April 21st, 2021
Please allow me to wish you a happy 95th birthday. Although, having recently lost the love of your life, and finding yourself alone for the first time since the age of 21, before you were even Queen, I’m sure it will be anything but a bowl of cherries.
I always remember when your birthday is, because I’m an April baby too. You on the 21st, William Shakespeare on the 23rd, and me at the end of the month. I always joke that I’m in very illustrious company. Taureans, all of us. Loving, imaginative, creative, family-oriented, home-loving. Although, to be honest, I can’t imagine that Shakespeare spent a lot of time hanging out in Warwickshire with Anne Hathaway when he could be in London being fêted and adored.
I suppose that what I actually wish for Your Majesty’s birthday is that it should be spent, not dwelling on the past with regret or sorrow, but at the centre of your large and rather unorthodox family, being cosseted and comforted. I expect even that might be difficult in these Covid times, as I’m aware that you are punctilious about being masked and socially distant, and obeying the same public health orders your government asks of your people. Just like your dear parents during the War Years, when they ate vegetable pie at State Banquets, and were observant of rationing laws wherever possible.
The truth is, no matter how we are prepared to lose someone we love, it still comes as a terrible blow. I lost my own husband seven years ago and I wasn’t ready for that, so I can only imagine the gnawing emptiness after 73 years together. I expect quite a few idiots have said things like “Well, at 99, he had a good innings!” Or “Maybe it was a blessing, if he was suffering.” Or even “We mustn’t question the ways of Providence.” People say extraordinarily stupid, hurtful things when they try to be imaginatively sympathetic. Because, really, what can they say that makes the slightest difference? Ah, that hardy perennial, “Time heals all wounds.” No, it doesn’t. It lets you get your breath, lets the hurt become less, lets you go about your days as if your heart is not bleeding all over the Aubusson rugs. But it never actually heals.
What I wish for you on your birthday, really and truly, Dear Ma’am, is that you will know how loved and revered you are by millions of your subjects around the world. Not all of them, to be sure; some of them don’t see the point of the Monarchy, or of your position at the pinnacle of a thousand years of history and tradition. They don’t understand that you reign, but do not rule, or that since your Accession at the age of 25, Your Majesty has been the uncomplaining servant of your people. They see only that the cage is gilded, but perhaps not that it is still a cage.
Your Majesty has been a constant of my own life, always there. At Christmas, on the TV. At the Trooping the Colour for your Birthday parade. On Remembrance Day, riding your favourite mare, Burmese, given you by the RCMP. I’m told I saw you when I was 18 months old, driving by in a Daimler, in Mary Stevens Park, back home in Worcestershire – where the sauce comes from. I’m terribly sorry to admit that I don’t remember the event.
Happy Birthday, from Your Majesty’s most loyal and obedient servant