As an American who’s something of an Anglophile, I’m struck by the loss of Queen Elizabeth. It shouldn’t have been a shock, given that she was 96 and lost her husband last year (in fact, I was kind of expecting her to die sooner because people in that age range who’ve lost a long-time spouse tend to go pretty quickly afterward), but at the same time, she somehow seemed eternal so it’s a bit shocking that she’s suddenly gone. I’m not really a royalist, just the Masterpiece Theatre breed of Anglophile who likes visiting castles, but I’m oddly fascinated by the idea of royalty because I don’t really understand it, and when I don’t understand something, I study it to try to make sense of it.
I think my first awareness of Queen Elizabeth was from her Silver Jubilee when I was a little kid. I have a metal box I kept my “treasures” in, and I pasted pictures I cut out of magazines on it. There’s a picture from the Silver Jubilee on it. But my first real impression of her came from reading Anne Frank’s diary. She talked about wishing that the pretty Princess Elizabeth could be queen and seemed to think that would make things better. I put that together with the picture pasted on my box, and it turned her into a real person for me. Even now, I remember the way Anne Frank talked about her when I hear about her.
I had a friend in junior high who was really into the royals, and I think that was why I bothered getting up early to watch Charles and Diana’s wedding. Then it became something of a habit, so I’ve watched all the major royal weddings since then. I also watched Prince Philip’s funeral, just for historical purposes. I had a degree of separation from him, since I’ve met the woman whose wedding his sisters were going to when they were killed in a plane crash (she was married to a German grand duke in the area near where we lived, and my class got to visit her house on a field trip. She showed us around and served us sparkling cider and cookies on the terrace). So now I’ll be watching this funeral and coronation, since it is history.
It’ll be weird for England to have a king again after so long with a queen. I have some British money from my last trip. I didn’t exchange it back because I was hoping to travel again soon (alas, life had other plans), and now I suppose it’s a collector’s item. I wonder how long it’ll be considered valid before they phase out the Elizabeth money and transition to Charles money.
My condolences to those who are mourning, and I’m aware that there are a lot of people in the Commonwealth and former empire who have very mixed feelings. I think most of my feelings are about the end of an era. She was a constant in the world. The leadership of most nations has changed over and over again, and Queen Elizabeth was always there. Now even that’s changed.
As a fantasy writer, I wrestle with the idea of royalty. It’s sort of baked into the standard old-school fantasy and fairy tales, but the idea that this person is the best one to rule you because their parent was the ruler still doesn’t make a lot of sense to me. As I’ve said, look at the Habsburgs, especially in Spain at the height of the inbreeding effects, and can you really think that these people are superior? That was a lot of the spark behind my Rebels books, coming up with a real reason why this class of people is considered superior—they have magic, and they make a lot of effort to keep it within their class so they’ll stay special. In some of the books I’m developing, I’ve tried to come up with other ways of choosing rulers or I’m looking at the weaknesses in that kind of system.