As soon as it was revealed that she was sick, people were asking me how I felt about the Queen. When she died, people were looking at me expectantly, waiting for some particular statement born of my nationality and whatever that might mean for my feelings towards a 96-year old woman I’d never met. It was a strange experience for a few days there, I have to say.
I don’t have any particularly strong feelings about the monarchy, I’m ashamed to say, beyond feeling as if it’s a ridiculous and outdated institution. That said, that could be said for more than half of what makes up British culture at any given moment, so that’s hardly the most damning criticism; I’m not someone to yell about how corrupt and evil the Royals are because of their connection to colonialism and slavery — and, as social media has shown over the last week or so, there’s certainly a lot who’ll talk about that at length — nor am I someone who romanticizes and makes excuses for the Royals and their behavior because they’re national institutions or whatever, either. They are just particularly expensive wallpaper to me, in a strange way — always there, only occasionally notable if nothing else is happening at the time.
The need others — all American-born, of course — had for me to have a take, an emotional reaction, to the Queen’s death reminded me of the response surrounding Brexit, or earlier, the Scottish Independence vote. This want for me to be at once entertainingly vitriolic and also help them understand what was happening, as if I had a verisimilitude due to where I was born that could help them navigate their own feelings. Alas, I failed them all.
I did think this, though: my parents met the Queen. It was two decades or so ago, and it was at an official event my dad got invited to through his work. There was a list of detailed instructions they received ahead of time, in terms of how to act and behave around Her Majesty, somewhat unsurprisingly, but my favorite was a rule that women’s hats were limited in size so that they wouldn’t overshadow whatever the Queen was wearing on her head that day.
There’s a level of petty there that I think is unintentionally hilarious. Let’s remember that about old Liz, and forget the rest.