Long To Reign Over Us

For as long as I can remember, I have sung God Save the Queen. I have murky first-grade memories of trying to master the words. The part about “long to reign over us,” always threw me. Why would some lady in England want to rain on me?

I grew up with a portrait of Elizabeth II in every classroom. Her picture was on the money I used every day. When I joined Girl Guides, I pledged to, “Do my best, to do my duty, to God, the Queen, and my country.” Even though I have lived in the United States for the majority of my life, I have retained my Canadian citizenship and still consider the Queen to be my head of state.

In my mind, she has always been stately and regal and rather old (though in her defense, I must point out that she was only 33 when I was born). My mental picture of her usually involves a sash and a tiara, probably because that was what she wore in those classroom portraits.

But I remember other pictures as well, ones that I saw in newspapers of her with her children. It’s hard to remember that  Charles and Anne were preschoolers when Elizabeth became queen, or that Andrew and Edward were born after she ascended to the throne. I wonder how it was for her to hold her babies and know that they had very little say in their own futures; to know that they would be both watched incessantly and relegated to the sidelines; to know that their lives would be both amazingly privileged and monumentally constricted.

There are photos of the Queen all over the Web today, as she officially becomes the longest reigning monarch in British history.You can see her in her iconic coats with matching hats and purses, or in her wedding dress (the fabric of which required ration coupons in post-WWII England), or in regimental colors. But of all the pictures, I think this one is my favorite:

queen childrenLet’s set aside the fact that she – a reigning monarch – was photographed in a dressing gown, in bed (which must have shocked a good many folks back in 1964, when this was published). And let’s try to forget that she had people to do her hair and makeup and help her prepare for the photo. Set all that aside, and what do you see? A slightly tired woman holding her newborn while her other kids surround them. A woman doing her job of being ever present for her country while still tending to her family.

Talk about the ultimate work/family juggling act.

At an age when most folks have long since retired, Elizabeth is hanging in there, making appearances and opening Parliament and meeting with Prime Ministers and being a touchstone of continuity and stability in a world of Tweets and sound bites. She’s in this for life, as long as that life may be.

God save the Queen.

(And because I can’t resist, I take you back to one of my very favorite Queen Elizabeth II moments. Enjoy.)