Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Send her victorious, happy and glorious or an earnest and boring first draft, publicly thinking about why I love the Queen

I love the Queen. I love her hats with matching bag, shoes and gloves. I love her gin-soaked downtime and the way she handles a horse. I keep a picture of her cantering across a field with a cigarette in one hand and a hip flask sticking out of her jacket pocket. It's how I spent the best years of my adolescence, wild and galloping anywhere I could.

Her life is public and she has been steadfast and dignified. For sixty years she has been the Queen, almost twice my lifetime so far, and not once has she failed to perform her duty. This morning I failed to dress and eat breakfast before midday because I was too interested in reading a novel, though I had many duties to perform.

I love the solid mumsiness of her. The kindly wave and stern gaze. The way she is so very clearly The Captain in every public conversation she has. Not once has she been accidentally offensive, uninformed or inappropriate. The woman deserves a medal for an endurance performance in public politeness lasting longer than anyone thought possible. Her private thoughts must be immense. They are a genuine mystery.

I like the guts of her.  Her first radio broadcast was when she was just fourteen years old, during a children's program. She said, "We are trying to do all we can to help our gallant sailors, soldiers and airmen, and we are trying, too, to bear our share of the danger and sadness of war. We know, every one of us, that in the end all will be well."Which is better than I managed. 

I was at least thirty the first time I went on the radio and I said something stupid about failed intellectuals and literary journals being boring. I was scared shitless. I didn't give one thought to my country, and yes, just like her I had been instructed by a publicist, unlike her I did not follow instructions.

The Queen is a trained mechanic. I'll just repeat that. The Queen is a trained mechanic. I can't even put together an Ikea bookshelf using simple instructions. The last time I attempted to assemble furniture Grizelda kicked me out of The Peach for a whole hour.  

When WWII ended the Queen and her sister slipped out of the palace and revelled anonymously in the joyful crowds, walked through the streets arm-in-arm with strangers, crying and singing just the same as anyone. A genuine bustle through a crowd. It must have been terrifying, wondering if she would be recognised, wondering what might happen. The Queen has often expressed herself as one of the people and let's face it that must be difficult. All her life she has been sequestered. Shielded, instructed, dressed, timetabled and obliged. 

I know she's not a real Queen in that she has no real power. Imagine living so firmly fixed in the public eye, so called upon to make speeches and meet people and have every waking hour timetabled beyond ordinary human endurance, for no real reason. With no capacity to make change, to tour sorrow after sorrow in hospitals and bombed places and grief-ridden places and charities and farms and schools.

My mum loves the Queen, as she loved the Queen Mum. My mother is not a monarchist but she does have a collection of coronation mugs. When I was small I used to beg to be allowed to open the china cabinet door and hold one in my hand, that or a crystal bowl or my grandmother's old Christmas candles. My mother never mentions the Queen but on Christmas Day one or the other of us will try and make sure we dont' miss the Queen's speech. It's something to behold, my mother's face, as the Queen makes her annual remarks. She has the same quivery look about her that happens when she lights her mother's old Christmas candles or remembers her dad. 

Of course there must be something in this, my mum, her mum, the china cabinet. My mum doesn't hold anything sacred, not really, not me, not my brother, not anyone or anything, except the idea of the Queen. I get the feeling that it's the same for her, the steadfastness, the dignity, one solid point in a spinning world. The Queen requires nothing of us, she is just always there, same as she ever was.

People have been yelling at me for loving the Queen, droning on about becoming a republic. This isn't about being a monarchist or not. 

This is not a political position. 

This is my simple and earnest admiration for a public figure who has been as constant as the stars my entire life. Send her victorious, happy and glorious, galloping over fields with a hip flask in hand.

1 comment:

Shelley said...

Loved the Queen Mum. She was absolutely awesome. There's a great story about her being nicknamed Cake. Just love it.

I also very much admire the Queen. People seem to forget that the has tirelessly worked a job that she probably didn't want and wasn't born to have with incredible dignity and surrounded by idiots. You really have to wonder what her life would have been like if it wasn't for her moronic uncle.