Growing up in the Baker family – relocated from England to Canada – the Royal Family were sort of like distant family members with whom you had little in common, but were mildly interested in.
Our house wasn’t bedecked with royal memorabilia, although today I’m the proud owner of a coronation mug for the short-lived King Edward VIII, who sat on the throne for less than a year.
His abdication in December of 1936 to marry the American Wallis Simpson changed the course of royal events. It would ultimately result in his niece, Queen Elizabeth II ascending to the throne in 1952 after the death of her father, King George VI at age 56.
In 1947, when Princess Elizabeth married Philip Mountbatten, I’m sure few people could have imagined that their lives would be upended a mere five years later with the loss of her father.
Now, with the death of Prince Philip – or just plain old Philip as my mum typically referred to him – it feels like the end of an era, and although he was a few years older than the Queen, we know that her reign will certainly come to a close within the conceivable future.
I know that there are many people who don’t understand the significance of the British monarchy, or would prefer that it simply fade into the woodworks like those of other countries, but I’m not one of them.
I appreciate the history, the pomp and pageantry and the sheer spectacle of it all, not to mention the tourism bang for the buck that comes with it.
I well remember my first brush with royalty before we had even left England.
My father was stationed at RAF Shawbury at the time, and as I recall, the Queen was due to make a royal visit. I only remember the incident because of the crushing disappointment my mother felt when we missed the event despite her best efforts at organizing three girls under the age of five or six for the outing.
Fast forward to June of 1973 and my Girl Guides group in Cambridge were among those selected to take part in the visit of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip to our neck of the woods. Our job was to be at the front of the large crowds, holding our hands together to hold them back. In hindsight, I’m not sure what a bunch of teenaged girls was going to do if somebody had been determined to get by, but thankfully, it didn’t come to that!
Our job meant we had a bird’s eye view of the royal couple as they strode by, waving and smiling at the crowds, and even though they didn’t linger in front of us, I still recall the exhilaration of the event.
My second and final glimpse of the Queen came in 1997 when she visited London, Ont. I was working at a small newspaper in Rodney at the time and we were on the list of area outlets who were offered media accreditation, so off I went!
In the days since Prince Philip died, just shy of his 100th birthday, much has been written about the man who famously trailed “two steps behind” his wife.
Despite being painted as somewhat of a caricature at times during his life, we are now getting a more fulsome picture of the man, and the significant role he played, within his own family and in ensuring that the British monarchy would not fall victim to the same fate that had befallen so many other royal houses, including his own.
He exemplified the word “duty,” which was also my dad’s favourite word when rolling out anything unpleasant that we had to do. Of course, Dad usually had a smile on his face when he was saying it, but it was always a subtle reminder that everyone was expected to contribute, as required, to the greater good.
And despite the drama in more recent years, the royal family have long stood as consistent and guiding lights during difficult times.
The British monarchy has evolved and adapted to changing times, and much of that push to remain relevant can be credited to Prince Philip, and no matter what the future might hold, he has certainly left his mark.
Stay well and stay focused my friends.