England is in mourning at the announcement of the passing of Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh. At the age of ninety nine, and rather frail, it was not unexpected but those of us who grew up with him as a constant personality in our lives, still feel a deep sadness at his demise.
Britain has always held the Royal Family in high regard and my family was no exception.
As a child, it was always customary in our home to stand at attention when the National Anthem was played on the radio and, rather later, on television. My grandma was always rather arthritic and it took ages for her to get up from an easy chair, but she always struggled to her feet when the first few solemn notes of the anthem were played.
As a child, I was quite used to waiting outdoors when calling on a friend to come and play. No phones in the homes of anyone I knew, so I would walk to their home and ask if they could come out to play. We always stood outdoors until our friend came out to join us, on wet days, we found somewhere to shelter while we played as being invited indoors to play was never an option in my neck of the woods.
Because of this habit, I never really got to see how other families behaved until I was well into my teens. Once I did start being invited into homes I was really surprised and rather dismayed, to find that most other families did not stand for the anthem in their home.
It was a definite no-no to try and leave a public gathering while the National Anthem was being played so, at the end of watching a film, there would be a mass exodus to leave while the closing credits were rolling up the screen because, at the end of the credits would be a picture of the Queen, on horseback and attending the Trooping of the Colours, and the anthem would be played. Once the first two notes were played, the whole assembly would freeze, so it was essential to get out of the building prior to this, if you wished to catch an early bus.
Over the years, this sign of respect has dwindled and many people now just make for the exit whilst the anthem is still playing but, back then, very few people broke protocol and I never have.
On the rare occasion, when a “Royal” would visit our area, school would be closed so all could line the sidewalks and wave at the visiting dignitary. If it was the Queen or another important Royal person, children would be given small flags to wave at the passing parade of cars. To catch a sight of the royal wave was something to celebrate.
I remember one visit when HRM was visiting a nearby town and arriving by train. The entire railway station was given a facelift and much fuss was made over installing new toilet facilities. Why anyone imagined that the Royal bottom would be sitting on a public convenience, is rather unbelievable but I’m sure the general public appreciated the gesture when they needed to use the facilities.
The few times I actually saw the Queen was rather disappointing as she never wore a crown, always a fancy hat. However, at her golden jubilee, in 2002, we had gone to England on vacation and actually got to see her, really close up, arriving at St. Paul’s Cathedral and, to my delight, she was wearing a tiara.
On that occasion we were standing on the very narrow sidewalk, outside the cathedral, and I had a really close-up view of HRH. She and the Duke were in the fantastically ornate gold coach, Princess Anne and her brothers were all on horseback, wearing beautiful scarlet guards’ uniforms, including the beautiful bear skin busby on each of their heads. The scene was really magnificent, truly all Pomp and Circumstance and I felt very proud to be British, even though I had actually deserted my home country in 1974.
In recent years the monarchy has really taken a beating with scandals and unflattering behaviour from many of the members. Bad behaviour is nothing new but the intense media coverage of all their actions mean that nothing is now hidden, so the truth (and sometimes fiction) of their misdeeds is made public. The more we learn of their bad behaviour, the less we put them on a pedestal.
The Duke himself had some scandals during his younger years, and his outspokenness landed him in hot water many times. Because of this he became more “human” in the eyes of the public, while the Queen has always managed to retain her dignity and regal aloofness at all times. As a wife of a man who often “puts his foot in his mouth”, I am sure she would, quite often, have liked to kick him on the shins, to remind him of his manners, however the royal reprimands were kept for a more private time.
The Duke has been an excellent consort, a very difficult position to be in, I’m sure. Always one step behind HRH in public but at her side in private, to support and encourage her difficult position. Her Majesty has lost a true and loyal friend and Britain is the loser in his passing.
RIP, your Majesty, you are much respected and missed.