I was six years old when I first saw Her Majesty the Queen. It was the year after her coronation and she was visiting New Zealand. Her motorcade passed along the main road through Johnsonville on its way to Wellington. There were huge crowds of people and us little ones had been given periscopes, an amazing invention at the time, which meant we could see above the many taller heads. Visitors from across the sea were rare in those days, but a young and pretty Queen was the stuff of fairy tales and magic. And we had our mementoes to reinforce it all. School children across the country had been given coronation medals. They were a sparkly gold colour attached to a royal blue ribbon. My parents had given me a pop up picture book called ‘Long Live the Queen.’ Judging from the internet many others had the same book.
I remember cutting out the picture of the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh, from this book, and wrapping it in a piece of red satin. I also remember a neighbourhood friend and myself, climbing onto soap boxes and making queen-like speeches. That was a long time ago now but throughout all the Queen has been there; keeping the promises she made on her accession, to do her best for her subjects. She has led a life of constancy and service and her ability to change and adapt under the sometimes harsh spotlight of public scrutiny is remarkable.
Looking at my mementoes again today, they seem lacklustre. That which gave them light has gone. The person who many saw as invincible. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth 11. I give thanks for her life, for the values she held so strong. For her sense of humour and enjoyment in many things. For her courage. For the example she leaves to all. And most of all for her humanity. I love the photo taken just two days before her death, which showed a very real person, comfortably dressed and wearing a cardigan as she welcomed her new prime minister with a beautiful smile.
I humbly join with millions to add my deepest sympathies to her family. And also to those in the United Kingdom who are mourning her so much.