II was born] in the depths of winter, and they decided they couldn't celebrate his birthday in the winter every year because there's all sorts of pageantry.’
George decided he's have a second birthday and the tradition was born:
‘Anyone who's been King or Queen of England since has a summer birthday, so that we have a hope of some sunshine’.
Since 1748, the monarch's official birthday has been marked by the parade known as Trooping the Colour — usually held on the king or queen's actual birthday. But Edward VII, who reigned from 1901 to 1910, was born in November. He celebrated officially in May or June because there was less chance of it being cold and drizzly during the outdoor event.
The monarch’s official birthday celebrations (as opposed to actual birthdate) began in Australia in 1912. The monarch after Edward VII – King George V – helpfully had a birthday on 3 June. Queen Elizabeth II’s father, George VI, whose birthday was unhelpfully in December, reintroduced the tradition of an official birthday by having his official birthday on the second Thursday of June. Elizabeth II has continued with this tradition. In 1959, after several years on the throne, the Queen changed it in Britain to the second Saturday in June for convenience.
In 2014, I asked on the public holiday given for the Queen’s birthday in Queensland, if it isn’t 'time to break free?' The Australian Monarchist League line is that celebrating the Queens’s Birthday, both actual and official, has nothing whatsoever to do with a republic and everything to do with honouring the Queen of Australia.
Moving the Queen’s Birthday public holiday in Queensland from a date that is traditionally relevant to Britain to an alternate date is a harbinger of the growth of republican sentiment in Australia.
Daniel Fleming wrote earlier this year with reference to the June public holiday:
'The Queen's Birthday holiday has become a tradition without ceremony. Most Australians appreciate the long weekend but prefer to shop, head to the ski fields or go to the football instead of toasting her majesty.'
'... public holidays reveal who we are, and occasionally who we were. They commemorate great people, events and movements. Australia Day recalls the First Fleet at Sydney Cove, Anzac Day symbolises sacrifice and nationalism, Good Friday is a day of Christian mourning and Labour Day celebrates worker’s rights. In the U.S., Martin Luther King Day invites reflection on racism and non-violence.'
But why did the Queensland Labor Government move the Queen’s Birthday public holiday from a date traditionally relevant to Britain and long-held in Queensland?
"... we went through a really extensive exercise when we were previously in government, talking about when people would like to see it, and having a holiday in the later part of the year, when there is almost none, was a pretty important point."
It appears the main reason for moving the Queen’s Birthday public holiday is to spread the public holidays throughout the year.
But what actually happens on this day?
Perhaps the real benefit for the Queen’s Birthday public holiday in Queensland today is to give the rest of business Australia time to wind forward their clocks and get their heads around their own daylight savings confusion.
In the meantime, Queenslanders can have the day off, top up the kid’s school stationery, not worry about time wars and take their time recovering from the grand finals’ weekend.
Surely this must be the most irrelevant and outdated of public holidays. It’s time it was replaced with a day that celebrated Queenslanders’ achievements and aspirations as a modern, forward-looking State.
You’d think one birthday would be enough for the Queen. Australians who are out there making a difference in their communities every day don’t even get one day in their honour — let alone three!
Australia today, is one of the world’s great nations, with a bright future that must be 100 per cent in the hands of the Australian people. We are ready to move on from our colonial past and become a fully independent nation with fully Australian national institutions, including our own head of state.
On 3 September 2016, Australian of the Year David Morrison AO delivered the 2016 National Republican Lecture in Melbourne.
In his acceptance speech on Australia Day this year, Mr Morrison said:
" ... I will lend my voice to the Republican movement in this country. It is time, I think, to at least revisit the question so that we can stand both free and fully independent amongst the community of nations."
History editor Dr Glenn Davies is the Australian Republic Movement's Queensland branch convenor. You can follow Glenn on Twitter @DrGlennDavies. Find out more about the Australian Republican Movement HERE.
2016 National Republican Lecture with Gen. David Morrison AO
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License
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