Monday, September 19, 2022

Her Majesty

     Queen Elizabeth II is being buried today. As I sit down to write this, at 6 a.m., the wall-to-wall TV news broadcast has already begun. I won't be watching, having long ago opted out of the frustration of viewing live coverage of ongoing events, with their endless static shots and so-called experts tap-dancing and time-filling. Besides, I've got this to write.
     Instead I pulled out a delicate blue tissue airletter that my grandmother's Aunt Fannie sent to her in 1953, that I've kept among my stamp collection since I was a child for the regal red coronation logo. To try to grasp the span of life that Queen Elizabeth's reign encompassed, when she was coronated, in June, 1953, my father was a 20-year-old radio operator aboard a ship visiting Britain. Now he is a 90-year-old man in a nursing home, er, dynamic senior lifestyle community.
     "I am getting more and more excited at the thought of seeing your son," Fannie Ross, of 133 Spencer Place, Leeds, wrote to my grandmother Frances, whom she called Esther, her Hebrew name, before sharing news of the coronation, which took place a year after Elizabeth had become queen:
     "I enjoyed the coronation very much. I stayed all day at my friends house to watch the television + everything went without a hitch — the streets in Leeds were deserted. I think almost everyone must have been looking or listening in."
     So nothing much really changed in 70 years — most people camped in front of the television, watching a ceremony for royalty. You can decide if that is comforting or disturbing.
     World War II was only eight years in the past, and the subject of shortages is next.
     "You ask me what you can send me with your son when he comes — we can get most things, but we don't get best salmon or tins of fruit salad so those things would be welcome if it is convenient."
     My father used to tell a story of that visit — that his great Aunt Fannie produced a small bottle of milk, with cream on the top, having heard of his affection for it, and watched him avidly until he drank it all.
     I think I will resist the urge to add to the bad journalism hobby-horsing on the queen's passing. I noticed several articles referring to the "uncertain future" that Britain and her commonwealth now face after her death, as if those nations without a departed queen have our destiny pretty well preordained. We all have an uncertain future, all the time. Yes, sometimes it seems otherwise, and we feel we have a clear understanding of what will transpire, forgetting that, almost inevitably, we don't.
     The only thing worse than that is all this thumb-twiddling over why people are so curious about the passing of a fabulously wealthy royal who had reigned if not ruled over nearly a third of the world's population for their entire lives. What could the interest possibly be?
     Driving back from Michigan's Upper Peninsula yesterday, my brother and I listened to the Beatles "Abbey Road" album and, as always, I was surprised by the little 23-second ditty at the end, "Her Majesty."
     "Her Majesty is a pretty nice girl," Paul McCartney sings. "But she doesn't have a lot to say."
     That sums it up nicely, doesn't it? 


  1. On the subject of wartime shortages, I arrived in London a few years after your daddy's visit and the austerity took a bit of getting used to, compared to Germany, where I had spent a few prior months. The houses were cold, and restaurants offered limited selections. It made one wonder just who had lost the war. Traveling in Europe you could always identify the Brits, because they were limited in the amount of money they could take out of the country. Things improved rapidly in the next few years.

  2. Well, Her Majesty won't have a lot to say in the future, and I'm guessing that the King won't be all that chatty either. My wife's college roommate and BFF is a Royalist from Michigan, and she even has a "Queen Room" in her house (some of her best collectibles came from me and my wife). But I am neither a Monarchist nor a Republican. I have no dog in that fight.

    Still, I do enjoy the pomp and circumstance that surrounds the Royals. The UK put on a really big show today...and I spent seven hours engrossed by it. There may never be a funeral like this one again. It was the first one for a monarch in Westminster Abbey since 1760.

    I clearly remember the golden coach at Elizabeth's 1953 Coronation, but not much more. I was just six. A dozen years later, as a high school senior, I missed Winston Churchill's funeral, as I had multiple final exams (three) the next day. This event was so much more elaborate and detailed than the relatively modest funeral of JFK...and I was quite impressed.

    Today, I ignored all those obnoxious American talking heads and royal "experts" on NBC and CBS...and stuck with the BBC instead. If you're going to watch a big event, be it historic or sporting, the home team's play-by-play broadcasters always do the best job.

    Regarding all those prognostications about the "uncertain future" that Britain now faces...those journalists deserve a good deal of derisive laughter. Nobody's future is "certain." The UK's uncertain future might mean looser ties with the Commonwealth, or possibly no more crowned heads. But our uncertain future might mean either a fascist dictatorship, or even no country at all.

  3. My father was in England during the War, having perhaps too good a time, judging from a photo of him and two fetching lasses reclining on a sandy beach over there. He also had his picture taken in front of of the recently salvaged U505, which lost all its cachet when the sub was later moved to Chicago.



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