Saturday, June 2, 2012
Let’s be honest. Many of the things on my [imaginary] bucket list stem from I Love Lucy episodes: stomping grapes and working in a chocolate factory are on the top of the list. As I was learning about Queen Elizabeth II this week, my mind kept going back to the episode where Lucy is going to meet the Queen. After a discussion about how to address the Queen, including useful suggestions from Ethel (“Mrs. Mountbatten”) and Fred (“Hiya, Queen!”), Lucy and Ethel begin practicing their curtsies. While watching this episode with Grandma, I’m sure I wouldn’t have hesitated to join in their curtsy practice.
When the episode “Lucy Meets the Queen” aired in 1956, the United States had quite the fascination with the Queen, a fascination that seemed reciprocal. One of my favourite stories I’ve read thus far in Elizabeth the Queen (Sally Bedel Smith) was of a trip the Queen took to North America in 1957. She was interested in seeing an American football game and on the way to the University of Maryland, Elizabeth II spotted a supermarket and asked if a visit could be arranged. Supermarkets apparently weren’t in vogue yet in Britain, so the Queen spent a few minutes trying samples, talking to mothers about their children, and being amazed at the massive store with everything from frozen chicken pot pies to Halloween costumes. The author of Elizabeth the Queen quotes the store manager as saying, “It was the greatest thing that ever happened to me.”
I think this story exemplifies the dichotomy of the British monarchy and shows how difficult it is to reconcile at times. On the one hand, those in the grocery store or at the University of Maryland that day were amazed and excited to see the Queen. They cheered for her and shook her hand and showed her the things that made them proud; however, the fact that she seems to out of place in a grocery store makes it difficult to see her as really connected with the general public.
The very things that make her a good Queen, her extensive education, her common sense, her commitment to duty above all else, have inevitably lead to a seeming disconnection. Yet for all the silly things I’ve learned about the Queen this week, such as the contents of her desk, when she wakes up, and what she eats for breakfast, I’ve gained more of a respect for the way she has interpreted her duty as Queen. She strives to be serious and strong, impartial and fair. Of course there are some rather archaic traditions with which anyone would take issue, but if I ever meet the Queen, I do plan on curtsying. Congratulations on your Diamond Jubilee, Your Majesty.