John Grindrod: The passing of a queen prompted thoughts of Mom

On September 8, the United Kingdom lost her Queen, Elizabeth II, who reigned for 70 years, 246 days, the longest for any female head of state in world history. At 96, she didn’t quite make it to the 101 her mother did, but 96 is a really good run nonetheless. The TV coverage, of course, was quite extensive — both the mourning period and the funeral itself, which, given all the postmortem pomp and circumstance of such a personage, actually didn’t occur until September 19.

I know if my mother were alive, she surely would have pretty much been glued to the TV screen. Few people who didn’t actually live in the United Kingdom under her mostly ceremonial reign loved the Royal Family as much as Mom. You see, my mother was born in Nova Scotia in 1918 and since Canada wasn’t granted its independence from Britain until 1931, Mom would forever see whoever sat on the throne as someone to be given deferential regard long after she arrived in America as a very young girl.

As a bit of a packrat, I often journey back in time using old magazines that find their way into my possession. In the case of one of those magazines — an issue of Look Magazine from April 1962 — after Mom’s passing in 1988, while cleaning out her house and readying it for sale, I found the magazine in a closet where Mom kept keepsakes.The magazine’s cover shows a young Queen Elizabeth, about to enter her ninth year as monarch, and the cover story’s title was a query, “Is Queen Elizabeth under Fire?” The image on the cover of the 36-year-old Queen showed her with eyes cast downward looking rather pensive.

For those of you who may be too young to remember Look magazine, during my early childhood in the second half of the 1950s and the first half of the ‘60s, it partnered with Life and Saturday Evening Post as the three most popular general information-pop culture weekly periodicals in the country. Especially popular with women, Look was on the coffee tables of pretty much all the houses of my pals in which I often found myself and was revered by moms as much as Sports Illustrated was revered by dads and their sons.

While Look would eventually fold as a weekly just nine years later, in 1962, with a weekly circulation of over seven million, it was at its pinnacle back in a time when print magazines were so very popular, in an age long before there was an internet, an iPad or a smart phone.

Now, I will tell you that I never could conjure the same enthusiasm for the Royals as Mom. After all, I’m a product of a country that, from the moment our colonials vanquished the Redcoats and rendered King George III just another guy, hasn’t been beholding to any monarch. Really, that family and their castles and palaces in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland really hasn’t meant all that much to me.

Admittedly, I’ve also had some resentment over what I think has been a pretty cushy lifestyle and wealth that is pretty obscene. One article I read during the coverage of the Queen’s passing was about King Charles III and Queen Consort Camilla’s visit to the royal residence in Northern Ireland — I suppose, just to see what they’ve done to the place, since a five-year renovation had just been completed on the Georgian mansion that cost in the neighborhood of 25 million pounds. It was an estate that Queen Elizabeth, I’m guessing, thought little of it, since, the article mentioned she hadn’t visited even once the last six years of her life.

Anyway, as a tribute to Mom, I did read the cover story to find out just what was troubling the Queen back in 1962. And, if you’ve followed the Netflix series The Crown, which my mom also would have watched with keen interest, much of what troubled the Queen has been covered on Netflix, such as the bad press involving Princess Margaret’s marriage to that commoner, photographer Tony Armstrong-Jones; the increased snarkiness of the British press when writers caught wind of news involving how much the allowances were for various members of the family; and how much money was taken from the British treasury to buy aircraft for a squadron of aircraft called The Queen’s Flight. The aircraft, British columnist John Gordon was quoted in the Look article, was primarily used “to transport her relatives for free and carry fruit and flowers to Balmoral {the Queen’s favorite castle in Scotland}.”

There was also a perception by many that the Royals, who turned so much of the child rearing over to staff, weren’t all that fond of their children. Sniffed Gordon, who wrote for the Sunday Express, “Royalty regard their children like cattle.”

My guess is Mom was pretty upset by all the criticism leveled her people in that article but, surprisingly, she still saved the magazine.

Yes, with the passing of Queen Elizabeth, of course, I did think of her, but, I must admit, I had many more thoughts of another Queen, whose kingdom was that small ranch at 1525 Latham and the love and guidance she provided to her loyal subjects, my sis and me.

John Grindrod is a regular columnist for The Lima News, a freelance writer and editor and the author of two books. Reach him at [email protected]