There’s a story to the larger-than-life cutout.
Our friend Rachel had it made up for her commercial work in New York.
She also had cutouts of Prince Charles and Princess Diana.
When Rachel passed way too young, her sister Miriam offered them to us.
Mostly they reside peacefully in our house, but they get brought front and center on occasion, which this most certainly is.
The Royals have a hold on people. This is apparent from the respectful mourning for Queen Elizabeth II, since she passed last Thursday.
Americans seem to be taking stock of how they feel about a monarchy,
The Revolution to get rid of monarchy seems like ancient history.
My wife points out that in recent years, American television has been full of dramas and documentaries about England, almost as if America were longing for a bit of structure and, dare one say it, manners, after four years of being savaged by rabid Trumpian jackals.
Then again, England has a veneer of "royal" manners but they did not stave off the ruinous Brexit or the odious Boris Johnson.
The most interesting evaluation of Elizabeth II comes from Bonnie Greer, an African-American writer who has lived in England since 1986 and now has dual citizenship. Greer said Black “church ladies” in America actively respect and imitate Queen Elizabeth’s poise and dress, her purses and her hats, her image of holding things together.
Both Marianne and I have roots in England that are traceable back to….well, my wife-the-genealogist finds links back to William the Conqueror.
Her family traces back many centuries to the Manchester area. Her mother’s father -- born in Massachusetts -- was a gentle, curious little chap you could envision toddling down to the greengrocer or the chemist, in Rochdale or Bury or Salford or Oldham, where his people came from.
My wife can trace a chain of her family names, all over the world.
My mother was born in England – in Liverpool -- but she would always, always, say, “We were really from Southampton,” where her father was usually posted with the White Star Line, except for a short stint in Liverpool before World War One. Liverpool is known for its scousers – a mix including Irish from just across the sea.
I never heard me mum take credit or pride in Liverpool – not even the Beatles. My kid brother Chris confirms my impressions that our mother, who cried when FDR died, admired Winston Churchill, whose middle name was Spencer. That was also my mother's maiden name, and Princess Diana's maiden name, and a frequent middle name in our sprawling family.
Our mom was very proud of being British; when an Australian relative came to visit, Mom broke out the best English china -- but Chris doesn't think she was very interested in the royals.
My wife and I have both been lucky to visit England, sometimes for weeks at a time.
It is impossible to visit England without being aware of the monarchy – sometimes in person.
My wife once spent 15 muddy, drizzly minutes in the presence of Princess Anne, quite long enough to form an impression. This happened via our friend, a Sloane Square solicitor, whose firm did work for the royal family.
We stayed with him a couple of years when I was covering Wimbledon, which coincided with the rowing races at Henley. (I believe our friend had been a coxswain at one of the colleges of Oxford, but he is gone now, so I cannot check.)
He was a gallant old bachelor who enjoyed squiring Marianne about Henley, on a classically dreadful summer day. They were at a prime reserved table with other connected people – one of them a physician for the Royal Family. As the rain fell, Princess Anne was walking past their table, and she recognized them. They stood up, of course, but with a casual wave she motioned them to sit back down, while she chatted with them.
“She had a white hat and a white brocade dress, covered with mud, and she was wearing Wellies,” my wife recalls, using the common British term for the universal mud boots. She was informal and poised, at the same time, my wife says.
(This sighting matches my impressions of Princess Anne from my years covering the International Olympic Committee. Princess Anne, once an equestrian competitor, later a member of the I.O.C., had a good reputation as an activist against performance-enhancing drugs.)
In England, the Royals are on the telly, in the papers and the magazines, always on the brain. My friend Logan thinks he once saw Queen Elizabeth, a mile or so from Buckingham Palace.
“I was jogging down Jermyn Street one early Sunday morning,” he recalled in an e-mail on Sunday. “No one around. It’s ‘one way.’ A limo passed by me and through the window I got this very regal wave. I waved back. Am sure it was Her Majesty. Spring of 1987, I think.”
I could wonder, wouldn’t the queen have a companion car, smoked windows, bristling security?
But what’s with the wave? My theory is, on a quiet street near the palace, early on a Sunday morning, only queens wave.
I had a royal sighting once, in one of my early assignments to Wimbledon, when the press tribune was directly alongside the Royal Box. Princess Diana was on the guest list that day; we reporters checked her out early and often.
Later, I noticed her looking back at us, perhaps wondering about that raffish lot, as we chattered and gestured our way through the afternoon – a fitting Shakespearean upstairs/downstairs balance to the swells in the Royal Box.
She should have heard some of the Brit reporters, the Beastie Boys with their lurid commentary, imitating plummy royal accents. I’d like to think she would have laughed.
Her two little boys were scuttling around the box, watched by helpers. Their mom was looking around. Her blue eyes were piercing.
I’ve never observed the new King Charles. Our friend Alastair did a wicked imitation of him, making him sound mopey. (Then again, Alastair lived in Wales and referred to England as “them.”)
I read a book that quoted Emma Thompson, a good friend of Charles, about his complexities; she also said he was a good dancer and a good human being.
More and More, I Talk to the Dead--Margaret Renkl
NASHVILLE — After my mother died so suddenly — laughing at a rerun of “JAG” at 10 p.m., dying of a hemorrhagic stroke by dawn — I dreamed about her night after night. In every dream she was willfully, outrageously alive, unaware of the grief her death had caused. In every dream relief poured through me like a flash flood. Oh, thank God!
Then I would wake into keening grief all over again.
Years earlier, when my father learned he had advanced esophageal cancer, his doctor told him he had perhaps six months to live. He lived far longer than that, though I never thought of it as “living” once I learned how little time he really had. For six months my father was dying, and then he kept dying for two years more. I was still working and raising a family, but running beneath the thin soil of my own life was a river of death. My father’s dying governed my days.
After he died, I wept and kept weeping, but I rarely dreamed about my father the way I would dream about my mother nearly a decade later. Even in the midst of calamitous grief, I understood the difference: My father’s long illness had given me time to work death into the daily patterns of my life. My mother’s sudden death had obliterated any illusion that daily patterns are trustworthy.
Years have passed now, and it’s the ordinariness of grief itself that governs my days. The very air around me thrums with absence. I grieve the beloved high-school teacher I lost the summer after graduation and the beloved college professor who was my friend for more than two decades. I grieve the father I lost nearly 20 years ago and the father-in-law I lost during the pandemic. I grieve the great-grandmother who died my junior year of college and the grandmother who lived until I was deep into my 40s.
Some of those I grieve are people I didn’t even know. How can John Prine be gone? I hear his haunting last song, “I Remember Everything,” and I still can’t quite believe that John Prine is gone.
Jan. 30, 2023