Foreign News: Elizabeth II

  • Share
  • Read Later

(7 of 8)

Last week, as for six hours the Union Jack flew high over London, Britons regarded their royal couple proudly, in the sure sense that all would be right with the realm. The young Queen would be guided by her husband and her mother, and that was a good thing. But it was also a good thing that—as generally acknowledged—she has a mind of her own. She becomes Queen at the same age—25—as her famed namesake. By comparison with that of her ancestors, Elizabeth's great inheritance has dwindled sadly, but England has known its greatest days under its queens. Last week, as British officers, for the first time in 51 years, directed their wardroom and regimental toasts "to the Queen" instead of "to the King," Britons felt in their bones that Elizabeth will be good for them.

To Papa. Elizabeth the Queen, a girl of 25 who had lost her father, might have been pardoned for not altogether sharing her subjects' mood of renewed hope. On the afternoon of the proclamation, in somber black, she and Philip climbed into the back seat of her crested Rolls-Royce, and headed for Sandringham.

Crowds lining the London streets waved as she passed. Elizabeth smiled wanly back, but her features were still locked in sadness. Philip sat gravely beside her. Once on the open road, the couple moved into the Rolls's front seat and Philip took the wheel.

At Sandringham, where local carpenters had spent the night making a simple coffin of oak cut from the forests nearby, Elizabeth greeted her mother and sister quietly, kissed her children and then went to the second-floor room where her father's body lay. At sundown,* a cortege of George's woodsmen and gamekeepers, headed by a kilted pipe-major playing a Scottish lament, wheeled the bier to the parish church, where the King's body lay in state for two days before being taken to London's 12th century Westminster Hall, adjoining the House of Commons.† Across the meadows and through the woods went the soft lament of the bagpipes. All that night the King's gamekeepers, in green buckskin jackets and dark knee breeches, took their turns standing honor guard in two-hour shifts, four at a time, one at each corner of the coffin. All next day and the day after, villagers filed silently past to pay their last respects to their King and squire as he lay in the simple casket. Three wreaths lay on the coffin: one from his widow, one from his younger daughter, one from Britain's Queen. The last, a white circle of lilies of the valley, camellias, carnations and hyacinths, was marked: "Darling Papa, from your loving and devoted daughter and son-in-law, Lilibet, Philip."

Those words marked the final farewell to girlhood of the lonely young woman whose name in history would now forever be signed: Elizabeth, Regina.

  1. 1
  2. 2
  3. 3
  4. 4
  5. 5
  6. 6
  7. 7
  8. 8