Elizabeth the Great, RIP

Growing up in a family of nine and prior to a major remodel, we lived in a two-bedroom, one-bath house on Yuma Trail, in Bisbee, Arizona. It was laid out in a circular fashion, with two doors on the bathroom. Having a bathroom with two doors is not a good idea, and thankfully those have long since gone out of fashion. As for the bedrooms? My parents’ bedroom held their bed and a tiny wooden crib which was occupied by whatever baby was the most recent arrival at the time. The other bedroom, “the kids’ bedroom” was for everyone else. It had a “three-quarter” bed, a single bed, a pair of bunk beds, and a large metal crib occupied by the next youngest child. In other words. There wasn’t much privacy.

Then I met a new friend. Her name was Pat McAdams. Her family lived about three quarters of a block from our house, as long as I took the short-cut through Mr. and Mrs. Corbett’s yard. There were three bedrooms in their house and only two kids. That meant that both Pat and her brother Ted each had their own room. Come to think of it, there was a two-door bathroom between their two bedrooms, too. I’m REALLY glad those have gone out of style, but I digress.

When Pat and I were eight, the major thing happening on the world wide stage was the coronation of Queen Elizabeth. We spent hours on the carpeted floor and in the privacy of Pat’s bedroom, playing with her set of coronation paper dolls. As we did so, we tried to imagine what it must be like to be a princess or a queen. What would it be like to live in a castle? What would it be like to dress in one of those sumptuous gowns. By the way, a few years ago, Pat sent me a vintage set of those paper dolls for my birthday.

What we didn’t know at the time was that, for Elizabeth, being a queen would mean spending the next seventy years putting duty to her country above everything else. And so we watched the pomp and circumstance surrounding her coronation on the tiny screens of the black and white television sets in our homes in blissful ignorance of the reality of how Queen Elizabeth’s life would turn out. Throughout her reign she was dignified and gracious. I think her only real misstep was trying to impose her own sense of what constitutes royal duty onto her children by insisting her son marry someone considered to be suitable as opposed to allowing him to follow his heart. We all know how that turned out.

In the early eighties, as a Cub Scout den mother, I stood in a crowd of blue-capped boys, while Queen Elizabeth, decked out in a vivid blue coat and hat, spoke to us from the steps of the Pacific Science Center in Seattle. So yes, I did get to see her once in person.

In my lifetime, I’ve witnessed what I consider to be three worldwide funerals so far—JFK’s, Princess Diana’s, and Mother Theresa’s, the latter two within days of one another. Queen Elizabeth’s funeral this coming Monday will be number 4.

But this week, I’ve been thinking about the shock and horror that surrounded President Kennedy’s death. I came back to the dorm from my Friday morning classes that day to find all the girls from Pima Hall gathered in the living room around the television set. We sat there for hours and most of the afternoon all of us crying.

As an underclassman, I was required to have at least one evening class, and mine was a Monday, Wednesday, Friday Humanities class. Since there was no such thing as social media back then, there was really no way to tell students which individual classes were cancelled and which weren’t, so that night I, along with most of the rest of the students. showed up for class, and so did our professor, Dr. Ketchum. We came in and sat down while he took roll. Then he opened a book and read William Carlos William’s poem, “Let me teach you, my townspeople, how to perform a funeral.” After reading that, Dr. Ketchum told us class was over, and the next week, we all watched as our country learned how to do exactly that—perform a funeral with the widow and children walking behind a horse-drawn casket.

On Monday, I’ll be watching—along the with the rest of the world—as Elizabeth the Great is laid to rest, having cast off the burdens of duty and left them behind her. Last week I heard a commentator say that during her lifetime, Prince Philip was the only one who could make her laugh, often by telling her politically incorrect jokes.

Once my father passed away, the laughter went out of Evie’s life, and I believe the same held true for Queen Elizabeth once Prince Philip was gone.

I trust those two sets of lifetime partners are together again, and that all four of them are laughing their heads off.

32 thoughts on “Elizabeth the Great, RIP

  1. I remember Kennedy’s funeral all too well. We were living in DC at the time. When he was shot I heard the news on the radio.?

    • I saw the queen in 1973 in London. It was a procession to somewhere with a visiting head of state – Nigeria I think. Horse draw open carriage with her and the visitor.

      I never would have thought that she would reign for another 49 years

  2. I was teaching Third Grate when Kennedy was killed. The news came in on TV during our lunch hour. Our Principal instructed us not mention it to the kids and not to turn on our TVs because it was a sensitive issue that should handled by their parents.
    The kids returning from lunch at home had all of the information … with all of the gory details. So much for saving the news for the parents to deliver
    We spent the afternoon watching TV..

  3. I was nine when President Kennedy was killed. I was in Catholic school at the time, and it was the only time I ever saw a nun cry. They told us in school. I think they figured out how to let us watch some of the funeral at school.

    That was a difficult time in my family’s home, because my father was a rabid Republican who had said many nasty things about Kennedy during his term. I remember being on tenterhooks for some time after the assassination, afraid that my own feelings, patterned after the devoted (and I idolized them at that age) Sisters of St. Joseph, would trigger a paternal rampage.

    Neither of the other funerals you mentioned seem to have made as strong an impression on me; my children would have been 7 and 9 and I think the post-divorce relationship was deteriorating rapidly. I have more intense memories of the Challenger disaster and 9/11, the endless loops of video footage of both. I know where I was when each of those events occurred. I wonder if any of your readers remember Franklin Roosevelt’s funeral, which was apparently as ceremonious as one could get in wartime.

    Queen Elizabeth II is the only British monarch I have known. My grandmother never lost her accent, though she was a naturalized US citizen. Had Grandma been alive at the 50th, 60th, 70th jubilees, there would have been commemorative china in her home. I’m moved by the ceremony and have been watching the retrospectives.

    Whenever you mention those paper dolls, I have to smile. I had numerous paper doll sets and loved them. I would tell stories in my head as I played with them, and my three-dimensional dolls, for many hours.

    God rest the Queen; God save the King!

    • My dad too was a dyed in the wool Republican. I remember him saying when Kennedy beat Nixon, that he was sure that Kennedy would only be a one term president. Dad was right, unfortunately, but not.for the.reason that my dad meant.

  4. My sister and I had those paper dolls also. I remember the little dresses they had for their father’s coronation. I saw the dresses on display on one of my trips to London. I was surprised how little they are..

    I was a senior in high school and watched her coronation on a black and white tv in a classmate’s living room. Her parents were one of the few families in town who had a tv set and our class was invited to watch.

    I’ve been to London several times and visited Westminster Abbey. I’ve also toured St. George’s Chapel at Windsor. Both are impressive places. I’ll be watching everything on Monday. Things won’t be the same without her.

  5. I meant to mention that I read Marion Crawford’s book about the princesses . I was insanely jealous to learn that Elizabeth had her own pony. I really didn’t understand what being a princess was all about.

  6. With respect, you seem to have forgotten that as Queen, she was the titular head of the Church of England
    and as such, it was her DUTY to support the rules and teachings of the C of E including the fact that a monarch cannot marry a divorced person.
    Remember that her uncle had to resign because he wanted to marry a divorced woman which essentially and unexpectedly put Elizabeth on the throne.

  7. Something you and I will never know, is how Elizabeth managed to get the leaders of the C of E to change their policy so Charles could marry Camilla and still retain his right to the throne.
    I suspect it was a major issue for her, not allowing her son to marry the woman he loved, and threatening him with abdication if he did.
    But she managed it somehow.
    Even if it was a “private” wedding

  8. Very poignant and memory provoking blog…like you and many others of a certain age, King Charles is my third monarch. When I was born, King George VI was king of England, then Elizabeth II, and now Charles III. I remember watching Elizabeth’s coronation on a small B&W TV at age 9 when I lived in Ohio. For a while, as a teen, I was enamored of Prince Charles – if that fantasy ever came true, I would be Queen Valerie the first! Of course, there would never have been a Diana or Camilla!
    Kennedy’s death shocked and paralyzed me. I was in Mercy College in Dobbs Ferry, NY. Our president was Sister Etheldreda. When the announcement came over the very bad PA system, all we heard was “…Sister Etheldreda…the president has been assassinated”. Why would anyone want to kill her? Of course, what was actually said through the faulty system was “This is Sister Etheldreda. The President of the United States has been assassinated. Let’s join in prayer for his soul.”
    I, too, was very affected by Diana’s death and funeral, and then Mother Teresa’s.
    So much sadness and irony. Speaking of irony (somewhat) another disaster that truly touched my heart and soul was the Challenger disaster. I was ironing (hence the irony reference) in front of the TV when I saw that explosion. Could not believe my eyes.
    I was working at Qantas when 9/11 happened. Two Qantas employees were on the first plane to hit the tower. Ironically, and most heart wrenching, was the phone message at my desk that morning, “Hello, Valerie. This is Laura (Morabito). Just want to say thank you for getting my laptop fixed and sent to me in LA.” Laura was on that plane. Her laptop made it safely to LA. She did not.
    Yes, I’ll be watching the funeral on Monday along with millions of others. This will be just another moment in history that I will be a part of. Sadly, there will be many more.

  9. I loved this whole r mail especially the ending that the queen and Philip are together again.i have been a widow to a retired military man for 29 years

  10. I know the feeling. I found my wife on the floor in the. Hallway as I got up one morning (July 15) . 60 + years and significant other another 10 yes. It’s quiet this morning as I sit in my chair blinking away the tears. I keep telling myself it is time to return to daily life but I do not feel ready to do that.

    I am arranging with our UU minister. A time to open. Carols “ “hope chest”. I have no idea what to expect to find. It was a gift from her mom & dad before we married in 64 . ( had gone steady for 10 yrs before marriage. The minister and I will know what is appropriate to share .

    I expect to tell you. We enjoyed meeting you at Luckys in Napa Ca. I remain honored to have met you.


    Allen Lilleberg

    • Oh, Allen, I’m so sorry to hear of your loss! I’m glad you have reached out to your minister to help in this traumatic time. Blessings and light to you!

      • I was in 6th grade in a parochial school in Dallas. When news broke of the president’s assassination the 5th grade lay teacher came into our classroom to tell us what happened. We immediately went to mass. Our parents picked us up a few hours later. We did not return to school until after the president’s funeral. At that time this was the most traumatic event we in our young lives had endured. Sadly this would not be the last traumatic event we would endure on the world stage. The queen’s service will be sad she lived a long and gracious life.

  11. I was a high school junior when I heard about President Kennedy’s death. I remember walking down the hall between classes when I heard someone behind me say he had been shot. I never did know how that student heard. I was a college junior at the University of California, Davis when Robert Kennedy came to campus on campaign. Three weeks later, my roommate came in and told me he had.been shot..

    Thank you for introducing me to William Carlos Williams’ poem. I was not familiar with it. When my dad was sick he wanted Tennyson’s Crossing the Bar read at his funeral. So that is my go to poem for such occasions. So on Monday, before Her Majesty’s funneral, I’ll have two poems.to read.

  12. You have the uncanny ability to bring up memories that I enjoy and lived through such as at age ten. was in Newfoundland (now Labrador) during the coronation in AFB and involved with festivities there. Newsreals etc. also the other periods of time as JFK etc. thanks for dredging up memories and allowing me to relive the the times. Chuck in Tacoma.

  13. I, too, am one of your contemporaries who remembers experiencing the events you mentioned, including watching the snowy version of the Queen’s coronation on a neighbor’s black and white TV! I’m a bit your senior, so I also remember hearing of FDR’s death on a static-filled radio. I’m sure I didn’t comprehend the importance of his status, but the occasion got tucked in my memory bank where similar events eventually got stored. It’s amazing how these memories surfaced from the depths of so many aging minds almost simultaneously!
    I’m sure that next week, many of us will be again jointly experiencing the ceremonies noting the loss of a world icon. We are among the earliest generations to learn of world events within moments of their happening. For this reason, we’ll probably be among the last not to take the enormity these moments for granted.

  14. Back in the 80s, we were vacationing in London when we saw a crowd of people gathered outside of theater. We asked what was happening. We were told that Prince Charles was going to arrive in a few minutes to see a Peter Sellers movie. He arrived in big car, accompanied by another man. He walked over to the crowd. He asked had anyone seen the show. He said he knew is was going to very funny. He thanked us for coming out to see him and wished us a pleasant evening.
    He was smiling and seemed so friendly and not at all hurried. He was close enough that I could almost touch him.
    We were very impressed by this lovely gentleman. God save the King.

  15. As usual, Judy, since we are the same age, many of your memories are my memories. I remember watching the coronation on someone’s black & white TV, but not for sure where. Probably my aunt’s house as they always had more than we did. I remember how thrilling it was. All that pagentry! My mother loved buying paper dolls for me, but I never really liked them. She would cut clothes out of the catalog so my dolls could have a bigger wardrobe, but I still preferred a baby doll I could craddle in my arms or dress-up. When Kennedy died a really strange thing happened. My abusive husband became so distraught I could hardly believe it. I wanted to grieve for Kennedy, but found myself trying to comfort a man who was mean to me! Once the horror of Kennedy’s death passed, my husband was back to his old self. Oh, wow, I have many memories bubbling up now.

  16. I loved your tribute to Queen Elizabeth II. I have felt a very close connection to her since I learned we celebrate our birthdays on April 21, just different years.

    I do agree with you that she has been missing Prince Philip. When I heard she had passed, I felt joy that the two of them are together again for eternity.

    I do feel very sorry for their family. It will be a hard adjustment, but I do believe they will move forward to make her very proud.

    I do not write to you often but do enjoy your weekly notes. I will be crying with you on Monday morning also. Take care til we meet again.

  17. I have found it sad to see the Queen’s physical decline since the death of
    Prince Philip- I hope they are together again-
    King Charles III is showing a warm and gracious side of himself that was not as obvious before- The British public seems to welcome him-
    God Bless Queen Elizabeth II and King Charles III-

  18. As others said, Charles is the 3rd Royal for me, although I was 6 when Elizabeth became Queen, so I didn’t pay much attention then. I was a junior in high school when JFK was shot, and the principal announced it over the PA system. I was working for Campus Security at NAU in Flagstaff when Bobby Kennedy came there to meet with tribal leaders, since his Congressional Committee dealt with Indian affairs, and he walked within 10 feet of me – then he went from there to LA where he was killed. I clearly remember Challenger and, of course, 9/11, along with several other tragedies. You always bring back memories with your Blog, some good and some not, but all relevant. As Bob Hope said, “Thanks for the memories.”

  19. I enjoyed your wonderful story/tribute to Queen Elizabeth. It always amazes me when you tell of growing up with nine in your household and only two bedrooms and one bath. It obviously had a positive impact on your life which always comes through in your outstanding writing and story telling in your books.

  20. Good morning, Judy, our life story is simular. I grew up in a 3 room house (no indoor bathroom) with six siblings. Instead of bunk beds we had roll-a-way beds and one crib for the latest arrival. I never thought of myself as poor which I think is a tribute to my parents. I was in the 6th grade when Queen Elizabeth was coronated. Myself and one other boy were the only ones in class whose family had a TV so we split up; the girls to my house and the boys to Ray’s house. On a small black and white TV we thought it was boring but I retained some of it. I got to see JFK when he spoke at the local college in Grand Forks, ND, our last posting before retiring from the AF. JFK was shot on our 3rd wedding anniversary.

  21. Through your books and also through your emailed blogs you continue to be a thoughtful, caring person. Thank you.

  22. She was an interesting lady for sure. I don’ t know that a “king” would have done as well. She took everything (and what a lot of things!) in stride, it seems. Happy trails, Queen Elizabeth. We will miss you!

  23. Yesterday I was grocery shopping and picked up the September 26th issue of “Woman’s World” magazine. It is always in the racks by the cash registers.

    On pages 40-41 there is a feature on Bisbee, Arizona, as a travel spot. Large photo of downtown which is different than I had imagined.

    The Brady book “Desert Heat” is mentioned, too.

    Looks like an interesting place to visit.

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