Farewell Dear Queen
One country boy's memories upon her passing...
Births, deaths and taxes. These are the three things in life that we are told we can all be assured of.
But there is one other that can be added to this list, however, especially for citizens of countries that are a part of what was once the British Empire; and that is the British Monarchy.
Prime Ministers, Presidents, politicians, even entertainers and sportsmen, they all come and go, but for the past seventy years there has been once constant in our lives; a beautiful and strong woman who ruled with grace and dignity and put duty above all else.
My earliest memory of the Queen was from a framed colour portrait which hung in the classroom of the small bush school I first attended. Every morning our small class would sing the national anthem of the time, which was God Save The Queen (this was well before the days of Advance Australia Fair being adopted), so for my entire life the monarchy and in particular Queen Elizabeth II has been a constant presence. That is just how it has always been. And now she is gone.
I didn’t ever have the privilege of meeting our monarch, though I do know a number of people who did, including an uncle and aunt, and they all say exactly the same thing about the experience; that both Her Majesty and her husband were gracious, curious about their lives and immediately put you at ease. I can also say that I have a friend and former work colleague who is a relative of Her Majesty (and has the documented family tree to prove it), so even though we didn’t ever meet, her presence has always been there.
My one brush with royalty came when I was six years old. It was on April 28th, 1970 during a royal tour, with Australia playing host to Queen Elizabeth, Prince Phillip, Prince Charles and Princess Anne. I only know the actual date as I have just been able to find where the tour itinerary is available online!
At the time my family lived about an hour’s drive from the city in which I currently live, Armidale, which was destined to be one of the stops on the tour, where Her Majesty was scheduled to attend functions at the local Teachers College and the University of New England.
I remember the day quite well, a warm autumn day, standing on a sidewalk with my mother, who I recall was wearing her best pale blue dress, as well as my younger sister and my grand-mother, along with what seemed to be thousands more, all hoping to catch a glimpse of these very important visitors, even if I didn’t quite understand at the time just why they were so important.
Just like everyone else I was waving a small Union Jack flag as we waited for the parade to arrive. It was quite a wait on a warm day, but eventually we sensed that the time would soon be upon us as a cheer from way down the road, closer to the centre of town, began to grow, slowly rolling up the hill toward us, and as we were soon to discover the sounds were accompanied by the parade.
As I recall it, the first vehicles to roll past us were the motorbike escorts with police officers, then came the first of the sleek black cars, carrying Her Majesty and Prince Phillip, and then another, carrying Prince Charles and Princess Anne, finally followed by other cars containing various dignitaries. I was standing right on the edge of the gutter, one hand being firmly grasped by my mother’s to prevent me running onto the road, the other still waving my Union Jack wildly. I remember the Queen and Prince Phillip giving us their best smiles and royal waves as the first car passed by, and I remember thinking how grand they looked, and then they were gone.
Seconds later the second car passed us. Princess Anne was sitting on the side closest to where we stood, and I waved like crazy. I saw her turn her head and look directly at me, then she waved back. I was sure she was waving just at me, a little blonde-haired kid from the bush. At least that’s what I’ve always believed.
And then, just like that, the procession had passed us by. The sounds of the crowd died down as the cars turned a corner, onto what would subsequently be known as Queen Elizabeth Drive, then continued on their way toward the University where other engagements awaited them.
My uncle and aunt were in attendance at one of these University functions, as my uncle was working there at the time, and they often tell the story about when they met the Royals.
‘And what do you do?' Prince Phillip asked my aunt.
'Oh, I'm just a house-wife, at home with two young boys,' she replied.
'Ma’am, you are not just a house wife. You are the mother of the future of this country,’ said the prince. They chatted some more and then he moved on to the next person in line.
'Ma’am, you are not just a house wife. You are the mother of the future of this country,’ said the prince.
I often think it’s funny how from that one visit, that small brush with royalty that I have always looked back so fondly upon, how invested I became in the whole royal phenomenon.
When debate started growing louder about Australia becoming a republic, I found myself automatically taking the royalists side in the debate. So many countries have gone through the same debate and I have always admired the Queen and the position she took, stating that a country has a right to decide their own future.
In our country, as in many others, debate raged on the question, but we made our choice to remain as a part of the Commonwealth, and I am glad we did. There is something to say for history and tradition and while I have no doubt that eventually Australia will cut ties with the monarchy, especially as the older generation pass on and the younger generation will begin to further question the validity of our being tied to another country. But for now things are as they always have been . . . at least since the settlement of this country by Europeans.
And through all this there has been one figure who has continued to show strength and dignity, and at times humour, but above all a sense of duty, always there to offer support in times of need and maintain an interest in the many countries that make up the Commonwealth and their peoples.
It is somewhat difficult to imagine what the shape of the monarchy in the future will be like, though I suspect that for the most part it will be business as usual. The reign of King Charles III will undoubtedly be different to that of his mother, but he will not be loved any less his subjects.
Right now Her Majesty is lying in state, giving her loving people one last chance to pay their respects before, in just a few days time she will make her final journey to Windsor, where she will join her husband, her parents, her sister and the many monarchs that have come before her.
We are going to miss you Ma’am. You have served us well. Now it is time for you to rest.
Farewell Dear Queen.
About the Creator
Mark 'Ponyboy' Peters
Aussie, Queer & Country
LGBT themed fiction with an Aussie flavour, reviews, observations and real life LGBT histories.
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