Monday, April 2, 2012
The Queen and I
I have known Queen Elizabeth my entire life. Not personally, mind you, but she was always in the news via the early newsreels one saw at a Saturday matinee between movies and then on television since the 1950s. Newspapers, magazines, and tabloids have provided ample coverage over the years.
I can recall the early news film coverage of her as a volunteer driver during World War II for the Auxiliary Territorial Service. Her sister, Margaret, was often in the news as well. The Royal Family was always popular with Americans and always fodder for talk around the dinner table.
The Queen’s uncle, Edward VIII, a genuine twit, abdicated in 1936 in order to marry an American woman and her father, George VI, replaced him. When he died in 1952, she ascended to the throne in 1953 and has been there ever since. She is the second longest reigning monarch of England since Queen Victoria. Only eleven years older than I, it is little wonder I have been aware of her.
Like many Americans I used to think of the British monarchy as an oddity in modern times, but I have come to understand that it represents a sense of continuity, a link with Britain’s past when its global empire was so vast it was said that “the sun never set on it.”
In 1947 she married Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, and by all accounts she fell in love with him in her early teens. He’s been a good prince consort and together they had four children, Prince Charles, Prince of Wales; Princess Anne, Princess Royal; Prince Andrew, Duke of York, and Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex. Charles, who, not surprisingly, seems to have acquired his father’s rather imperious view of the world, coupled with a lot of environmental nonsense. His marriage to Diana, Princess of Wales, ended in divorce in 1996 and she died tragically in a Paris car crash the following year.
I cannot imagine what it must have been to be a member of the Royal Family. Their lives are always on display and the press and paparazzi are forever buzzing around and passing judgment, along with everyone else. That cannot be a particularly pleasant way to go through life and I have always been impressed with the way the Queen conducted herself in good times and bad.
In a 1992 speech to mark the 40th year of her reign, she referred to it as “annus horribilis”, meaning horrible year because her second son, Prince Andrew and his wife, Sarah, Duchess of York, had separated, later to divorce. Her daughter Anne, divorced her husband, Captain Mark Phillips, and in November, Windsor Castle had suffered severe fire damage.
Now, twenty years later, the Queen is revered for the symbolic role she has held for sixty years; queen regent of sixteen sovereign states, twelve of which were British colonies or dominions at the start of her reign. She has taken her position seriously and, skipping a generation, her grandson William will likely grace the throne with the stunningly beautiful, former Kate Middleton, now a Windsor and Duchess of Cambridge at his side.
The Queen and I have grown old together, separated by an ocean; I in a young republic, she in a nation dating back centuries, linked by shared histories, strong allies, sharing a language and a rich culture. The Queen and I shall never meet, but I feel like I have known her throughout the years.
In the wake of the Revolution, the United States prohibited monarchy, but we have shared England’s through bonds of friendship. The Queen has served her nation well and we all can take pleasure in celebrating her Diamond Jubilee.
© Alan Caruba, 2011