Life Chez Dee Episode #114: Happy Birthday Ma'am
It’s the Queen’s Birthday today. Elizabeth Alexandra Mary, Queen Elizabeth II, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of her other realms and territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith, with the style of ‘Majesty’.
I wrote the majority of this piece last year for a local news site. I was planning to republish it this year anyway, but in light of the recent death and funeral of Prince Philip I felt I wanted to add a few words and a few changes to it.
This year will be very different for our Queen. Only four days ago she sat alone at the funeral service of her beloved husband, the man who had been at her side for 73 years. Although Philip was 99, although he was very ill, and although his death wasn't entirely unexpected, nothing will have prepared her for the profound grief she will undoubtedly be feeling. It's her birthday today, and she will receive gifts, presents, well wishes from thousands of people ... her close family, acquaintances and many more she doesn't know. I can only imagine the rollercoaster of emotions she feels today, if indeed she feels anything, possibly still being numb with grief, and yet she will conduct herself as she always does with composure and dignity.
Our Queen is Head of the UK’s armed forces, and has many other titles globally including Duke of Normandy, Lord of Mann, Mother of all People, Missis Queen, Queen Lady and White Heron. She was known as Lilibet to Margaret, and her parents, and cabbage (it is rumoured to Philip), and I wonder if at any point Mrs Windsor is used to address her.
Born 21st April 1926, she is today celebrating her 95th Birthday … and it’s her real birthday. Of course being the Queen she has another official birthday which is celebrated in June, because it would likely be too nippy to have a big parade in April, I think is the gist of it.
So many people have their birthdays at grim times of the year … when its dark, cold, wet and windy, unable to get out the sunshine, youngsters who are prohibited by their parents from ever enjoying parties in the garden, for fear that the weather will bring everyone inside, and the thought of say 30 or so small children (boys particularly) tearing around with muddy feet, sticky fingers and screaming at top notch just sends us all cold at the very thought. Adults wanting to go on a celebratory day out, walks, picnics, beach days with family and friends, unable to do so because the weather is too horrid or the nights are drawing in. People that have December birthdays so often telling tales of family and friends giving them presents that would do for both Christmas and birthday; it’s rotten in my opinion. Official birthdays definitely ought to be the way forward.
I’m lucky to be honest, my birthday is at the beginning of May. May is such a lovely time of year, and being just short of halfway through the year, it’s beautifully spaced apart from Christmas. Throughout my life I’ve been quite lucky, often having my birthday fall on May Day, or at least at some point over that Bank Holiday weekend, or on occasions on the Thursday of that week, when schools have been out for voting. The weather is generally getting more pleasant, a little warmer too, and a long weekend of lovely days saw many of my birthdays really lovely too.
I was born on the Sabbath day, and a child born on this day is bonnie, blithe, good and gay according to the rhyme; Queen Elizabeth was born on a cold wet Wednesday, and if the rhyme words are true, she’s likely to be a person full of woe. I wouldn’t necessarily apply that description to Her Majesty, but certainly the days surrounding her birthday, both last year, and this, were woeful, and she has lived through many a woeful time during her reign, nationally, globally, politically, and personally; but many an annus horribilis has been countered by an annus mirabilis.
I really like and have great admiration for the queen, I think she’s a true ambassador for our country, and I truly believe that she has, and still does, work incredibly hard in her role; she’s great for tourism, and has helped cement global relations on many an occasion. I like the royal family, and I believe that there is argument for upholding our monarchy. Yes there are those with an HRH who don’t pull their weight, there are those who pull lots of strings, and there are those who cause her anguish, but on the whole I think the royal family, and particularly the Queen is an asset to our country.
I wouldn’t say I followed all they do avidly, but have always paid attention if they’re on the news, and in the case of weddings and funerals paid even more attention. I’ve bought newspapers and mugs as souvenirs, and still have my Silver Jubilee mug and glass in the cupboard.
The TV was on for the wedding of Diana and Charles (indeed I even kept a scrap book of newspaper cuttings of this); again we watched Andrew and Fergie; and I along with most of the world can remember hearing of Diana’s death as it was announced that day. More recent years have found me attending (from my sofa) the weddings of William and Kate; Harry and Meghan; and indeed their father when he wed Camilla, and just this weekend I and many others around the globe watched the funeral of Prince Philip. Westminster Abbey, St Paul’s Cathedral and St Georges Chapel, Windsor have been witness to these royal occasions, and even York Minster has seen the occasional royal marriage.
I’m too young to remember the Coronation, but those who do remember, remember it well. A notable occasion, neighbours gathering in houses of those who owned a television; families saving and buying a television for just that occasion in June 1953, more than a year after her father’s death.
In school, in our daily assemblies, we’d sit cross legged looking up above our Headteacher talking, and we’d see a picture of our Queen hanging there; that iconic picture of Her Majesty which was hung in every school, all over the country; every child looking at the picture of our monarch every single day. Schools don’t hang a picture of the Queen anymore it seems, but various royal monarchs crop up in the curriculum as various periods of time are studied; the Tudors always being a great topic with plenty of material to discuss beginning with the infamous Henry, through to the formidable first Elizabeth.
Of course, as always, my general knowledge of our monarchs, and the order they ruled is remembered with a rhyme:
Willie, Willie, Harry, Ste, Harry, Dick, John, Harry three; One two three Neds, Richard two, Harrys four five six, ... then who?
Edwards four, five, Dick the bad, Harrys (twain), Ned (the lad); Mary, Bessie, James the vain, Charlie, Charlie, James again
William and Mary, Anna Gloria, Four Georges, William and Victoria; Ted, George, Ted and George again, Now Elizabeth til when?
All the monarchs listed there dating back to William the Conqueror … the good, the bad and the ugly; I’ve even got a mug and a tea towel adorned with them all, a souvenir from the English Heritage shop on Lindisfarne I recall.
Elizabeth, our second queen by that name, was never destined for this role. Her family were upset, angry even, and unsettled after the abdication, resulting in her ill prepared father having to step into the role as King, and in turn catapulting the young Elizabeth to the position of heir to the throne. I cannot imagine, the enormous burden suddenly placed on her shoulders, and can only marvel at her incredible strength, determination, and professionalism she has brought to this role, day in, day out.
Today the Queen celebrates her 95 years. She just a year older than my Grandma was when she died. When I see her carefully “set” hair, her pearl necklace and earrings, her handbags and her twin sets, I do smile as I remember my Grandma in the same way, and I wonder if she carries a beautifully embroidered handkerchief, a packet of polos, and a plastic rain hood in her handbag too.
Last year, Oliver made a birthday card for the Queen. Postage stamp affixed with her profile picture, our card arrived on her doormat at Windsor Castle, along with many other sackfulls of cards. The cards were likely quarantined and doused with plenty of anti viral spray, and whether she actually even saw the card we'll never know, but he put a lot of effort into making it, and was delighted to receive a royal reply.
Most of us in our country have known no other monarch. Our gracious, noble, glorious Elizabeth, on the throne for more than 60 years, she is the longest reigning monarch in British history.
Today, still in the midst of another global crisis, she will celebrate her birthday, as many others have and will, in isolation. A wife, mother, grandmother, and great grandmother, she’ll no doubt long to hear her other familiar titles of mum, grandma, and gan-gan. She will undoubtedly embrace modern technology to enable her to speak with her close family from a safe distance; even the royals adhering to the current strict government guidelines.
Whether we hear the National Anthem played today I don't know. I'm actually rather shocked at how few people actually know the words to the National Anthem. I’m also not surprised that only these two verses seem to be the ones regularly adopted at services nowadays, many more having been dropped, understandably, and quite rightly given their words.
Today we're thinking of you Ma'am.*
[*Ma’am, short for madam, The Queen is far too high up in rank, and indeed is far from being a madam, hence it’s pronounced mam, as in ham, if you’re talking to her.]
Her Diamond Jubilee a distant memory, and her Platinum Jubilee almost upon us; long has she reigned over us, and long may she reign for many more years, God Save The Queen.
God save our gracious Queen, Long live our noble Queen, God save the Queen! Send her victorious, Happy and glorious, Long to reign over us, God save the Queen!
Thy choicest gifts in store, On her be pleased to pour, Long may she reign! May she defend our laws, And ever give us cause, To sing with heart and voice, God save the Queen!