MY FIRST memory of watching TV was as a 9-year-old boy in June 1953. Along with 27 million other people in Britain, the family and many of our neighbours were watching the coronation of Elizabeth II on a small black and white screen. I think Dad had bought the TV especially for the event.
It was a memory prompted 63 years and 216 days later when Queen Elizabeth II became our longest serving monarch, passing the term set by her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria.
Like all Baby Boomers, I have in many ways grown up with the Queen. I have followed the family adventures and disasters in magazines and newspapers, on television and sometimes at live events. I remember God Save The Queen announcing the closing of TV programs each night, and at the end of the evening film performance in the cinema. For many years, I made a point of tuning in to the Queen’s Christmas message.
I have lived in several Commonwealth countries where a Royal visit brings out the crowds in almost greater numbers than in Britain. Two years after her coronation, Queen Elizabeth became the first monarch of Australia to set foot on Australian soil and she has been back a further 15 times since then.
As a Pom living in Australia, I cannot understand the clamour which links republicanism with anti-monarchism. I am sure Australia will one day become a republic but I am equally sure the Monarch will be as popular as ever, albeit as Head of the Commonwealth rather than Head of State.
The Queen and hubby, the Duke of Edinburgh, were last in Perth in 2011 when the Duke helped serve one or two of the 160,000 barbeque sausages that constituted the Western Australian version of the Royal garden party. Unfortunately, I didn’t manage to get near the bbq table yet alone be served by the Duke.
The informality of the Perth bbq was all a far cry from the elegance of the Buckingham Palace garden tea parties which the Queen hosts three times a year. My Mum made it to one of those. She was then in her 80s and living in New Zealand but visiting London to see my older brother. Brother Allen managed to cause a bit of a flurry when he drove up to the front gates of Buck House with Mum only to be told to go round the back!
Over the years, I have managed to see the Queen a few times, almost on a personal basis when our cars crossed paths in Windsor Great Park through which I drove to work. The Queen, scarf on head, was often driving herself in a battered Land Rover and although I didn’t get a royal wave I did get a brief smile on one occasion.
My wife had a closer encounter a couple of times when, as a Windsor based journalist, she was covering Royal Ascot and on another occasion a Royal visit to the meteorological centre at Bracknell.
She has done well, our Liz. May it long continue.
By the way, if you look at the photo taken at Stratford on Avon museum, that’s me on the left… a bit ashamed of my Aussie informality.