I confess that I have a thing for Queen Elizabeth II and it is not only because I get chills whenever I hear someone sing "God Save the Queen." I have a thing for Elizabeth Alexandra Windsor because I was born in Canada (part of the Commonwealth) and she is the only QueenI have ever known. So I am glad she is here in the States once again and certainly glad that she is going to the Kentucky Derby. Like me, she likes horses. Unlike me, she likes goofy hats.
(AP Photo/Gary C. Knapp)
I was born in 1966, one year after the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Dominion of Canada; one year after the Union Jack was officially removed from the flag of Canada. In 1977, when I was 10 years old, QEII celebrated her 25th anniversary as monarch. In my elementary school in Montreal, all official business came to a stop that day. Our teachers wheeled in a television set and for hours we watched the glorious ceremonies from Britain. She used to be beautiful,you know, she used to look a little like another famous Elizabeth—Elizabeth Taylor—and I suppose that history will judge who aged more gracefully.
But back to school. In those days, even in public school, we had to sing "God Save the Queen" from time to time (or so I remember). Like perhaps thousands of other little boys and girls, I would riotously sing instead: "God Shave our Gracious Queen, Shave her with Shaving Cream, God Shave the Queen." But, honestly, I didn't intend it as an offense to Elizabeth II. I intended it more as an act of rebellion against my teachers, who must have found the whole thing more than a little archaic even back then.
Nope, Elizabeth was my Queen then and she still is now. She was my Queen when it became clear to the world that her husband was a cad and that her only child was odd. She was my Queen in good times and bad, when disaster struck her family and when she hosted some of the most majestic ceremonies of our time. I still love hearing her talk. If I met her I would probably get tears in my eyes. I heard this morning that two Americans have (gasp!) actually hugged her (a protocol no-no, I am told). Maybe I would ask her if I could be the third.
I know that she and the whole Windsor clan are a bit of a curiosity to Americans. Having thrown away the British monarchy a few hundred years ago we are invested in the notion that Kings and Queens are bad for democracy, etc. And perhaps that is why it is so hard for people to understand that there really can exist a strong and gracious bond between monarch and subject. QEII never affected my life in any way. But I am very glad she is still around and I will very much miss her when she is gone. It has been 30 years since that day in 1977 when I watched her celebrate. I will remember it 30 years from now and for the rest of my life. Thanks for that, Liz. You rock.