Tuesday 8 February 2022

A Platinum Jubilee

Hello, thank you for calling in.  Is all well?  I seem to be careering from one metaphorical punctuation mark to the next without taking time to sit down and read the whole paragraph and it's making me feel quite unsettled.  This time of year is all about birthdays in our family which is rather lovely, but we've also had two stress-inducing covid isolations and the hideous news of a terminal illness.  However, I am trying to be a glass-half-full kind of person so the good news is that there is plenty of supply teaching work for the Best Beloved so the coffers are filling and I might even be able to buy myself a new, hardback copy of Jane Eyre!

The news over the weekend was dominated by the revolving doors at 10 Downing Street but something significant happened on Sunday: the seventieth anniversary of our Queen's accession to the throne.  During my lifetime we have had ten Prime Ministers but only one Queen and no British monarch has reigned for as long as Elizabeth II, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith (to give her her full title and yes, I did have to look it up).  Celebrations will come in June when, hopefully, the weather will be sunnier, warmer and drier than it is in February and anyway, I always feel a little bit sad for HM on this day because it is, after all, the anniversary of her father's death.  Here is the first paragraph of her message to the nation, published on Saturday:

Tomorrow, 6th February, marks the 70th anniversary of my Accession in 1952. It is a day that, even after 70 years, I still remember as much for the death of my father, King George VI, as for the start of my reign.

So, there was no great royalist celebration here on Sunday (or, perhaps, on any day) but I did ask my mother about her memories of 6th February 1952.

Ma was born and raised in London and was at primary school that day.  It was an ordinary Wednesday until just before lunchtime when the headmaster, Mr Kershaw, entered the classroom and told the children that the King was dead.  This was shocking news and after Ma had bolted down her lunch she ran home and relayed it to her parents; ordinarily, her father would have been at work but he had annual leave to use up and had taken a day off work so he was also at home to receive the news from his young daughter.  Isn't that funny, that he should have taken that particular day off?  Ma told me that her parents couldn't really believe it so they turned on the radio and heard the BBC announcement which confirmed that the King was indeed dead.  Although we now know that he had been ill for months with lung cancer, Ma says that the general public didn't know that at the time which was why the news came as such a shock. 

The King's body lay in the church at Sandringham until 11th February when the coffin travelled to London and was placed in Westminster Hall.  The King lay in state there for three days and my grandfather took Ma to pay their respects.  Apparently, at times that queue was four miles long because in all, more than 304,000 people passed through the Hall before the funeral on 15th February.    

There may be more family folklore to come later, perhaps next year, as both of my parents were on the London streets on Coronation Day in 1953 to watch Queen Elizabeth drive past in her golden carriage.  In the meantime, I raise my cup of tea to HM and thank her for seventy years of service.  If nothing else, she deserves admiration for enduring weekly meetings with those Prime Ministers and for wearing coats made heavy by the weights in their hems and hats with contraptions fitted inside to clamp them to her head and prevent them blowing off in the wind.  

I don't have any photographs of the Queen and her father to show you so instead I offer you this image of my mother with her father and younger sister, taken in the summer of 1952.

See you soon.

Love, Mrs Tiggywinkle x