Our memories of the Queen

I cried on the day the King died. And I surprised myself when I cried again yesterday when his daughter died.

I’m not an ardent monarchist but Queen Elizabeth has been a constant presence in my life, her picture all around, and her celebrations writ large across the nation. As my colleague wrote yesterday “It is difficult to think of a public figure who has been so well thought of for so long.”

This feels like a seminal moment and a date in history that we won’t forget.

Back in February 1952 the teachers at my school were huddled around a radio one lunchtime, looking very serious. Then we were told the news and sent home. I remember telling my mother that the King was dead but she already knew and was in tears. The words “God save the Queen” sounded very odd to us then, just as it did yesterday when the Prime Minister said “God save the King”.

I don’t remember anything about George VI’s funeral, but we didn’t have a television so it wouldn’t have had much impact on me. But I know that, to the adults around me, it seemed to bring closure to the long dark years of the war and the post-war challenges, as food rationing finally came to an end.

The Festival of Britain in the previous year had been designed to awaken creativity, unite the nation and bring fun and optimism back into our lives. The Coronation took this forward and heralded the New Elizabethan era, with much hope centred on our beautiful young modern Queen. (I will keep my memories of that event until an appropriate moment in the future).

I only met the Queen once, at an investiture in Windsor Castle. And it wouldn’t matter if I hadn’t met her at all, because she still coloured our lives, and gave us insight – far above political differences – into what it means to be British. I loved this drawing when it first appeared after the Jubilee celebrations (credit to Eleanor Tomlinson). It says so much about the Queen’s sense of fun, but, as many have commented, it also shows her taking care of a young refugee.

Here is an opportunity for you to add your own tributes to Queen Elizabeth II and your thoughts on her legacy. Please keep them short and personal, and non-political.

* Mary Reid is a contributing editor on Lib Dem Voice. She was a councillor in Kingston upon Thames, where she is still very active with the local party, and is the Hon President of Kingston Lib Dems.

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9 Comments

  • My first memory of the death of George VI was arriving at school to see the union flag at half mast…We were instructed to refrain from ‘playing games and shouting’ in the playground and the death was announced before assembly prayers…Almost immediately, at least in my memory, everyone was preparing for the coming coronation…

    I’m sure there was far more to it but, after all, when George died I was only 8..

  • George Thomas 9th Sep '22 - 11:24am

    My memories of Queen Elizabeth II have been of an older monarch willing to poke fun of herself in various funny videos and an ever present who provided comfort and inspiration to my parents, including the image of her sat alone at her husband’s funeral showing what it meant to be a leader.

    I don’t look forward to her passing becoming political. If, and when, it does hopefully we’ll remember that she sought to act with dignity and care for those she represented (and those she didn’t) in trying to recognise the right thing to do.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 9th Sep '22 - 1:04pm

    Thanks Mary, Caron, these tributes are fine. And the tone and nature of statements from representatives from our party in Parliament , like our leader, and around our nations have been marvellous.

    I am a strong and regular supporter of and believer in our, for my way of thinking, necessary and unique, Constitutional Monarchy. I think it a wonderful and valuable method of unifying our nation.

    Married to a wife of American origin, who gets it, and having had a father who agreed, but was from Italy, I really feel it.

    Like Mary, as she says above, I shed tears . Like her, I met the Queen once.

    I have written a lot over the years about why and how the role of the Monarch, the family embodying it now, do a great deal of good.

    I would like to share the tribute I have written updating the Jubilee celebration I did, on The Ustinov Prejudice Awareness Forum. It is Queen Elizabeth’s, and shall be King Charles’s, emphasis, on reaching out beyond race and religion,throughout our Kingdom and the Commonwealth and the world, that is very special.

    http://www.ustinovforum.com/articles/elizabeth-ageless

  • Laurence Cox 9th Sep '22 - 2:06pm

    I never met the Queen, and was only 3 when her father died, so don’t have any memories of anyone else as our Monarch. What does stand out was her strong Christian faith and her resolve to serve her country for the whole of her life, as expressed in the recording of her speech in Cape Town when she was still Princess Elizabeth, which I only saw for the first time yesterday.

    Last night in the Royal Albert Hall after the cancellation of the planned concert, the Philadelphia Orchestra and their conductor came on stage and played the National Anthem (the tune is the same as their ‘My country ’tis of thee’) followed by ‘Nimrod’ from Elgar’s “Enigma Variations”. It was a fitting, and moving, tribute to our late Queen, marking, as it did, the end of the Proms season, the remaining concerts also being cancelled by the BBC last night.

  • I’ve never been a monarchist but I’ve come to appreciate and admire Elizabeth II. She was Queen when I was born, and from what I can see has never put a foot out of place ( seriously at least!) what a beacons of stability. So much needed in our recent turmoil. The sight of her alone at her husbands funeral really sealed it for me. Such a sense of duty. I too have shed a few tears. I think Charles III will be excellent too, his speech was amazing.

  • I was 8, we were marched into the school hall, where the Head told us the King had died.
    Our form teacher cried as we returned to the classroom. She composed herself and class resumed.
    I am a Republican myself but nevertheless have signed the online book of remembrance. There is no doubt she performed her Constitutional role in an exemplary manner.

  • Mick Taylor 10th Sep '22 - 2:28pm

    I attended a garden party at Harewood House around 2000. I had only agreed to go because my then wife insisted and then went off to S. America for work instead and I ended up taking a councillor colleague. I was very surprised when HM departed at how short she was, around 5ft 2 in. And, yes, we did have cucumber sandwiches with the crusts cut off.
    I dimly remember the coronation (I was 3) because my stoutly republican father, was cajoled by my royalist mother to hang a Union Jack from the small bedroom window. I can remember that words were had.

  • theakes 10th Sep ’22 – 12:15pm…….I am a Republican myself but nevertheless have signed the online book of remembrance. There is no doubt she performed her Constitutional role in an exemplary manner……………..

    Me too… However, in an understated way, she was the glue that held the country together.
    Her death couldn’t have come at a worse time; the polarisation of a post Elizabethan nation with Truss, Kwartang, Braverman and Coffrey at the helm is worrying..

  • David Garlick 11th Sep '22 - 12:03pm

    I was shocked when I too cried at the news. Says all you need to know about the affection we had for her.

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