02 June 2012

God Save the Queen

This weekend we celebrate the Queen's diamond jubilee, a milestone equalled by very few of the world's monarchs. On this occasion, I thought I would tell of my two brushes with our royal family over the decades.

The first occurred 37 years ago, during my first trip to Europe. I was in London at St. Paul's Cathedral, the impressive baroque structure built by Sir Christopher Wren after the Great Fire of 1666. While there I happened to see the late Princess Alice, Duchess of Gloucester, accompanied by the Lord Mayor of London and flanked by two lines of Girl Guides, coming out of the cathedral after the end of a worship service (top right photo). I can no longer recall, if I ever knew, what the occasion was. Incidentally, Princess Alice lived a very long time indeed, as she was born in 1901 and died as recently as 2004, thus breaking the royal record for longevity at 102 years.

My second brush with royalty was with the Queen herself during her visit to Hamilton ten years ago on the occasion of her Golden Jubilee. My wife and daughter and I drove down to Dundurn Castle to view her motorcade as it drove down York Boulevard on its way from Toronto to Copps Coliseum, where she was to present two banners to The Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders of Canada (Princess Louise's) at a special ceremony. As she was running late, her motorcade sped by quickly, much to the disappointment of the well-wishers who had turned out to greet her. Many people decided to leave after that point. However, our persistence was rewarded on her return trip once the ceremony had ended. Her motorcade passed by more slowly this time. The window of her car was open, and we easily saw the woman who had reigned over Canada for 50 years. She offered us her characteristic wave, much to our delight. The three of us were the last people she saw in Hamilton, for right after that we saw her motorcade pull off on the Highway 403 exit towards Toronto.

Our daughter Theresa was only three years old at the time and did not quite understand the significance of the woman she had just seen. She was more interested in our planned excursion to the Greek Corner Store and Bakery on King Street East and was looking forward to being treated to a Greek cookie by the doting proprietors.

Incidentally, the two banners the Queen delivered to the Argylls now hang in the front of our church, Central Presbyterian, which is the group's regimental church.

Of the two sets of banners, the upper ones were delivered by the Queen in 2002.

The lower banners have hung in our church for decades.

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