During this Jubilee week, I wondered why I am such a fan of the Royal Family and indeed why I am a constitutional monarchist.
It goes back to my childhood.
My grandparents established our family connection with the little seaside village in which stands House. My grandfather’s house, further toward the river, was where we all spent our childhood holidays until all we cousins diversified into our own cottages close by. We all live on the spit or by the ocean beach, funnelling out from Pa’s house, now my mother’s, like spokes on a wheel.
However, I digress.
Each school holiday or long weekend, I would rush in the door on arrival, race out to my bedroom which I shared with copious female cousins at different times, claim my bed, look out of the striped canvas blinds that gave us night-time privacy and listen to the parrots and seabirds. Then it was ‘renew the acquaintance with the house’ time. For me, one of those things was going to Nanny’s garden shed, where she kept massive galvanised feedbins with angled lids that contain bran on one side and grain on the other and from which she would make the most glorious smelling warm mashes for her chooks. I would lift the lids, breathe deep of that heady smell, and then dip my hands into the bins as far as they’d go, grasping handfuls of the grain, holding it up and letting it shower back into the bin. I would pretend it was gold sovereigns and this was my treasure chest!
The other thing, the thing that entertained me in the evenings (remember this was the 50’s – no TV, only radio, jigsaws, board games, knitting, scrapbooks and reading) was Nanny’s precious collection of Royal books. They sat in bookshelves either side of the fireplace – books on each member of the Royal Family, on the Coronation, on Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace, Sandringham and Balmoral. I think I knew every child of Queen Mary before I was five, and their sobriquets, and then of course, I would spend hours looking at the life of Queen Elizabeth before and after the Coronation in these books.
I grew up with a tremendous respect extant in my own family for the Royal Family and as the Queen progressed through her reign, that respect deepened. At University, I questioned my country’s connection with the British Monarchy but made up my mind that in times of rippling politics, where elections and personalities are often flawed, the solidity of the constitutional monarchy can be a stabilising thing.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed celebrating Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee this week. My whole extended family has. I looked toward my own personal collection of Royal books, quite substantially grown over the years, but which was whittled down on our last major move, and I thought how heart-warming it was to hear a youthful family member (late 20’s) say, ‘I don’t mind being a part of the Commonwealth of Nations,’ as he watched the service of Thanksgiving at St. Pauls in London.
Hard to imagine that it all came from a pile of books in fireside shelves…