It’s one of my earliest childhood memories. A fuzzy one, but definitely one that has stuck over the decades.
I was six-turning-seven, would have been in Year 2, when in 1988 my whole school gathered to welcome Queen Elizabeth II to Geraldton.
I remember sitting cross-legged near the edge of Cathedral Avenue and getting bored waiting.
A palpable excitement was in the air. A car approached and everyone started frantically waving, so I joined in. I saw a flash of lady in a vibrant yellow outfit. Then it was back to class. That was it. I think some of my classmates were chosen to take part in more activities, but unfortunately not me.
Recalling it now, it doesn’t seem like a memory of a car driving past over the course of a few seconds would survive the test of time. But for many people in Geraldton, that day in April 1988 has stuck with them whether they were five or 50 at the time.
Not only was it the Queen’s presence, but it was the day that Geraldton came of age. The day we became a city.
Over the past four or five days, memories and tributes have flowed for Her Majesty, as easily as if we were grieving someone we knew closely.
For many, the Queen felt like a collective grandmother. For others, she was a constant of a past generation amid all the change in the modern era.
Whether you are a monarchist or a republican, the Queen commands respect.
Yes, she grew up with untold wealth, in palaces and castles, wearing the Crown jewels, but the flipside for a life she she never chose for herself, or was never meant to come her way, was to give up her own life and her family’s as public property. That is a harsh price tag.
She was also steadfast in holding herself up to an almost impossible standard. You couldn’t help but admire her stamina when she worked harder than anyone else, at least a generation younger, in her own family well into her 90s.
In her final months and obviously becoming more frail, the Queen tried her best to keep calm and carry on.
To endure what was effectively a living wake for her Platinum Jubilee and, in her final days, duty was still front and centre to the extent that she met new British PM Liz Truss in what was her final ever public appearance.
Regardless what you think of the royal family, you can’t help but admire the sacrifice this one woman has made over 70 years. She committed herself to being sovereign, a symbol — not a human being with faults and frailties.
If anyone deserved to rest now, it is Queen Elizabeth.
Her heir, King Charles III, has proven over the decades-in-waiting that he is indeed a human with faults and frailties. Can he overcome his obvious PR problems?
Whether he can become the symbol, the beacon his mother was for most of her reign, I’m not so sure, especially once the “grace” mourning period and the public judge him on his merits.
He definitely won’t have as much time as his “dear mama” to make his mark on the throne.
We all knew this day was coming.
But whether the Queen’s family and the world is ready for it, remains to be seen. After all, for the majority of the population, there has never been a change in monarch in their lifetimes.
The importance of this transition from Queen to King cannot be underestimated, for the family who has lost its brightest star to its standing in both the UK and wider Commonwealth.