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Sunday, June 3, 2012

When the Queen showed her true colours

The Queen visits the Herald's offices.
Your humble correspondent escorts the Queen on her visit to Herald's offices in 2001. Photograph: Colin Mearns
There are more than a few reasons why I shall join with my fellow Britons in celebrating Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II's diamond jubilee this holiday weekend. I may stop just short of putting out the red, white and blue favours on my balcony; nevertheless, more than a few glasses will be raised in honour of my queen. Who knows, but if I have imbibed a sufficient quantum of the jungle juice, perhaps I may even belt out a couple of Rule Britannias.
One of the most memorable events in my life occurred a few years back when I had the privilege of escorting her around the newspaper for which I then worked (may I crave your indulgence if you have heard this before?). I had admired her for years, but my affection, of necessity, had to remain largely secret owing to the anti-monarchial tendencies of most of my friends and associates. I had been told by others who had met Elizabeth that they hadn't fully understood what was meant by the word "grace" until they had been introduced to her. Each one of us scrofulous journalists to whom she granted an audience that day was charmed by her.
And, speaking personally, I felt she had gone above and beyond in putting me at my ease. I had previously been informed of her incredible attention to detail before she meets the lieges. Even so, it still came as a pleasant shock when she greeted me. For she had put on a lovely and fetching emerald green number with a beautiful white necklace and a pair of spotless white gloves. And was that not a yellow flower clasped within the band of her green hat? My head swam with the possible conversations she'd had with the Special Branch officers who had been dispatched weeks previously to ensure we all knew about the protocol attached to an occasion such as this.
"Ma'am, the chap who will be escorting you around the premises seems a rum sort and, we are reliably informed, a mad Celtic man. A photograph of that other royal personage, Henrik Larsson, hangs in his office. Perhaps you could put him at his ease by donning something suitable for the occasion?"
"What a splendid idea. Philip and I well remember that, in 1953, the mighty Celtic of whom you speak and their fine, young captain, John Stein (God rest him) lifted the Coronation Cup held to commemorate my accession to the throne. They also brought honour to my realm by becoming the first British club to lift the European Champion Clubs Cup in 1967."
I also feel that Elizabeth possesses qualities that can command the affection of those of us who are both Scots and of the left on the political spectrum. For I feel that she is a very inclusive, diverse and generous woman, whose selfless devotion to public service makes many of our senior civil servants look like grasping, overpaid and unaccountable whingers.
Those of you who have formed the view that she lives a gilded and affluent lifestyle with a Coutts bank account to match and the run of stately piles all over the kingdom are being deliberately jejune. For there is only one thing worse than being poor and that's being rich but without the opportunity to choose what to spend it on. What's the point of being worth millions if only other people decide and plan every waking minute of your life? And knowing that, on many days, you must shake hands and appear relaxed and friendly when confronted by grinning eejits such as me?
I think I empathised with her most in the aftermath of the death of her daughter-in-law, Diana. It seemed that Britain, at this time, had been stricken by an epidemic of artificial lamentation. The Lord only knows how many working days were lost by people citing Diana Syndrome for their absence. Any boss initiating disciplinary proceedings would have been lynched by the mob, among them the tossers who demanded that their queen cease her private grieving to share in their bacchanal of false mourning.

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