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My Mother and the Queen: Strong Women of the Greatest Generation

The passing of the Queen saddened me more than I thought it would.

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photo collage of queen elizabeth and author's mother
Paul Spella
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The passing of Queen Elizabeth II saddened me more than I expected. Perhaps because she was a year younger than my mom. And although we know that death is inevitable and a long life is something to be remembered with joy, when the end comes, we are never prepared.

From his speech, it was obvious that her eldest son, now King Charles III and 74, wasn’t ready for his mom’s passing, as I expect I won’t be, either.

His words brought tears to my eyes: “To my darling mama, as you begin your last great journey to join my dear late papa, I want simply to say this: Thank you. Thank you for your love and devotion to our family and to the family of nations you have served so diligently all these years. May flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.”

Both my mom and Elizabeth were part of the greatest generation, who lived through the Depression and World War II. They were pregnant during the same time. I was born in 1948, as was King Charles. My sister was born in 1950, the same year as Princess Anne.

But although my mom and the queen experienced many of the same womanly and worldly events, they saw them through completely different eyes.

When Elizabeth became Queen Elizabeth II, my mom was 26, one year older than the recently married princess, who was not expecting to wear the crown.

While Elizabeth was preparing for her coronation, learning the procedure for the royal event, my mom was reading The Betty Crocker Cookbook, preparing meals for two small children and a spouse. The queen had a love for riding horses. My mom loved to ride around in a convertible with the top down.

Throughout the decades, the queen led opening sessions in Parliament. My mom was the leader of conversations at the dinner table. The queen understood the power of silence. To my mom, silence is an enemy. The queen didn’t take her husband’s name. For years my mom didn’t even have her own name. She was known to the world as Mrs. Calvin Singman. The queen shocked the world by dancing with the president of Ghana at a formal ball. My mom shocked her teenage daughters by doing the twist at a family birthday party. The queen owned a variety of animals, most living in the London Zoo. With three great-grandchildren, a granddaughter, two dogs and various caregivers coming in and out of our house, my mom often feels as if she is living in a zoo. The queen used her ever-present purse to send signals to her staff. My mom clings to her purse for dear life, wherever she goes. Sometimes she is talking to someone, and it is usually herself. The queen drank a glass of Bollinger champagne every night. My mom has a glass of Maker’s Mark bourbon every night.

The queen spoke fluent French. My mom speaks fluent canine. The queen was always surrounded by many pedigree corgis with names such as Muick and Sandy, whereas my mom found her beloved beagle mutts at the pound, and her most favorite one was named Snoopy. Elizabeth Arden was the queen’s favorite lipstick. My mom favors Revlon.

Throughout the decades, the queen waved a million times, reassuring the generations who loved her that everything was OK. My mom has been seen by millions on her great-granddaughter’s TikTok videos, showing the world true intergenerational love. The queen always wore colorful designer hats when in public, trading them for her crown during royal events. My mom wears baseball caps.

As she moved up into her 90s, the queen had to miss some of her royal events. My mom misses quite a lot during the day, as she often dozes off while reading the paper, worrying me that a fly will land in her open mouth.

But mostly, as I watched the queen on TV over the decades, I saw a very human monarch, surrounded by her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. I realized that to the little ones, she was simply Grannie or Gan-Gan, and they had no idea they were spending precious family time with one of the world’s most formidable and famous persons.

I look at my mom, who is also simply Grandma to her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. And I realize that from the day she wore a paper tiara and we played tea party, she has always been like a queen to me.

Despite their different lifestyles, I think that if they had been given the chance to meet, my mom and the queen would have felt a mutual admiration. Having lived and loved through more than nine decades, from telegrams to tweets, counts for something. My mother has been a constant, the most important woman in my life. I imagine the queen’s children feel the same way about her.

Who else was a fan of the Queen? Let us know in the comments below.

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