Her Majesty (A Pretty Nice Girl)

I’m sorry to hear that Britain’s Queen Elizabeth is in the hospital.  The queen, 86, was admitted with gastroenteritis, a condition that causes inflammation of the stomach lining and intestines and can be caused by eating contaminated food or contact with an infected person.

I don’t quite get how there can still be a hereditary monarchy, of sorts, in Great Britain, but the British people seem to like it and therefore it’s really none of my business.  I’m not one of those Americans who finds the British royalty endlessly fascinating, either.  I paid no attention to the Princess Diana controversies and don’t care about royal weddings or the other events that command media attention.  Still, I commend Queen Elizabeth.  She’s reigned since before I was born — which seems hard to believe — and during that time she has done her job, presided over the openings of Parliament, awarded medals, and performed the other tasks required of a modern-day monarch.  She’s done it all without scandal and, apparently, with an appreciation for her role and the need to comport herself with dignity and discretion.  And, of course, she’s been the subject of a Beatles song.  It’s a pretty good record for a queen.

Of course, by reigning for as long as she has, Queen Elizabeth has kept Prince Charles, who seems a bit batty even by British standards, off the throne and free to tilt at global warming, modern architecture, and other windmills that attract his attention.  That may turn out to be one of her greatest achievements.  I hope she feels better soon and continues her long reign.

The Queen, The Hog, And The Coin

When Kish and I were in Bermuda we bought a soda, paid cash, and received some Bermuda coinage as change.  I took a look at the coins and was surprised to find that the bright copper Bermuda penny has the familiar likeness of Queen Elizabeth sporting a crown on one side and a hog on the other.

What’s up with that?  Why would a tony island like Bermuda, with its lovely “pink sand” beaches, iconic Bermuda shorts and knee socks, ubiquitous scooters, and proud British colonial heritage, feature a pig so prominently on its legal tender?

It turns out that hogs have a long and distinguished connection with Bermuda.  A sea voyager who was an early visitor to the Bermuda Triangle was shipwrecked with some live hogs in the hold.  The hogs made it to shore and, in a few years, their grunting, squealing descendants had spread throughout the island.  The hogs were so prolific that some who visited Bermuda came to know it as “Hogge Island.”  (Changing that name undoubtedly helped spur Bermuda’s tourism industry, by the way.)  Naturally, then, the first coins minted on Bermuda featured a hog on one side.  The current penny is a tribute to that initial coinage.

The eagle is our natural bird, of course, and it looks noble on our currency.  Canada’s coins properly feature the likes of the beaver and the maple leaf.  Given its important role in Bermuda’s history, the humble hog therefore is properly honored with a prominent place on the Bermuda one-cent piece.  You have to give the Queen credit for being willing to share a coin with a curly-tailed swine of the four-legged variety.  The people of Bermuda also seem proud of their hog penny.  Indeed, one of the most popular pubs in Hamilton is the Hog Penny Pub.