QUEEN ELIZABETH II Lies in State in Westminster Abbey
Monday all eyes will be on London, England. There, the world will say goodbye to a woman many of us have known all our lives. I speak, of course, of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
My childhood, the part I actually remember, was during the World War II years when America was involved – December 7, 1941, to August 14, 1945. I do not literally remember the day the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Our family of three was in the family car headed to Tennessee. My father was taking my mother and me “home” to spend Christmas – yet three weeks away – with the larger family.
My dad traveled and my mother had bought him a car radio for company on his long, lonely drives calling on customers. They heard the announcement of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor over the car radio. I don’t recall hearing it, or their conversation, though I was in the backseat probably gazing out the window or asleep.
PRINCESSES ELIZABETH and MARGARET in WORLD WAR II ENGLAND!
Elizabeth was a young girl of thirteen when England entered WWII on September 1, 1939. She and her younger sister, Margaret, and their parents King George VI and Queen Elizabeth became a symbol for English-speaking people and beyond. Already the Royal family had lived through the Blitz of 1940 when German bombs decimated London. For their safety from the bombing, many English children were sent away from the greater London area to the country or even abroad – many to Canada. Princess Elizabeth, with Princes Margaret at her side, spoke on the radio to these children as part of the popular English radio program, The Children’s Hour, October 13, 1940. Her talk was well received.
The presence she would carry for the rest of her life was obvious even then. You can listen to it on YouTube.
Princess Elizabeth, who turned 18 in April 1944, debated her parents for a year to let her serve in the armed forces during WWII. In February 1945, she signed on with the Auxiliary Territorial Service and served as a truck mechanic until VE Day in May 1945. She learned to drive, kept on driving throughout her life, and taught her children and grandchildren how to drive.
A WEDDING, a BIRTH, a DEATH, a CORONATION
Not long after the war was over, love was in the air. On November 20, 1947, 21-year-old Elizabeth and Lieutenant Philip Mountbatten were married. I recall seeing photos of the wedding. Later we saw newsreel footage in the movie theater. Their first child, Prince Charles, was born November 14, 1948. Then the death of her father, King George VI in 1952, put Elizabeth on the throne at age twenty-six. Her Coronation took place at Westminster Abbey on June 2, 1953.
The morning of June 2, 1953, I set my alarm clock to go off at – I think – 4 a.m. Denver time. I awoke with a start, reached over and turned the bedside radio on and searched for the right station … KOA, the NBC affiliate. All the way from London I heard, in spite of the crackling overseas transmission, the choir of Westminster Abbey chanting Vivat, Vivat! – Latin for Long Live, Long Live! I’ve never forgotten it.
CORONATION FILMS FLOWN to NEW YORK for TELEVISION VIEWING in U.S.
Live events like the Coronation were not available on television back then. Films of the Coronation soon were winging their way across the Atlantic to New York. From there, by late afternoon, the Coronation films aired on television screens across the United States. Digressing for a moment, you should know that Denver and the Rocky Mountain West did not have television for several years after the rest of the country. The problem, we understood, was the mountains.
June 2, 1953, my family did not yet have a TV set! But my friend Carolyn’s did! She invited me to come home with her after school (we were juniors at East High School) so we could watch the Coronation – in black and white!!!! Yep, color TV was still a long way off. She and I sat in her basement, our eyes glued to the screen – which by today’s standards wasn’t very big!!! But there SHE was – Queen Elizabeth II. We could watch it all unfolding majestically before our eyes! Yes! Of course, now, it is ancient history to most of the world.
SUNDAY AUGUST 28, WE STOOD on the GROUNDS of BUCKINGHAM PALACE
Three weeks ago, we – my older son, daughter-in-law and two of my grandchildren – stood in front of Buckingham Palace along with thousands of other tourists and watched the ceremonial Changing of the Guard. Knowing she was away in Scotland – and not really cognizant of her health problems – I paid my quiet respects to Queen Elizabeth and wished her good health. Little did any of us know. Now a fixture in my life – and the lives of so very many – is gone.
My heritage comes entirely from Great Britain. My father was Welsh; my mother an English and Scottish mix. Though I am 100 percent American born and bred, because of my heritage and because I so greatly admired her, I have always felt Elizabeth’s reign was a part of me. Or I, a part of it. Likely many other Americans feel the same. Long Live she did. And now she is gone. Sobeit!
RESPECT GIVEN WHERE RESPECT IS DUE
ADDENDUM: Wednesday, September 14: Watching CNN, I’m seeing the first people in line to file past and view the Queen’s coffin as she lies in state in Westminster Hall. Frankly, I am in tears. The solemn faces, the love in their eyes as they pause and bow their heads. So very meaningful. Some of the women curtsy. One woman, wearing an elegant blouse fashioned from the Union Jack, spoke outside to a reporter of her admiration and love for her Queen. So many expressed the respect and love they have for her and for her life. Watching, experiencing the quiet, orderly procession was truly moving. Respect given where respect is due.