There are moments in life that anchor you to a time and a place. Yesterday afternoon, when I heard the news that the Queen had died, I was at Blain’s Farm and Fleet in Baraboo. Family-owned since 1955, the store has been part of people’s lives here in Wisconsin for almost as many years as Queen Elizabeth II was a part of our lives. Suddenly I felt very far from home. I hoped, unrealistically perhaps, that someone might hear my English accent and offer condolences, express regret and tell me how sad they felt that Her Majesty had died. On February 6th, 1952, my father himself had been here in America when news of the death of King George VI was announced. In Peter’s diary, he expresses appreciation that several of the masters at Groton School chose to wear black ties in Chapel that morning.
Later in the day, I received an email from Doug, one of the ‘boys’ my father had taught at Groton 70 years ago. He told me how very sad he felt that the Queen was dead.
When Franklin Delano Roosevelt died in 1945, my mother-in-law felt bereft – FDR was the only President she had ever known. At his funeral a man, openly weeping, was asked Did you know the President? No, he replied, but he knew me. For most people alive in the UK today, Queen Elizabeth II is the only monarch we have ever known.
As Henry James said when Queen Victoria died in 1901. Today we all feel a bit motherless. And a bit grandmotherless too.