As I enjoy some time off, this week marks the 25 year milestone since officially beginning my role on July 7, 1997, as staff editorial cartoonist at The Hamilton Spectator. Previous to then my illustrations regularly appeared on a freelance basis in this paper as well as several other newspapers and magazines across Canada and the United States. I had been editorial cartoonist for the chain of Hamilton area community newspapers known as Brabant, and I got my first start as a published cartoonist as a student at The Fulcrum, while attending the University of Ottawa in the late 1980s and early 90s. Visitors here will know thousands of my cartoons can be mined in searches from this very website. Upon being hired 6000 editorial cartoons or so ago, the Internet was in its infancy, so while all of my cartoons many be found after 2000, ones before then have been added years after they originally appeared in print. Thoughts of putting together a print catalogue book going back several decades are always swirling in the background as a possibility of happening until they aren’t. So until then, folks will just have to settle for nostalgic MacKay cartoons from tablet glass through my vast archives instead of paperback. So many cartoons from the biggest characters from the past quarter century…
You may be familiar with my depictions of each King and Queen through English and British history. Whether it’s simply the bizarre pomp, weird clothes, or the complex social impact they had on civilizations for centuries, they represent an intriguing chronology of human history and culture.
The ermine, the crowns, the jewels, sceptres, orbs, funny hats and regalia – how can anyone not appreciate all that wonderful, ostentatious bling. It’s as fantastic to draw as it is to gaze upon. There’s a reason why the crown jewels at the Tower of London can only be viewed from a conveyor belt moving humans along because of the non-stop line of people who want to look at them.
While monarchy as a form of government can be applied to many parts of the world through history, and still does today in various forms, it is the constitutional structure in Canada that is of particular interest to me for obvious reasons being a Canadian. The British monarch applies to this country as the rock solid foundation of power and authority abiding by limits prescribed within an established legal framework. It affirms order in times of peace, with good government, to paraphrase the expression that goes as a pretty good slogan among the realm states of the mother country. They have for a thousand years acted on desires to expand their influence and have fended off external challenges by those seeking to expand their own powers. They have had to contend with many rebellions from within and have adapted accordingly, surrendering human control along the way and all the flaws that come with human nature, to codifying a structure of order, justice, rights, and freedoms.
But it’s the human faces of the institution that has stirred countless passions among humanity over the centuries from cultish followings of loyalty and devotion, to utter contempt and hatred. It is the longest soap opera of the English speaking world, with big bold leading figures coming and going through the ages providing volumes of dramatic storylines. From the battles: the victories and the losses; the struggles with the church; the politics; the culture, the literature, the art, the architecture, the music and theatre, there is much we owe a debt of gratitude to the royal figures who led Great Britain as these blossomed.
While William Shakespeare isn’t exactly British royalty he sure saw the soap opera nature about them. Writing plays about Richard II, Richard III, Henry IV, Henry V, Henry VI, and even the biggest Henry of them all, Henry VIII. Incidentally, he also wrote about Roman Emperors, and there’s a design I offer of Julius Caesar.
Speaking of Henry, how about just King Henry socks. All the Henrys on one sock – ask yourself, has there ever been such a thing? Is there anywhere else on the planet one can find such a product? Ideal for the British history buff, or for the Henrys in your life, these socks cover Henry I (1100-1135), Henry II (1154-1189), Henry III (1216-1272), Henry IV (1399-1413), Henry V (1413-1422), Henry VI (1422-1453), Henry VII (1495-1509), and Henry VIII (1509-1547.)
The Six Wives of Henry VIII made this British monarch one of the most intriguing historical characters of all time. During Henry VIII’s reign the Renaissance was beginning to unfold, the Protestant Reformation was gearing up, and one man’s chaotic love life and quest for a male heir was turning events upside down and causing turmoil that would endure for years after his death in 1547. These women are well documented and chronicled for all the drama of romance, betrayal, and tragedy against the backdrop of a tyrannical royal setting. For the student of British history this design is a fun reminder of a time with a favoured set of chapters from the royal textbook.
Thomas Cranmer was a leader of the English Reformation and Archbishop of Canterbury during the reigns of Henry VIII, the boy-king Edward VI and, briefly, bloody Mary I. He helped build the case for the annulment of Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon, bringing about the Church of England. Dude wore colourful robes and funny hats. Unfortunate for him was his belief in the supremacy of Kings and Queens, which didn’t go over well with Queen Mary, a rebel Catholic child of Henry VIII. Under her reign Cranmer was dragged to a public square and burned alive.
Designs on offer are not just restricted to the English monarchy. There is a caricature of Louis XIV, King of France, otherwise known as the Sun King (1643-1715.) It was his long 72 year reign as an absolute monarch clinging to the notion of Divine Right of Kings, his failure to reform state institutions which arguably contributed to social dissent leading years after to the French Revolution. Which Frenchman gained more than any other Frenchman because of the French Revolution? Napoleon Bonaparte, of course, but like all other heroes against the establishment, Oliver Cromwell immediately comes to mind, both eventually fell into the trap as pretenders to the crowd, and both have designs of themselves in the MacKaycartoons Boutique.
Speaking of crown pretenders, they may not be a monarchs, but there are two heads of state who might easily be viewed as such considering things they’ve said or done or enacted. Vladimir Putin, has been ruler of Russia since the days of Bill Clinton. Putin has overseen numerous changes of his country’s Constitution which may effectively find him ruling like a czar over Russia for many years to come. In case you’re not into him being depicted in all that regalia, there is a standard design of a suited full-bodied Vladimir Putin.
Donald Trump is all about golden flourishes on his over the top real estate holdings, so much so that he disparaged the digs handed to him when he won the U.S. Presidency. Accused of trying to rule like a king, he declares his admiration for autocrats and oppressive regimes of our times that wouldn’t be out of the ordinary from 12th century England.
Surrounded by an imaginary ocean, a remote island on a blue sky day in a distant galaxy far far away, an art gallery, exhibiting the illustrations and editorial cartoons of Graeme MacKay. Don’t forget to browse through the Boutique. Presented by Artsteps. Admission is free.