She left. It’s as if the last thread that held the world together, going back to my childhood, has disappeared.
Queen Elizabeth was mourned, celebrated and lovingly buried as I wrote this – glued to full PBS coverage all morning. I dropped into the den at 5:20 and turned off the final sights at 12:09
I know, I’m a little weird, but there’s a good reason. I have been captivated by His Royal Highness since I was nine or ten years old.
Marion Crawford was governess to the two daughters of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (who became the Queen Mother). After “Crawfie”, as the little girls called her, left the employment of the palace, she wrote the story of her 16 years of service in a revealing book, The Little Princesses. I spent a lot of time in the library at that time, and I happened to be in the office as they listed the new book in their card catalog.
Be the first person to consult the little red book. I think I read it two or three times before the end of my two weeks. Not that the 2 cents a day fine ever stopped me from finishing or re-reading anything important. And these princesses were important. The library probably thought the book belonged to them, but as often as I could legally look at it, it was next to my bed, not in the biography section.
Totally thrilled by their lives, I began my love story with every story and picture of the little princesses I could find. As they grew, my attention shifted to Elizabeth. She was the strongest, the most responsible. And the only child that I was, Elizabeth became a role model for me. My mother worked two jobs and I was surrounded by a neighborhood of rowdy heathen boys. I needed a girl to look up to. In Les Petites Princesses, I found her again.
The youngest princess, Margaret, was probably the funniest, but I wanted a good big sister.
I kept a diary containing excerpts from “The book.” And I cut out so many pictures from magazines that I had to make a scrapbook.
So when my son called the night after Elizabeth died, he asked how I was doing. “I’m fine,” I said. “Just very sad.” When he asked me why I could be sad, I told him, “My queen is dead.”
“Mom, she’s not YOUR queen. Don’t be ridiculous. And then I told her why she was so important to me and my lifelong admiration for Elizabeth.
Certainly the glitz and the circumstances were part of the attraction. There wasn’t much beauty in my immediate surroundings then, much less anything as delightfully beautiful as all things royal manage to be. I watched the Queen’s coronation on TV. I watched Margaret’s wedding, and those of Charles and Diana, Prince William and Katherine, and Harry and Meghan – lavish rituals.
A few friends joined me for William and Kate’s wedding at 5am. We wore hats, pearls and white gloves and enjoyed tea and scones for our wedding breakfast. These women also experienced, from an early age, the Queen’s devotion to duty, her kindness, her strength in difficult times.
When Elizabeth became queen, even before her coronation, she took an oath that, “…my whole life, whether long or short, will be devoted to your service…” Rarely has a promise been kept with such dedication.
We have devoted the royal followers of a “certain age” know that she has given up the pleasure and freedoms that we enjoyed in our younger years. I can’t even imagine 70 years of dressing, doing her hair and makeup every day for the endless parade of royal duties she performed: ribbon cuttings, charity events, state ceremonies and mega-thousands handshakes while spending hours on his foot. And every day except Christmas and Easter, no matter where she is, she receives the famous red boxes. The boxes contain important documents from his cabinet,
Foreign and Commonwealth Offices – some are briefings only, many requiring his signature. Duty, duty and more duty. Partying with your corgis doesn’t feel like a trade-in for a carefree weekend perhaps filled with waterskiing, margaritas and dancing.
And so today the stiff upper-lip Britons wept as they curtsy, bow and bury their beloved Queen, with all the respect and admiration a nation can bestow. No, not all Britons are monarchists. But the dominant attitude was that of losing their beloved grandmother. While some of us remember a younger Elizabeth, for anyone under 40, she is their gracious grandmother and the only monarch most have ever known.
The pageantry was magnificent. The honors were appropriate. The tears were real.
My queen is dead. Long live the king.
Marcy O’Brien can be reached at [email protected]