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  • Nick Drew

The Queen


I am surprisingly sad to see that Queen Elizabeth II has died. I guess I always new it would happen sooner or later, she was 96 years old after all, but as I watched it all unfold on TV, my feeling of loss came as something of a surprise.


I would not describe myself as much of a supporter of the monarchy, privilege and all that, and recent activities of the Royal family have turned me away even further, but I have spent my whole life growing up with the same figurehead in post, someone you naturally looked up to. Well... she was the Queen!


As well as all the newspaper articles, TV appearances, postage stamps, coins and yes, framed pictures that people had on their walls at home, all things that were a normal part of a young persons life, there was the Christmas speech, though we rarely watched it, the Royal Variety Performance on Sunday night TV, waiting for the Queen to appear, Remembrance Sunday and the laying of wreaths at the cenotaph, me refusing to take part in the Diamond Jubilee street parties because I was too cool, and the Sex Pistols outrage with God Save the Queen and that controversial Jamie Reed/Vivienne Westwood T shirt. The list goes on but all are significant memories of my life that will be with me until they fade away as they surely will.

Back in 2000, I was told that the Queen was coming to Coventry Cathedral on March 3rd for a Maundy service and to participate in the launch of a book on the Coventry Blitz produced by the Imperial War Museum. It was decided that the book launch would take place at the Herbert Art Gallery and Museum, just a short walk from the cathedral, so the Queen and Prince Phillip would be attending. Working at the museum at the time, I was asked to support the keepers of social history in putting together an exhibition on the blitz, using the museums collection of wartime memorabilia and telling the Coventry experience.


Because the time schedule was very short we set to work quickly and managed to design (on the back of a cigarette packet I always like to say) a very passable exhibition that spilled into a few gallery spaces. Other galleries would be full of war art and local school children performing blitz related activities. Older people who had experienced the Blitz in Coventry during the war were invited to come and be in attendance. The Queen and Duke duly arrived at their allotted time and were greeted by throngs of people lining the walls and stairs in the museum, waiving flags and cheering enthusiastically as they passed by. Up the stairs they climbed, around the exhibition, introduced to staff, including a very young me, down the stairs, out and gone, perhaps half an hour in total.


I must say I was caught up in the whole enthusiasm and atmosphere of the moment, OMG It's the Queen! But the thing I remember most was that there was no way they could have really seen anything. They were guided around the museum with hardly any room to move let alone see anything, looking in to each space they were escorted to, a perfunctory glance in a showcase, a token look at an object on display, smiling and nodding enthusiastically, rabbits in headlights. They were there to be seen, to do their duty, to support whoever and whatever. I wondered at the time if they ever had secret nighttime visits to museums and art galleries, to have a wander round, in their own time and at their own pace, and look properly at the huge collections of history or maybe just sit for a quiet moment and stare at a wonderful painting?


It's a nice thought and I hope they did, they both deserved to.



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