Sixty years ago today I was 5 years old (well, 5 ¾ actually) and confined to bed, as I gradually recovered from a bad attack of measles. I can still vividly remember that February day when my grandmother, who lived next-door, came into the bedroom to tell me that it had just been announced on the radio that the King had died in the night. An unusual thing to tell a five-year-old, perhaps, but she was genuinely upset and it is my first memory of any event beyond our small family circle.
Fast forward 16 months, to the cold and damp June day of the new Queen’s coronation. This is another indelible memory for me, as it marks my first experience of television. All over
people stretched their budgets to buy a set in order to be able to watch this rare event. Among them was a family who lived just up the hill from our cottage. They were the only people we knew who had television and they kindly invited all the children from our cluster of houses to gather round the tiny black and white screen to watch the pageantry unfold. Britain
My third childhood memory of the Queen can’t be dated exactly, but I can’t have been more than 8. By then we had moved out of the town where I was born and lived in a small village on the western fringe of the Pennines. One morning my parents took my younger sisters and me into town on the early bus and we stood for what seemed like hours in the town centre, overlooking the market place and Town Hall, waiting to see the young Queen, who was visiting our part of
Lancashire that day. I remember the cavalcade of cars coming down the road from the station amid a forest of waving arms, and then having a tiny figure in a pale coat, on a distant stage outside the Town Hall, pointed out to me as the Queen.
From those childhood memories onward, an awareness of the Queen as our hard-working head of state has been the background to my entire life. So today is, for me at least, not a day to debate the merits of monarchy versus presidency as a system for providing a head of state, nor is it a day to dwell on the inevitable failings of any one individual or family. Rather it is a day to acknowledge with gratitude a lifetime of dedicated service by one woman to her country and its people, and to say that today, as every day, I am glad and proud to be British.
Images via Wikipedia and Google