It’s a big weekend in the UK, where Queen Elizabeth II will celebrate her 60 years on the throne. My daughter, who considers herself a princess, watches snippets on television with a certain level of curious amusement.
Katie Couric, one of our stalwart television presenters, was sent to stand in front of Buckingham Palace, wearing a delicate-looking hat that looked like it would blow off in the wind. She interviewed Princes Harry and William, among others, for a special on the Queen. I didn’t watch this, but I did overhear one question. ‘Do you have to make an appointment to see your grandmother?’ she asked earnestly.
The Chatterbox, who will be six in August, tells me this morning, ‘I saw the Queen on the television. She looked old.’
‘She is old, ‘ I reply. ‘Do you know she’s been the Queen of England for 60 years? That’s what England is celebrating.’
My daughter looks at me while she dangles herself from the kitchen counter from her arms: ‘How long is 60 years? Is it 27?’
‘Um, no, it’s 60.’
She pauses a moment, lost in thought, and then asks me, ‘How old was the Queen when she didn’t look old?’
I contemplate this. I think I know why she might be asking the question. Yesterday we were looking at a feature in Newsweek about the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, written by historian Simon Schama. There was a picture of a young Queen Elizabeth II, looking resplendent on her coronation day in her robes and glittering crown in Westminster Abbey. She looks a little overawed as she stars vacantly into the distance. Perhaps she is contemplating the huge amount of responsibility, perhaps she is thinking about how much her clothes and crown weigh. Maybe she is thinking about how much her life will be lived in the shadow of duty. She was only 27.
I show the picture to my daughter. ‘This is the Queen at 27. She was young and pretty. Is this the Queen you were thinking of?’
She nods. ‘Did she have kids?’
When I tell her that Princes Harry and William are two of her grandchildren, she looks surprised. I’m guessing this knowledge probably makes the Queen seem slightly more human.
Today I was discussing the English Husband’s plans to celebrate via Skype. He was a bit subdued about it. There is a street party in Stoke Newington and another further afield in Kingston. Friends will be at both. The weather, however, threatens to be typically British. Rain and cold weather is forecast and the idea of a street party leaves me shivering. Bank holidays are so often a washout it’s a bit of a national joke – so I’m hardly surprised. Those who celebrate will brave the worst of it and hope for the best.