I will cry for the Queen tomorrow like I cried 10 days ago when I heard she died. I had just switched my TV to BBC One that Thursday night when the channel’s logo appeared briefly on the screen in black and white tones before returning to present Huw Edwards. “This is BBC News from London,” he began, reinforcing the feeling that I’d just been pulled back into another era through some kind of time warp. “Buckingham Palace has announced the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.”
The news didn’t come as a shock – the hours before with cameras trained on the Balmoral gates had foreshadowed what was to come – but now I could feel hot tears rolling down my cheeks. I held my breath, hoping to swallow them quietly before my husband noticed. I was embarrassed that he might see me cry for the Queen of England. I’m not a monarchist, but I’m clearly fascinated by the British royals – as an institution, as celebrities and as a family. A lot of my friends are confused that someone who frequents Hill 16 to support the dubs might also subscribe to a podcast on the latest royal scandals.
This interest was first sparked by my grandmother, who was an expert on the history of the British monarchy. Over the years she has read hundreds of books (this was one woman who always had at least four books on the go) about the royals and the ruling classes. She was absorbed in our history together and could tell you as much about the Plantagenets as she could about the Mitfords or Princess Diana.
On the day in 2018 that Prince Harry married Meghan Markle, I invited my grandma, mother and aunts to watch the wedding over afternoon tea at my home. I will never forget opening the front door to see “Meghan”, “Harry”, “Charles” and of course “The Queen” staring at me. My grandma, a short woman with white curly hair, didn’t need a paper mask under her plastic tiara to look like her royal counterpart.
It was a reflex at the time that when Queen Elizabeth’s death was announced, I wanted to talk to my grandma about it. And that’s why I really cried.
My great grandma passed away January 2021. “After a short illness” would be the polite way of putting it, but in truth this active, dedicated, loving woman was snatched from us; Unwell on a Sunday afternoon, she was rushed to hospital and died in an operating room on Friday morning. My family was abandoned, the shock made worse by the fact that the country was on lockdown. Four days later her funeral took place with 10 family members in the church and at the grave.
Back then, we counted the small graces: that the virus hadn’t taken them; that we were allowed 10 people when there had been people buried alone; that my sister was “at least” able to watch the funeral online from her home in the UK. Then we returned to our caged lives without the comfort that an Irish funeral should offer.
I have felt the loss of my grandmother deeply many times since that day, but hearing the news of the Queen’s death triggered my grief all over again. I cried not only for the death of the Queen, who is herself a grandmother and great-grandmother, but also for the grandma I lost. Gasping for air as the surge of emotion hit me hard, my poor husband was surprised at the sobbing mess that had suddenly appeared next to him.
A few minutes later, a friend who lost her own mother last year texted. Another keen royal watcher, her mother, would have been glued to the unfolding news. We exchanged messages of comfort and remembrance as our tears flowed for our loved ones.
Over the past 10 days I have been drawn to watching the pageantry unfold across the UK, as I suspect many survivors have. It is undoubtedly an exaggeration, but at the same time it seems appropriate to see death marked with pomp and ceremony, mourning attire and floral honours. It seems right that losses are not tacitly accepted, but publicly proclaimed. Above all, it feels right that death is marked with a great coming together of people to mourn and celebrate and find comfort in one another.
For me, tomorrow will not only be a funeral for Britain’s longest-serving monarch, but a focal point to mourn all that we have lost in the horrors of the pandemic. I will cry for the queen – and also for my grandma.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/i-cried-for-the-queen-and-my-own-beloved-granny-41997191.html I cried for the Queen – and for my beloved grandma