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Queen Elizabeth retains her dignity despite vandalized likeness — an artefact story

vandalized Queen Elizabeth poster

BY ROBERT IANTORNO — This is a framed poster of Queen Elizabeth II. It is a mass produced icon, something from the 1950s Commonwealth society to admire. It’s printed on thin poster paper, and adhered to fibreboard with wallpaper paste and a few wrinkles, surrounded in a simple, varnished frame. The young Queen appears delicate and graceful, her crowned head surrounded by an aura. This image is something that — at the time, was venerated. Ladies in this area would gleefully collect newspaper clippings of The Queen, her coronation, wedding, public appearances, etc. in scrapbooks (we have several in the Museum collection) back in the day. She was literally the picture of dignity, conduct and grace — contemporary ideas of the feminine.

When I first saw this artefact, it was hanging in a dark storage closet at the Markdale arena, screwed to the wall behind some old buckets and spray bottles of commercial cleaner.  My guess is that someone drew a Hitler moustache on the Queen’s face, and perhaps someone tried to rub it out, to no avail. This regal feminine image, once venerated, was permanently defaced, and then hidden away.

I initially hesitated to bring this into the Museum’s collection, just as I initially hesitated to write about this artefact in this article. But it’s important to do so. This artefact demonstrates that the icons that Our Society admires (or is expected to admire) change  — they can be venerated and then destroyed. Poetically, this icon has been vandalized, yet the young Queen remains calm, graceful and dignified.

Robert Iantorno is curator at South Grey Museum.


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