My Great Grandad and
the Queen Mother.
Is it me, or has the whole of England gone a bit Jubilee mad? Yes, I know I made a cake with a Union Jack on it too, but no, that doesn’t make me very keen on the Royals. I just like cake, and I enjoy an artistic (or ham-fisted depending on how you look at it) challenge.
The thing is I just don’t quite get why people almost deify royalty, they are, after all, just like us. They simply have a birth line and money which guarantees their place in the history books, they are no better or worse than us. Anyway, at risk of being ‘got’ by the government for disrespecting authority….I’d like to relate a family story that has been passed down over the years. This was told to me at a very young age, and probably has quite a bit to do with my attitudes to people who wear crowns and open stadiums with big pairs of scissors, whilst making speeches written for them by other people. Yes I know some of them do good work…I don’t deny that. What I do deny is that they deserve any more cow-towing from us than anyone else in this world. Even the queen goes to the loo as they say. Anyway, here goes. This is about the day my great grandfather met the Queen Mother, (she was Queen Elizabeth at the time) or ‘Gin Lizzie’ as she was known apparently.
Great Grandad was in the army at Scappa Flow in Scotland, I’m not sure of the year, and there he was tasked with keeping an eye on prisoners. He was also stationed in the Orkneys for a while.
Whilst based there my Great Grandad and the regiment as a whole, were tasked with building bunkers. This was around the time that Singapore fell, my Great Grandad said that this was mainly because the guns there all faced out to sea, so they couldn’t cope with an inland invasion. Presumably this is why they were building new bunkers in Orkney, lessons had been learned and they were going to be prepared for anything.
As a result of their hard work, they were all shipped down to Kirkwall, where they were told that the Queen Elizabeth would ‘review the troops,’ in recognition of their hard work and contribution to the war effort.
There my Great Grandad stood in a line with his colleagues, in the pouring rain, in huge coats, for the grand total of two hours. They were told that the Queen would be along soon, so they just carried on standing there…waiting to be ‘reviewed.’ Their commanding officer kept telling them that she’d be there in a minute and to be patient. Just before Her Highness arrived on the scene, they were sternly briefed – all the soldiers were told to be respectful, no matter what, and that if anyone showed even a flicker of disrespectful behaviour they would be put in gaol for 28 days.
The Queen Mother emerged from the officers quarters suspended between two officers, ‘legless’ drunk. The poor love tottered and staggered up and down the line ‘reviewing’ them and one by one, despite their best efforts, my Great Grandad and the rest of his troop cracked up and collapsed in fits of giggles. I can’t quite imagine these obviously battle hardened officers rolling around laughing, but they did.
They couldn’t possibly put the whole troop in gaol for 28 days so they weren’t punished in the end. I’m presuming Queen Liz returned to the officers’ quarters. consumed a great deal of strong coffee and hoped that this particular story would never see the light of day. Well, until today, I suppose.
History just doesn’t record stories like this, but oral history does. This tale has been been a family legend for years and it still makes me laugh to hear it. So, no, I’m afraid I have no reverence for royalty. They’re just as prone to melt downs, addictions, daft behaviour and irresponsibility as the rest of us. If I met the Queen Mother or her royal relatives, you wouldn’t see me curtseying – even if only because she left my Great Grandad in the pouring rain for hours on end while she finished her bottle of gin. So much for respect for the war effort and lives lost in battle.
I’ll dress my kids in red, white and blue for their school Jubilee celebrations, but only because I quite like the colours, and because they’d sulk if I didn’t. I, for one, don’t give a monkeys about the whole affair. There you go. *Kay sticks her tongue and blows a raspberry at Buckingham Palace.*