Farewell, dear Queen Mum

Apr 082002
Authors: Sarah Laribee

Barbara Bush has got to be jealous.

Britain’s current frenzy is the death last week of the ever-loveable Queen Mother, the only member of the English royal family that anyone ever really liked, unless you happen to be Camilla Parker Bowles, in which case, you like Prince Charles. A lot.

And, for the record, “The Queen Mother” is, apparently, her actual name. While she may have been given the name “Elizabeth” at birth, my research concludes that she has been The Queen Mother, and referred to as such, for about as long as England has been an island.

As the Queen Mother has lain in state for the last few days, to be finally laid to rest tomorrow, an incredible number of Britons have paid their last respects. By the middle of the afternoon on Sunday, 70,000 people were waiting in eight-hour lines in order to file by her casket.

When her body was transported from St. James Palace to Westminster Hall for viewing, an incredible 400,000 mourners lined the transport route. I didn’t realize there were 400,000 people in the whole of the realm.

The Queen Mother is remembered as the quiet and strong presence that helped keep England together during the Second World War, and the one person who always seemed to be smiling as her family became increasingly subject to intense public scrutiny over the past two decades.

She and her husband ruled and then stepped down as her daughter ascended the throne. And Barbara Bush is a likely American counterpart, even seeing The United States through a time of war before her son ascended his, um, office chair. While George Bush, Sr. was in office, Barbara Bush brought a quiet and wholesome dignity to the White House and championed the cause of literacy programs across the nation. But, were Barbara Bush to die this week, I am fairly certain that 400,000 people would not skip jobs or school or “ElimiDate” to pay their respects.

In fact, I can’t remember the last time an American head of state, a political figure, or even a celebrity garnered even remotely as much mournful angst as the Britons seem to muster up on a fairly regular basis. The mourners standing in the rain at Princess Diana’s funeral comes to mind, as does the fact that I stayed up until three in the morning to watch it myself.

And while, in the last year, our National Cathedral hosted the memorial service for the victims of the September 11th attacks, a service that was nationally broadcast on television and radio, we were mourning the loss of thousands. Not one very elderly lady.

The last huge funeral held for someone of the Queen Mother’s stature was for Kennedy, forty years ago. Are Americans just not moved as much as the British are? Or do we just not feel like we have people of caliber to mourn? We seem to be aimlessly wandering without heroes and models upon which we may cast-off our affections. And so we find ourselves looking elsewhere, anywhere. Even to one very elderly lady.

The Queen is dead. God save the Queen.

Sarah Laribee is an Anglophile. She would like readers to know that according to “reliable Internet statistics,” the population of England and Wales was over 60 million in 2001.

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