Like many others, I have a soft spot for Queen Elizabeth II, although growing up in an old IRA household where being ‘pro-British’ or ‘a Shoneen’ was at its worst; The biggest disparagement to my maternal grandmother was “her father wasn’t an RIC man”.
Sadly she was dead when we discovered her own people, West Cork Presbyterians displayed proud RIC men, her descendant Charles Edward Tanner became Chief Inspector of the New Zealand Police, managed Elizabeth and Philip’s 1953 visit and made it on the Queen’s Birthday Honors List 1963 for Distinguished Service to “Her Majesty”.
Like many others, my soft spot for Elizabeth, despite being the queen, and not because of it: her good nature and grace, being more of a heartbroken 1990s mother than a royal ma’am bowing to our dead patriot shaking the hand of Martin McGuinness, her joyful visit in 2011, who managed to educate her personally about the inherited memory of dispossession, the epigenetics of hunger and trauma, the remaining and appropriate contempt for “Empire”, its belligerence, cruelty and bring plunder.
Through longevity and ubiquity, her gentle power, the duty and charm, cardigans and corgis, three-strand pearls, handbags and crowns, jewels of historical and alarming origins, her handsome husband doing the fxxking picture, with his mother the nun , her was simply “the queen” in our life and reference, her cooler peers in Belgium, Denmark, Spain, Sweden never got a look from President Macron nor from us.
Above all, she was there, part of the institution of public life all our lives: Kennedy, De Gaulle, Franco, Mandela, Gorbachev, Obama; Lech Walesa and Solidarity, Havel and the Velvet Revolution, Thatcher and the miners, the Bushes and their Gulf Wars; Blair with his sex education dossier and people’s princess; Carl Sagan and his Pale Blue Dot; Internment and Bloody Sunday, the Good Friday Agreement; Apollo 11 and 9/11; the fall of the Berlin Wall, the unification of Germany, the lifting of the Iron Curtain; Putin and Zelenskyy; the Beatles and Bowie and everyone, everything in between. Also, in this pantheon of patriarchy, she was a woman. If Charlotte Wales doesn’t knock out her grandfather, father and big brother, we’ll never see a queen again. It’s a king, says the catchy anthem, he must be saved: apologies, amends, breakups, a good start to the process.
In a world that worships celebrity and nothingness, where “react” trumps “reflect” in the tyranny of “instantly” and “instantly,” it was amazing how many of those who lined up to pay their respects to the queen , this was done in an act of thanks and reflection
In our personal lives, her reign marked an expression of our joys and losses. By saying goodbye to the queen, we say goodbye to those we’ve lost and leave them in that defined and formative era when we were alive and happy together. I think of my Republican father who, when Cork got the BBC on TV, never missed the Trooping of the Color just for the music, the theatre, the pomp and circumstance. He watched the Cenotaph ceremony, which honored the “common workers”, including all the Blarney Street boys who fought in the trenches “not for king or emperor”, while shortly afterwards their neighbours, the Ballycannon Boys, were gutted by forces with the same royal and imperial insignia.
In a world that worships celebrity and nothingness, where “react” trumps “reflect” in the tyranny of “instantly” and “instantly,” it was amazing how many of those who lined up to pay their respects to the queen , did this in an act of thanksgiving and reflection, often in honor of a dead parent, grandparent. It wasn’t the Pearly Kings and Queens camped for royal births, but the vast and silent majority who don’t take to social media to glorify the new king or wish his mother a “agonizing,” “agonizing,” death that erodes her righteousness revamped and “humanity” at it. If we lived our personal lives through the live-kill thrills of social media there would be no processing, no integration, no transformation of loss, suffering, atrocities, since mercy and the time for all things in Ecclesiastes at Edinburgh Worship is described, these forums have long given up.
But this mercy was writ large in all the services marking the Queen’s death; the mercy we show ourselves and one another as we gather in community, singing the comforting, stabilizing hymns of childhood, school, marriage, baptism, funeral, and in time our own. From London to Edinburgh, with heads bowed by the great, good and not-so-good, services served as a reminder that we humans are not the be-all and end-all of existence, even when the fastidious god of secularism is placated and worshipped.
As we live not only our own lives, but the lives of our time and often the unfinished business of our ancestors, we now face a time of transition, of adjustment; although the public mourning over the water doesn’t mean we’re raising brutalized, stripped, squatted gallons of amnesia’s milk here or anywhere in the farthest “places.”
Aware that in Scotland families had been queuing for generations, St Giles’s hummed as grandparents turned the heads of confused toddlers and told them whom they were honoring, their small breaths and waves made them part of the breadth and sweep of the Story of which they will tell their own descendants: “I was there”.
Writer Jeanette Winterson changed into black when the Queen’s death became likely. I put on the pearls bequeathed to me by a neighbor, Sheila Madden, a beloved family of mine and who have adored Princess Elizabeth since childhood, concert time to honor this final bond between us. Complicated right?
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/despite-growing-up-in-an-old-ira-household-i-had-a-soft-spot-for-elizabeth-even-though-she-was-the-queen-41998743.html Despite growing up in an old IRA household, I had a soft spot for Elizabeth – even though she was the Queen