Queen Elizabeth celebrates her 90th birthday today. My mother, two years older, grew up with the Queen. From her teen years to adulthood, Mom kept scrapbooks about the Queen’s life. Clippings carefully pasted in, over-filling the large pages. There was a lot of news about the Royals. Thanks to Mom, I have a pretty good record of their lives.
Mom’s scrapbooks weren’t purpose-built for a Royalty collection. But there were those, I discovered in a second-hand shop in Sussex. Scrapbooks exactly like Mom’s but with a full-page image of the Queen on the cover. Mom wasn’t the only person with the mission of keeping a record of the Queen’s life.
Probably mainly young women, entranced by the fairy tale aspects of Elizabeth and Margaret, the two beautiful young princesses. Princesses who as children had thought they’d always be in the choir of the royal family, not among the soloists.
That changed in 1936, when their Uncle David abdicated. Their father, the next eldest son, went from Duke of York to King George VI. Princess Elizabeth, being his first born, would wear the crown after him – in time, many years down the road.
In the meantime, she could have a life a bit outside the limelight. She married at the age of 21, two years after World War II ended, and had children. Her naval officer husband was stationed in Malta, so they lived there for a time.
Her life had parallels with the lives of women like my mother. A WWII veteran husband, two baby boom children, making a new home while keeping close with parents and family. In the magazines, you saw a beautiful young woman, impish children, handsome husband, a dog or two. A privileged version of the post-war, post-Depression life shared, or aspired to, by many.
For 64 years now, she has been Queen. We still see photographs of her and her family in magazines and social media. We know quite a lot of detail about the lives of her children and grandchildren, but we actually know very little about Queen Elizabeth. Her life has been such a part of our history and our geography that she is familiar to us. We feel like we know her, much the same, I think, as my mother felt about her when they were both young girls.
Have a very happy birthday, ma’am.