Growing up, I never paid much attention to the monarchy. Naturally, I was more interested in fairytale kingdoms and mythical palaces than their real-life counterparts. The Queen, nevertheless, has always been a reassuring figure, omnipresent on currency and correspondence; something of a kind and distant aunt, well-regarded, but rarely thought of. It was a happy indifference that, I suspect, I shared with many other subjects of Her Majesty’s realm. But it was not to last.
It all started with the Olympics. I was watching a medal ceremony in which Britain had won gold. The national anthem struck up, and the winner beamed deservedly from a podium. Reader, I was affected beyond words; first welling up, and then breaking down entirely. This unexpected show of feeling has arisen periodically ever since, whether it is upon seeing the Queen wave from the royal carriage at Ascot, or simply hearing ‘God Save…’ belted from the terraces at football matches.
From that moment on, I was inexplicably impregnated with a joyous affection for our royal figurehead. I know I’m not alone. The Americans love her, frequently crossing the ocean to crowd the palace gates (and crucially swelling the coffers of tourism as they do so). Agyness Deyn is rumoured to be a fan.
Without an English passport, I’m technically a foreigner, and have no right to be such a romantic royalist. But I can’t help myself, and what I lack in dry documentia I more than make up for in patriotism of spirit…
Consequentially, I have begun to quietly and obsessively amass royal memorabilia. Her Majesty’s face peers from teapots, tea-towels and tobacco tins, to the consternation and despair of those forced to beat a path through the monarchist impedimenta littering my home. I’m gripped by a compelling need to defend the ageing sovereign from slander, criticism and general treason.
I find her astonishing, iconic, inspiring. Never expected to be Queen, she slipped seamlessly into a role she has performed with grace and guts, and not a single day off, since. She knows when to be vocal (Diana, Iraq) and when to stay silent (wayward grandchildren).
Her wardrobe is unfailingly, enduringly chic, whether she is resplendent in rainbow hues and gobstopper jewels, or sporting the well-loved, oft-imitated regalia of headscarf and Barbour. In all her 83 years on earth – 58 as queen, 62 as wife and mother – she has devoted her life, in public and private, entirely to others. To those who deem her anachronistic, an elitist and undemocratic relic: would you really advocate replacing her with some anonymous head of state? Give up the fun and pomp and pageantry for a sterile and bloodless succession of dusty MPs? Where’s our imagination, our romance? Who doesn’t smile nostalgically at the changing of the guard, inwardly squeal at the prospect of a royal wedding, or thrill to the sight of those crown jewels? The Queen has the unspeakably fabulous privilege of owning the largest pink diamond in world, whilst Parliament is in solemn possession of a rusty budget box and some musty wigs.
Royalty, history, family, are worth preserving. I’ve long since abandoned fairy princesses and towering turrets on the far-off shores of childhood. But forsake the queen? Never: Ma’am, it’s been a pleasure.