Queen Eilzabeth II was only four years younger than my dad.
When I think of her that way it puts her life in a whole new perspective for me.
Today is her funeral.
For the past 10 days the TV and online networks have had tributes, remembrances, stories, commemorations, and a look at her life through 2022 eyes.
The same few words are used when talking about the Queen … duty, grace, dignity, reserve, and the occasional reminder of her dry sense of humor.
Lots of little girls grow up dreaming of being a princess or a queen … encouraged by fairy tales and Disney shows like Cinderella, Snow White, and Frozen, and real life princesses and queens like Queen Elizabeth II and Princess Diana.
I never did. I never fantasized about wearing a tiara or a crown. Never fantasized about wearing beautiful ball gowns and being swept away by a handsome prince. I was more interested in being the journalist who wrote about those people.
In the 1970s, when I worked for Historical Times publishing, the company acquired a British magazine called British History. It was a rather scholarly type magazine. The owners of Historical Times brought the British editor over to the states to publish it here and renamed it British Heritage.
As British Heritage it was recreated to be a magazine about British culture and life … the stately homes, the centuries-old traditions, the quaint villages, the food (Yes, there is a British cuisine!), the pubs, gardens, architecture, the eccentricities of the British way of life, and, of course, the history.
At that time I was in charge of marketing the magazine to grow the circulation with new subscribers and selling more copies on the newsstand. My focus was on finding the Anglophiles in the U.S., English ex pats who still longed for the life they left behind.
Turned out that there are also a lot of Americans who are fascinated with the British way of life. Which may explain the immense popularity of British shows that air on PBS here. None, of course, more popular, than Downton Abbey.
Because of my job, in the fall of 1983 I spent almost a month in England visiting royal homes. The first day I met up with a British tour guide who had planned my itinerary and was with me the entire time. I visited some of Queen Elizabeth’s homes.
I spent a day at Windsor Castle, spent that night in Windsor at an Inn that was designed in the 1600s by Christopher Wren.
I visited Sandringham House, the Queens residence in Norfolk, where I got to see a few of the 775 rooms in the house, which was enough to convince me that living in a palace or grand estate was not for me. But the gardens on the 20,000 acre estate were spectacular. As were all the gardens of all the royal homes I visited during that trip.
I went to Althorpe Estate where Princess Diana grew up. I visited Blenheim Palace which is the birthplace and home of Winston Churchill. I visited Warwick Castle, Hampton Court, Hadfield House, and so many others that they all began to blend together and by the time I came back home, I never wanted to see another massive royal English home.
But all the gardens inspired me. I would go back to England just to see more gardens. The British must all have green thumbs! Even the houses in the villages and small towns were adorned by beautiful gardens.
What impressed me most during the trip was the respect and embracing attitude toward the monarchy … not necessarily the institution of the monarchy, but the people who were the monarchy… the Queen and Prince Philip. They were revered by everyone I met. It is a different way of life than we have in the states.
In England the politicians can be as loud, boisterous, raucous, and inflammatory as our politicians in the U.S. But because of the monarchy, the Prime Ministers seem to try for a level of civility and amiability beyond the politicians in parliament. The PMs meet with the Queen weekly, and it is apparent that her dignity is a characteristic she expects from her prime ministers.
Here there is no dignified higher personage keeping the behavior of our presidents in check. I wish there was. Which is why, I think, throughout the U.S. the passing of Queen Elizabeth II will be honored as the end of an era that will never again be the same.
“You have to be seen to be believed. That’s more about getting out there and doing the job, but it does also lend itself to being seen literally by wearing bright clothes.”Queen Elizabeth, II
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