Editor's note: The original version of this article ran 10 years ago this month. Columnist Margaret Dickson updated it for those of us who have recently been thinking of the royal family.
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 age 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 register with me that the Windsor children’s mother was Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain and all its 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 an acquaintance with the widow, Mrs. Fox, which endured until she died many years later. I suppose because the two young families, the Windsors and mine, were in the same stage of life, she sent us many books about the British Royal Family.
I did not recognize this then, of course, but the books were well-crafted public relations efforts to portray the Royal Family as — almost — regular folks. Like similar books about the Kennedy family during the Camelot years, these books were filled with wonderful and charming family 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 of the Queen‘s subjects. The Queen’s son Charles, who much later would be humiliated when a recording of him expressing a wish to be in his mistress’ “trousers,” was actually a cute little boy and her daughter Anne had Shirley Temple-like yellow curls. They and their younger brothers were pictured swinging, playing with their dogs, and, occasionally, getting into some slight mischief.
I loved these books and once asked my father to ask Mrs. Fox to invite the Windsor children to visit us in Fayetteville. I imagined they would enjoy running around with the children and dogs in our Haymount neighborhood as much as my sister and I did, and they probably would have. Maybe they would even have gotten dirty. Needless to say, they never showed.
There has been much water over the dam since then for both the Windsors and my little family, but I still have a soft spot for the Windsors, and a special and enduring fondness for the Queen who reminds me of the mother I continue to miss 46 years later.
The Queen has remained unruffled and serene for well over half a century as she presided over everything from the final dismantling of the once-global British Empire to the toe-sucking antics and infidelities of my long-ago imaginary playmates and their ever-wacky spouses. Think of watching your empire shrink as the European Union took hold. Imagine what it felt like to see the monetary system adorned by your own face and those of your ancestors be eclipsed by the drab but convenient Euro.
Now, she is marking both the death of her husband of more than 7 decades and her own 95th birthday the same month.
Queen Elizabeth has done all this and more with dignity and a constant and unwavering hairdo that could have been styled at a downtown Fayetteville beauty parlor in 1965.
I have a favorite Queen Elizabeth story that pretty much sums her up, at least my vision of her. It seems the Queen was out walking her beloved Corgis one day, her security detail at a discrete English distance. One of her subjects approached and cluelessly observed, “My, you certainly look like the Queen.” To which Her Majesty, Elizabeth II, Queen of the United Kingdom and Defender of the Faith, replied serenely, “That’s reassuring.”
As she stays calm and carries on, I wish I could send my own birthday greeting, coined long ago by a toddler who could not quite get it all out.
“Hap to you, your Majesty.”