Farewell to a Woman
And An Era
On the Death of the Queen Mother
by Stephen Phillips
The inevitable has happened, and a nation hangs its collective head in grief. Britain has lost its favorite grandmother.
The passing of this remarkable woman leaves a country united in its loss, with old and young alike lining up for hours to pay their final respects to a woman whose life spanned the entire 20th century.
Her death is an occasion not just to dwell on her passing, but also to celebrate her extraordinary life--for it was indeed an amazing one.
From a personal perspective, I always thought she was the human face of the Royal Family--a person who, although far removed from everyday folk, was still able to come down to our level and interact with the average Joe.
This was especially evident during World War II, when she refused to leave Buckingham Palace even though all around her, London was being devastated by the blitz. She steadfastly stuck it out, visiting areas of the capital that had been hit the worst, offering words of comfort to those in their hour of need, and showing a very real human side to the Royals. To a lot of people who still vividly remember those dark times (including my own grandparents), she was a beacon of hope. Her courage and that of her husband, King George VI, was an inspiration to many; and although I did not live through those times, there is no doubt in my mind that her actions helped galvanize a nation in its struggle against Nazi tyranny.
My own earliest memory of the Queen Mum involves an experience when I was six years old. I was staying with my grandparents in London, and we were out shopping. As we walked into Hyde Park, we saw several policemen standing at the side of the road. My grandmother asked them why they had congregated there.
"The Queen Mother is coming down this way soon," they said.
There we stood, my grandmother, several policemen, and I. We watched as a large black Rolls Royce cruised past us. I waved at it madly--and was rewarded with a polite wave and a smile.
Wow! The Queen Mum actually waved at me! Little, insignificant me! To be acknowledged by someone who I had only seen on TV was almost like being blessed. I was elated throughout that summer day, and talked about it to everyone who would listen. For a child, it was like seeing Santa Claus--truly a once-in-a-lifetime thing.
As I have grown older and moved away from England, I have not been especially interested in the goings-on of the Royal family. There have been times in recent years when unfortunate incidents have drawn my attention back to the Windsors: the divorce of Charles and Diana, Diana's untimely and tragic death, Princess Margaret's long- running illness, Charles' affair with Camilla Parker Bowles. This attention was not very positive.
But through it all, the Queen Mother continued to represent all the best that the monarchy stood for: strength of character, decency, stability, and above all, the ability to connect with people from across the social and economic spectrum.
She was a truly remarkable person, and she touched many people in a wide variety of ways--not least a six-year-old boy who, for a brief instant, was graced with kindness.
God bless you, Madam. You will be sorely missed, for your death was truly the end of an era.
(c) COPYRIGHT 2002 STEPHEN PHILLIPS. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.