My mother felt a kinship with Queen Elizabeth. She often noted that she and the Queen were born in the same year. She felt that they had a similar appearance with their dark hair that tended to be styled in the same manner. Both of them had experienced World War II, but obviously in very different ways, and they had their first babies at around the same time. Mama often viewed the Queen as a kindred spirit and a person that she greatly admired.
My mother used Queen Elizabeth as a standard for how women should behave. She loved the Queen’s loyalty to her country and her steadfast insistence on performing the responsibilities of her role with great care. To my mother Queen Elizabeth was an exemplary role model for integrity, honor, hard work, and dedication to duty.
I sometimes wondered if my Mama patterned herself after the great woman that she so admired. Like the Queen my mother shouldered her fated role in life without complaint, often sacrificing her own freedoms for the good of her family just as the Queen did for her country. Neither of them could have known as little girls what challenges lay before them, but when the hour of destiny came, they rose to the occasion.
I think of Queen Elizabeth through the eyes of my mom. I picture her working as a driver during World War II in service to the cause and I realize that she had a spunky side of her personality that was often hidden behind the manners of her station. I sense that in Prince Phillip she found a great romance that is sometimes the stuff of fairytales just as my mother found her prince in my father. I saw the Queen as a quiet woman who might have preferred a different kind of life, but rose to the occasion when her father so suddenly died. She was stalwart who served her country through seven decades when she might have preferred to live anonymously at Balmoral with her family and her Corgis. She did not flinch from her responsibilities, even as she grew frail, pulling herself together to welcome the new Prime Minister only days before her death. She had grit.
Historians will parse the life of Queen Elizabeth II through a critical lens, but one thing that is certain will be her unswerving devotion to what she saw as her obligation. In that regard more than any other, she and my mother were indeed very much alike. Each of them may have made mistakes here and there, but without a doubt they were both faithful to God, country and family, traits that are sometimes viewed as a bit old fashioned.
As a little girl my mother treated me as though I was a princess. She carefully sewed dresses for me in golden cloth and regal red. She tutored me in manners and elocution. I suppose that she wanted me to be as refined as Queen Elizabeth. She took her admiration for the Queen and fashioned it into a road map for her own life.
Mama often dreamed of visiting with Queen Elizabeth. She somehow believed that if they ever sat down together they would find that they had a great deal in common. Never mind that my mother was the youngest of eight children in an immigrant family that struggled financially. Mama believed that the merit of a person had nothing to do with titles or wealth, but was to be found in the dignity with which they carried themselves through life. In that regard she saw the Queen as a super star.
Mama once spoke of what she would do if she ever had an opportunity to sit down with Queen Elizabeth for tea. She admitted that she would have a difficult time curtsying to her. She felt that being an American meant that she did not have to demonstrate deference to the Queen. She said that her parents came to America to be free from such things. Nonetheless, she was certain that once she got past that little tradition that she and the Queen would have a jolly good time. She said that their kinship as wives and mothers would surely lead to a wonderful conversation and probably lots of laughter as well.
I suppose that my mother’s influence resulted in my own admiration of Queen Elizabeth. She has been a presence for all of my life. Even though I am not from Great Britain, half of my ancestors were. Through them, the Queen and I shared some history. I have always had great love for the British Isles and when I finally visited a few years ago I felt that I was living the dream that my mother had instilled in me. I felt the influence of Queen Elizabeth all around me.
I knew that the reign of Queen Elizabeth II would one day come to an end. I had seen how her health was failing, but the reality that she is gone has hit me as hard as if I were actually a citizen of her realm. It almost feels like losing my own mother again and I find myself wondering how the world is going to be able to get along without this incredible woman.
We are surely going to miss her elegant presence, her colorful outfits, her lovely hats, her manners and her compassion. With a willful strength she dedicated her life to her country from the time she was only a young woman in her twenties. She witnessed a changing world and somehow found ways to transform herself with it, but always she was a steadying force. May God be with her and may He guide and comfort her nation as they begin a new era without her. I’d like to believe that just maybe she and my mother will finally have an opportunity to sit down together in heaven for a spot of tea. It makes me smile to think of that.