Friday, November 20, 2009
The Queen is a mighty woman.
She was born in 1924 in a small town in rural Ireland. Her mother, who was only 19, died of a fever when the Princess was just 9 months old. Her father, being young and a little foolish, was at a loss as to what to do with his baby daughter. Enter the Queen's maternal grandmother, herself a formidable woman, and, he was off the parental hook. Away with him across the water to London where the streets were, supposedly, paved with gold. Neither sight nor sound of him for 10 years.
Roseanne put her heart and soul into rearing her grandaughter. Abject poverty was the norm on the street where they eked out a meagre existence. But she managed to see the little Princess through primary school and insisted that she continue on with her education so that she could, eventually, get a grand, steady, pensionable position working for the Government.
The Princess was an intelligent, good looking child. She grew to be an articulate, hardworking woman. She landed herself the prized government position and left her grandmother's home. For a life of freedom and a little wildness in a slightly larger town about 70 miles from where she grew up. She enjoyed being a grown up. Boyfriends and dances, bus trips to Dublin and bicycle rides around the countryside. And then she met himself. The tall, handsome army man who swept her off her feet. And out of the arms of the man she thought she loved.
When they married in 1953, she relinquished her tiny Princess tiara and readily accepted the heavy duty crown that was part and parcel of her new position. She moved into the role of Queen like a duck sliding into a pond.
She was, like most Queens, quite ignorant of housekeeping duties. The arrival of the royal offspring, all 8 of them, within 10 years, was, to say the least, a bit of an eye-opener for her. But being of the blue-blooded brigade, she rose to the challenge and loved and nurtured them beyond even her own expectations. She loved and ruled with an unquestionable passion. Her devotion demanded very little in return. On one royal occasion, himself and the princes and princesses forgot the importance of the Queen's birthday. Boiled eggs were served for the nightly repast, in silence. This ensured that the 2nd of October was never overlooked again. Her family was the reason for her existence. When death deprived her of one of her children she, temporarily, lost her will to go on. But time, as it does, softened that wound.
She worked hard at creating a home filled with love and laughter. The royal offspring blossomed under her care and eventually left the palace to seek out their own kingdoms. Himself retired and they filled their days with gardening, winemaking, reading and the occasional jaunt across the waters to strange, exotic lands. When himself had a stroke back in 1995 their lives changed, inevitably. Gradually, they became old and dependent. The Queen was not amused.
Being an intelligent Queen, she knows that she has been blessed with a good life. She knows that she has no real reason to complain. But it is difficult. She is heartbroken watching her life partner of 57 years lose his zest for life; she watches him battle with the words that are on the tip of his tongue but refuse to be spoken; she looks at him while he struggles to put one foot in front of the other, worrying in case he should fall. She lives in a constant state of fear.
Fear of life.
Fear of death.
Her bravery is a humbling reminder to me that that we are all vulnerable.
Long live the Queen.