The Windsors were a part of our household when I was growing up. I saw them frequently and viewed the Windsor children who were close to my ages as my chums. Our mothers dressed us in much the same ways, and it seemed to me that we had common interests and experiences as “baby boomer” children growing up in the decades following World War II.
    It did not really register with me then that the Windsor children’s mother was Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain and all its royal dominions and mine was, well, my mother.
    My father had been an Army medic in England, and he and another soldier boarded in the home of an English widow. My father, a personable and courtly Southerner, struck up a friendship with Mrs. Fox which endured until she died in the 1960s. I suppose because the two young families, the Windsors and the Highsmiths, were in the same stage of life, she sent us many books about the British Royal Family.
    The books were PR efforts to portray the Royal Family as — almost — regular folks. They were filled with wonderful and charming photographs. Some were formal portraits involving crowns, scepters, and robes trimmed with ermine. Most though, were family scenes, concocted I am now sure to garner and keep the affection and respect of the Queen’s British subjects, not unlike the slightly later Camelot photographs of President Kennedy’s young family. The Queen’s son Charles, who was actually a cute little boy and her daughter Anne who had Shirley Temple-like yellow curls, were pictured swinging, playing with their dogs, and, occasionally, getting into some slight mischief.
    I loved those books and remember once asking my father to write Mrs. Fox requesting that she invite Charles and Anne to visit us in Fayetteville. I imagined that they would enjoy running around with the children and dogs in our Haymount neighborhood as much as my sister and I did.
    Needless to say, they never showed.
    {mosimage}There has been much water over the dam since then for both the Windsors and the Highsmiths, so I watched with great interest the various celebrations of Queen Elizabeth’s 80th birthday last week. Her people are very fond of her, and so am I.
I will not bore you with my “water over the dam” experiences, but think for a moment about the Queen who has remained unruffled and serene for decades despite everything from the final dismantling of the once-global British empire to the toe-sucking antics of my imaginary playmates, her precious children, and their wacky spouses.
    Think of having to meet with prime ministers ranging from the Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher, to the more freewheeling Tony Blair — once a week, every week whether she liked them or approved of their policies and without legal authority to affect what they do.
    Imagine hearing a recording along with the rest of the world of your son and heir to the throne telling a woman he is not married to that he would like to be “in her trousers” or hearing your-daughter-in law, the woman who would be Queen, confess on worldwide television to an affair with her riding instructor.
    Think of presiding over the final days of the once-great Empire and the rise of the European Union. Imagine what it felt like to see the monetary system which bore your face and those of your ancestors on pounds, shillings, and pence morph into the drab but convenient Euro.
    Imagine watching your grandchildren referred to as “studs” and hoping they will get themselves under control more effectively — or at least more privately — than their parents did.
    Queen Elizabeth has done this and more with dignity and a constant and unwavering hairdo that could have been styled at the Downtowner beauty parlor on Franklin Street in 1965.
    I have a favorite Queen Elizabeth story which, accurate or not, sums up what I think of as her true self.
I heard it from my walking chum who, like Queen Elizabeth, owns and loves Corgis. It seems that one day the Queen was walking her brood, with her security detail at a discreet English distance. One of her subjects came up to the monarch and observed, “My, you certainly look like the Queen.” To which Her Majesty, Queen of the United Kingdom and Defender of the Faith smiled and replied calmly and sweetly, “That’s reassuring.”
    If my mother were living she would be a few years older than Queen Elizabeth and I suspect she would have much the same hairdo and, I hope, the same serenity which comes from long enduring the human experience, be we royalty or commoner.
    The Queen’s celebrations last week included gatherings with her family and with 99 other Britons born the same day as she. I have no idea what anyone said, but if I had been there, I would have wished her many returns of the day and given her the Dicksons’ special birthday greeting, coined by a toddler who could not quite get it all out.
    “Hap to you, your Majesty.”

Contact Margaret Dickson at

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