Sometimes I thought she could carry on until she was 100 or more, an immortality of sorts that would give us more time to think about a possible death. But it happened so suddenly when we still needed her, and it seemed so unexpected. She was always present, like a good mother and then grandmother is, in an unpretentious way, without being loud or judgemental. She knew her place and her duty, realising that continuity and balance are crucial to personal and national well-being. Her image was not a glamorous one, but she was good-looking until old age, wearing bright, all-one-colour outfits that stood out against the grey British weather.
Many people have spoken about her dedication, selflessness and work ethic, which are all true, but I think she really enjoyed what she was doing and believed in it. When Philip Larkin wrote the lines ‘when nothing stood/But worsened or grew strange … She did not change’ for her Silver Jubilee, I don’t think he was completely right. In my opinion, her strength was her capacity to be steady but also to adapt to the different situations that arose, or at least in part. Examples of her flexible attitude are the way she dealt with the divorces of her children, even though she had a 73-year marriage with Prince Philip, and the turbulences and scandals she had to face from within the royal family, ranging from those relating to Diana and, recently, to Prince Andrew, to Harry and Meghan’s exit from the UK and the reshaping of the Commonwealth.
I especially liked her sense of humour, which is displayed in her short performance for the Olympics in 2012, when she was in a scene with James Bond, and her famous appearance with Paddington Bear for the Platinum Jubilee. Here are the links:
The video clips are not just entertaining; they also reveal an easy-going and positive approach to life. This is a characteristic she also expressed in the coronavirus-related address to the nation in 2020 when she said ‘We’ll meet again’, echoing Vera Lynn’s wartime song. It was a hopeful message that recalled the difficult times of the Second World War that she experienced with her people, as always.
The obituaries, articles and BBC programmes and the celebrations in the UK and around the world that are dedicated to her life and death are all so moving and sincere that they inspire deep respect and admiration. We are already thinking about the new king, Charles III, and about the kings to come. But we will always remember her.
The Saturday after her death, I went to London and tried to reach the Queen Victoria Memorial, along with thousands of other people flooding towards Buckingham Palace holding bunches of flowers. But The Strand was blocked and there was no way to access the square. The crowd was diverted towards Green Park, where there was a tree surrounded by flowers, candles and cards. I left my sunflowers and red rose there, and I am sure that, somehow, she will receive my message to her.