We sang “Rose of England” at our Singing for Pleasure meeting on Friday, voices raised in our own tuneful tribute to Her Maj. “Rose of England, thou shalt fade not here / proud and bright from rolling
year to year,” we sang with pride and passion. I’m just hoping my readers from Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will forgive me - it’s the thought that counts, don’t you know? Please amend as appropriate, if you feel inclined.
Midway through the session, our Esteemed Leader invited us all to contribute our own stories, our memories, maybe, of meeting The Queen, or anecdotes we had heard and appreciated
over the past seventy years. There might have been a few of us there too young to have witnessed the Coronation in 1953, but the majority of us are of a Great Age. I say “Esteemed Leader” by the way, because our leader is, indeed, held in great
esteem by me, having taken up the reins of leadership gratefully relinquished by my fellow leader and me this term, allowing us to enjoy the singing every week without the worry of planning and leading each session.
The stories came thick and fast, every one had something to share. It made me contemplate on my own brushes with Royalty, such as they are. Never having actually met the Queen, other than at a most respectful distance, I suspect
quite a lot of folk will find themselves treasuring, like me, the sense of her always being there, in the background of our lives. But always there.
one of the fortunate families to watch the Coronation on a tiny, flickering black and white screen - but the model of the Coronation procession, with its stunning gold coach and high-stepping plumed horses, cantering along the long windowsill in my classroom
at Rush Green Infants School filled my five year old heart with wonder. I was somewhat less enchanted by the gift of a very boring book called Royalty in Essex, presented to every pupil by Mr Bellamy, Chairman of the School Governors. Mr B, (that’s my
Mr B, not Mr Bellamy) by way of contrast, was given a Coronation mug. However I do still have my book - Mr B managed to drop and break not only his mug, but also his sister’s, on the way home from school. This did not go down well at home…
My dear Mum was an ardent Royalist. I can still see, in my mind’s eyes, the pictures on our sitting room wall, of the Queen and Prince Philip, one either side of the
fireplace. No shop-bought, fancy pictures these - my Mum had carefully cut out photographs from magazines and set them in home made frames using a mixture of plaster of paris and water. Made with much love and respect, you might say. There on the wall, part
of the background of my early childhood. Rather more splendid were the portraits of the Queen and her husband on the wall above the stage at my Infant School. These made such an impression on my Little Sister that she made sure to mention them when writing
her personal message in the Book of Condolences in my church as her first memory of Royalty in 1955.
Ah, yes, my Little Sister. We are convinced that, as we were
growing up, our Mum saw us as the two Princesses, Elizabeth and Margaret. Most of our clothes were home-made and we were always dressed the same - even though I say so myself that shouldn’t, there was a distinct resemblance, looking back at the old films
being played out on TV over recent days. It’s possible, I suppose, that my sister was actually named after the Queen’s own Little Sister - all I know, for sure, is that when my sister was born my mother (a strong believer in democracy) allowed
her children to choose and vote on the new baby’s name. I am not sure if I was part of this momentous act of decision making but then I was only three and a half at the time so can’t be either blamed or thanked for the outcome.
These are the things I was thinking about as my fellow singers came out with their own reminiscences. What could I possibly share when it came to my turn? Then I remembered…
Back in June, at the time of the Platinum Jubilee regular readers may recall, I had knitted Her Maj - resplendent in bright yellow and carrying a neat grey handbag. At our
Family Jubilee Party, I had turned Mr B’s spare wheelchair into a makeshift “throne” using a Union Jack towel and red, white and blue balloons. Every single member of the gang was invited (nay, coerced - I can be very persuasive when I want
to be) to sit on the throne and have their photo taken. The Queen, I have to tell you, figured prominently in each and every photograph.
So there you have it -
almost my entire family can claim to have had their photo taken with the Queen.
That’s what you call a brush with Royalty - albeit of the knitted variety....