The Queen and I
While watching the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II in recent days, I realized I must be a full-blown monarchist. How could I be anything else? I was born and raised in Guelph, the Royal City, lived across from St. George’s Park, patron saint of England, and attended King George Public School.
When the Queen was crowned in 1953, film of the coronation in Westminster Abbey was flown by the RAF and RCAF to Canada for broadcast on CBC. Hardly anyone had television in those days, so the neighbourhood gathered in the auditorium of the aforementioned school and watched the ceremony later that same day on televisions placed strategically on stands, one on each of the four walls.
I first saw the Queen in person in 1959 when she visited Guelph. I read somewhere recently that she asked on that occasion why Guelph was called the Royal City. I can’t imagine she didn’t already know that the city was named by its founder, John Galt, in 1827, using the medieval German House of Guelfs, the ancestral family of George IV. The name had not been previously used as a place name.
Her Majesty was accompanied by Prince Philip. I went with my parents to a good spot on London Road (where else?) as they passed by in a convertible. A neighbour family had an even better view. They’d brought along a step ladder so all their kids could clamber up. The fact that they were American did not stop them from enjoying the parade that included local Member of Parliament, Alf Hales, the Guelph Pipe Band, and a passel of Navy cadets, among other participants.
While living in England from 1987-1988, my late wife and I were included in the guest list of invitees to the annual garden party at Buckingham Palace. All you usually see of the palace is the massive stone front, but there is a garden out back that must be a half a mile long and a quarter of a mile wide. The several hundred guests formed a large horseshoe. The Queen, Philip, Prince Charles and Lady Di worked their way along the inside of the formation. You couldn’t reach out, but you waited, and every so often a member of the Royal Family would stop and chat with someone. We weren’t picked, but we had up-close looks.
So when an estimated 250,000 people lined up for hours to pay their respects to the Queen last weekend, I didn’t need to to be there. I’ve been in the line all my life.