Tag Archives: Queen Elizabeth II

Farewell, Ma’am

The Queen is dead.  Long live the King.  

Words from movies, books, evocative of palace intrigue, skullduggery, warring nations on horseback, battles fought with lances and arrows.  A time of scourges and plagues. Poison in rings, monarchs laid low by the most common of illnesses.  Dramatic times.  Romantic times. 

Our time, as it turns out.  

A peaceful death in the fullness of old age, sad but dignified. 

The morning her doctors “expressed concern” for her heath,  I woke to dings on my phone, friends announcing the news.  We are all Anglophiles to some degree. It has become one of our things, sending each other post cards from the Royal family when we find them.  Writing messages and signing them “Charles and Camilla,”  or the more more familiar, “Chuck and Cammie.”  The Queen writes sometimes.  She especially missed me at Balmoral a few summers ago.  

The Cambridges missed me at sweet Charlotte’s christening.  This one sent from London,  dated, “10  May 2016.”

I have given my friend Jason a tea cozy in the shape and likeness of the first Queen Elizabeth.  Another friend gave him a life-sized head of a smiling Queen Elizabeth II to place in the  passenger window of his car. It looks for all the world like he is driving her out to Costco to pick up chew toys for the Corgis.  I think she is even waving. 

It was no surprise, then, to learn our most devoted lover of the English, Jason, made reservations in London the moment he heard she was unwell.  A few days later, he is on a flight, determined to pay homage, to soak it all in, the ending of a true historic era.  To bear witness.

And he took us with him. 

He dropped pins to show us where he was so we might snake along the Thames with him as he moved in the queue, an eight hour slow walk to Westminster Hall.  He send a selfie with his new friends, his mates, who were standing in line with him.  A close-up image of his wide yellow wrist band, the thing that allowed him to step out of line for a moment to get something to eat or drink. 

He arrived in London, dropped his bags  and headed for the line on the first day of the Queen’s Lying In State. He waited in line making friends while we sat in front of laptops and TVs, trying to catch a glimpse of him.  After six hours or more he had arrived at the top of the steps leading down to catafalque, and he texted us, but none of us saw him just then. 

We see him later in the evening, a grainy copy of a TV shot, as he bows his head, walks  away, looks back, moves on. Later he spent a quiet day walking around London with his good friend, looking at flowers and mementoes.  He found a good spot at Horse Guards Road to watch the funeral procession and sent a video of the Queen as she passed him. 

For all the pageantry, and no one does it better than the British, we were also watching a much beloved mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother mourned by her family. Publicly, on display, and the state and personal impact of her passing kept me riveted to the coverage. Sorrow etched deep on the faces of those who loved her most.  Charles, Anne, Sophie Wessex, often the pure images of grief.  

And why are we moved so, by it?  My friend, Marianne, was moved by the organ music, setting her off to weeping.  She, too, is an organist, and the majestic pipe organs served to open her heart and make it tender. The pipers and the laments fading away did it for me. The tear-rimmed eyes of her children and grandchildren, too. 

A woman in line, overcome with tears, told an interviewer she didn’t know why she was so upset, really, but that this loss reminded her of her own losses.  Maybe that is where the wellspring of emotion comes from. Maybe this is the thing that connects us, finally in death, a queen or a commoner or a Yank, the way we can have it, that fellow feeling, the focus on something bigger than ourselves, but in refection, about ourselves, too.

Of course, the Royal Family, like all families, has troubles.  Deep ones with tensions and upset, and that, too, is on display and out there for public consumption.  But this is not about that. Nor is it about the viability and correctness of the Monarchy.  Kirstie Young, in her moving remarks at the close of coverage on BBC said of the Queen, “She made history.  She was history.”  

Queen Elizabeth’s story is compelling, even though, or perhaps because, it has an anachronistic aspect to it.  But as she aged, she moved with the times, too, and we saw her more frequently.  Saw her playful in her role. Ask Paddington bear, or James Bond. We saw her in those big bright hats, her perfect skin, that smile. 

Farewell, then, to a steady presence I did not know, but one for whom I felt real affection. I will miss her.

Long, Long Live the Queen!

King George ImageHe had been hunting,  in the morning and in the afternoon, and by some accounts he bagged nine rabbits and a pigeon.  He gave his new battery-heated jacket a try-out and announced to a friend hunting with him, “I’ve had a thoroughly enjoyable day.”

He has recently had surgery to remove part of a lung, but was making what appeared to be a good recovery, and his wife and two daughters must have felt relief.  He was much loved and not so old, only fifty-six.

That night, after a day outdoors with his mates, George died in his sleep, most likely from thrombosis.QEII

His eldest daughter was out of the country, touring Africa with her husband, when she heard the news—heard the news after some delay, as it was imperative that the delivery of such news be absolutely correct.

It is reported that she broke down in sobs, this woman we have come to think of as stoic and unemotional before the cameras.  But then, there were no cameras there in Kenya as the  young mother moved from the grieving daughter, Lilabet, to Elizabeth II, Queen of the Realm, a role for which she was just beginning to prepare.

While her father saw her off on her three-month tour, it was Winston Churchill who waited on the tarmac to meet her plane when she and Prince Philip returned home.

In addition to her private grieving she had duties of state to attend to, a meeting with the Privy Council, and her father’s funeral to plan.  A king’s funeral.

She was 25.

One headline of the time reads, “ Elizabeth Apt to Upset Tradition,” a small article that makes the claim that she is likely to be the “happiest queen” in British tradition.  She certainly came from a calm, close-knit family, one that gave her a good start in life for the role she assumed.  A life of privilege, sure, but also a life as normal as was possible.  She had loving parents, corgis, and a collection of toy horses.  She was a Girl Guide, a good swimmer and a typical big sister.

At her father’s coronation she is said to have worried that her sister, Margaret, was a bit too young for such a serious occasion.  Margaret, even then, must have been a handful.  Under their ancient and heavy ceremonial velvet robes, both young princesses wore bobby socks.

She raised her children as normally as possible, given the abnormal circumstances of their lives.  When her father died, Prince Charles, aged 3, didn’t know that his grandfather was a king or that his mother was Queen.  Neither did he know he was a prince.  His mother forbid members of the household to call him “Prince” Charles, and nor were they to bow.  Imagine having to instruct your babysitter thus.

Elizabeth is reported to have been a serious young woman, organized and orderly,  and she pledged to her people that she would dedicate the rest of her life to her duty as queen. No wonder she does not turn over the royal scepter to Charles.  She has made a solemn oath to her country and she is unlikely to hand him the keys to Buckingham Palace just because he is getting antsy.

Before Princess Diana took her boys to McDonald’s, the queen and her sister were riding the subway with their nanny.  She and Philip love to dance and even though she was a princess, they often slipped out to a night club where they met friends.  Remind you of her grandchildren at all?

If she has upset any  tradition as queen, it has been as a result of her basic common sense and that the times dictated it.  She saw her parents tour the bombed-out rubble of London and she drove cars and fixed carburetors for the war effort.  It isn’t a stretch, then, to believe that she serves herself food from the sideboard when she is alone with just family, or that she watches TV with her feet tucked up under her, like we all do.

Queen Elizabeth II just celebrated her Diamond Jubilee, sixty years on the throne.  She will continue to celebrate throughout 2012.  So will Great Britain.

She has two more years to beat Queen Victoria’s reign.  To which I say, “Long Live The Queen!”

King George Image