On Thursday 8th September, Her Majesty the Queen passed away peacefully at Balmoral. She had been Queen for 70 years, making her the UK’s longest reigning monarch. Her reign was even longer than that of Queen Victoria’s, which lasted for 63 years.
Lots of people have been affected by her death. When I heard the news, my thoughts were, “Well, she was an old lady,” closely followed by, “She must have missed Prince Phillip dreadfully. At least they are reunited now,” then, “She was lucky to have been in good health and to have kept all her marbles, and not to have spent the last 20 years fading away in a nursing home”.
Predictably, my boys who go to school were speculating how much time off they would have off. My 14 year old optimistically thought it would be two weeks!
But when I was checking Facebook later, and I saw all the tributes, and the pictures of the Queen when she was younger, photos of her as a child with her dogs, pictures of her on a horse, endless photos of her smiling Queen face in co-ordinating outfits, I felt very sad and I had to put my phone down.
I remember when Princess Diana died. There was a national outpouring of grief. Kensington Gardens was knee deep in flowers. Cathedrals and churches all over the country opened books of condolence so that people had a place to express their grief and sadness over the loss of a woman they didn’t know.
I actually met the Queen a couple of times. The first time was when I worked at a school in London. When it was the school’s tricentenary, the Queen came for a visit. I remember there was a long list of rules! We aren’t allowed to ask her anything. We were only to speak to her if addressed directly, and we had to call her “Ma’am,” to rhyme with jam. My class joined with another class and they sang her a song, and I remember her smiling at the children while they sang.
On the other occasion, I was a teacher at a school near an air base and the Queen was visiting the base. Most of the children at the school were from forces families, so the whole school went up there and waved flags.
Although I met the Queen, I didn’t know her.
Earlier this week, my youngest son came home from Cubs with a pile of worksheets he was supposed to have filled in. The worksheets were all about how the children felt about the Queen dying and their memories of her. Cosmo hadn’t filled any of it in. When I asked him about it, he said he didn’t know what to write. Being home educated, Cosmo isn’t used to being required to fill in paperwork just because somebody has told him to. He writes when it’s necessary or when he has something to say. He didn’t have anything to say about his favourite funny memories of the Queen because he didn’t know her.
On the other hand, when they did a quiz about the Queen, there were things Cosmo knew about her, so he was able to answer some of the questions.
I’m not saying that it’s not alright to feel upset that she’s died. I felt upset myself! But the point is that we knew about her, but we didn’t know her. She was in the public eye. We might have heard bits of her speeches, and seen photos of her with her family and her dogs, but we didn’t know her. We have no personal funny stories of her getting drunk at Christmas and falling asleep in her dinner, or memories of her being a good granny to our children. We can imagine her being granny to William and Harry, and great granny to the youngest members of the royal family, but we have no personal memories of her with her family.
So why do we feel upset?
I think a big part of it is that change is hard. However you feel about the royal family, pro, anti, or somewhere in between, the monarchy is part of our Britishness. 70 years of the same one is a long time, and for most of us, it’s all we’ve known. It’s the Queen’s head that’s on our money, and on our stamps. We’ve sung, “God save our Queen,” every time we’ve sung the national anthem. All the children and the adults in the Scouting movement promise to serve the Queen. Our military personnel pledge allegiance to the Queen. Now we don’t have a Queen. It’s going to be God save the King, and Charles’ head on our money and on our stamps.
The last couple of years have been full of changes. A blog about sewing perhaps isn’t the place to express political views, but I think it is fair enough to say that the political situation here at the moment is a bit of a mess. We’ve got yet another prime minister, who arguably might not be the best person for the job. We have politicians who have been found to be lying over and over again, and these are the people we trust to run our country and act in everybody’s best interests, not just their own. We’ve left the European Union without any clear plan for the future. The cost of living is soaring and people may be forced to choose between heating their homes and eating. The situation with Russia and Ukraine is worrying, not least for the people of Ukraine. And all of this is on top of the pandemic, which caused life to look very different indeed for a while, and still things are not like they were before. Covid has changed everything, including us.
Also the last time we had a king, there were two world wars, so entering what feels like a period of uncertainty without the Queen but with a king instead feels a little bit we might be entering a kind of dystopian era.
We’re not just used to Queen Elizabeth, we’re also used to our monarch being a woman, and the idea of having a king feels quite different.
I know this isn’t a popular view at the moment, but I actually think that men and women are not the same. There is a difference between being the same and being equal. The Queen brought a female energy to the monarchy that Charles can’t. It was there in the person she was, and it’s hard to imagine Charles being as gracious and as sensible as she was.
In the end, it’s who she was and what she stood for that makes us feel sad that she’s gone.
The question I always ask myself is, “What can I do?”. I have to be doing something! My hands need to be busy and my brain needs to be chewing something over. What can we do to deal with how we are feeling? What can we do to show that we acknowledge that she did the best she could for 70 years? That she wasn’t perfect, she made some errors of judgement, she had family problems just like anybody else, but she still took her job seriously, wanted to serve her country, wanted to do the best job she could? What can we do to thank her for her service now that she’s gone?
One thing we can do is to remember the spirit in which she did things, with the intention of serving others graciously and cheerfully, and perhaps see where we could adopt that ourselves in our own lives.
Another is remembering her outfits and all those hats in every colour imaginable.
Flowers are nice for remembering or as a tribute, and there are all kinds of ways to make them, from crochet to fabric flowers to embroidery.