By now, you’ve heard the news. Queen Elizabeth II, the longest-reigning monarch in British history, died on Thursday at the age of 96.
Her reign lasted more than 70 years, beginning in February of 1952, meaning she was the only monarch most Britons (and Canadians) had ever known.
Her loss is felt by many, and in many different ways.
CP called her a “symbol of stability in a turbulent era that saw the decline of the British empire and embarrassing dysfunction in her own family.”
British Prime Minister Liz Truss, appointed by the queen just 48 hours earlier, pronounced the country “devastated” and called Elizabeth “the rock on which modern Britain was built.”
The tributes rolled in, with the prevailing sentiment being, regardless of how folks felt about the monarchy, the queen did indeed personify dignity and grace.
For me, without the queen, the institution itself doesn’t hold much value anymore, for a variety of reasons.
But I’ll miss the phone calls.
My family on my mum’s side is rather British.
I grew up on ‘All in the Buses’ and ‘Benny Hill’ and ‘Monty Python’.
My Nana always had an endless supply of licorice allsorts, Lyle’s Golden Syrup and made the best Yorkshire pudding.
When I phoned her, I didn’t say “hello”or “hi” like a normal human, I often said “’allo, ’ow’s your budgie?” (long story).
Nana is the source of two of my three Queen Elizabeth stories.
The queen and I share a birthday, so every year on our special day, she used to call me and offer her best wishes.
As a very young man, this delighted me to no end.
“The queen is calling me!”
The calls delighted me more even after I figured out it was my cheeky Nana on the other end of the call, using her fine impersonation skills to convince me I was sharing a moment with a monarch.
Those calls continued well into my adulthood, until my Nana’s passing. But I nonethless perpetuated the tradition after becoming a dad, reminding everyone in earshot that the queen now had my cellphone number and never forgot to call.
The calls may now be no more, but the joy will remain.
Story No. 2 involving Nana and the queen (I always imagined her being a sweet grandmother like my own) I don’t remember myself, but it took on a life of its own over the years.
When I was a toddler, Queen Elizabeth visited Victoria. Of course, my Mum and Nana had to go see her in public, with tiny me in tow. There was some sort of cannons firing or a 21-gun salute for the queen, but this made wee me cry. Nana, not missing a beat, pretended to be shot, made some funny faces and noises and, in front of hundreds of folks and visiting royalty, rolled down the hill to make me laugh. I did. Fortunately, she didn’t get carted away.
Story No. 3: I was taking photos at the Commonwealth Games in Victoria. I was near the entrance to the stadium track when a security fellow told me to stop and remain where I was. The queen, in the back of a convertible, was on her way in. The procession stopped directly in front of me. The queen (the queen!) was basically an arm’s length away. I froze. She said “hello”. I bowed my head and said “hello, Your Majesty.”
Nana listened proudly as I recounted the tale, though she didn’t buy my assertation that I was invited for high tea with my new best friend after the ceremony.
RIP to the queen. I cherish the stories.