In chess,the Queen is “the most powerful chess piece that each player has, able to move in any direction along a rank, file, or diagonal on which it stands”. And so was HM Queen ElizabethII, moving seamlessly and respectfully between faiths and races, between Commonwealths and other countries, between cultures and commerce. In Britain, the desolation on the Queen’s passing is absolute. Tributes flood in from world leaders and citizens who have been touched by her humanity and catapulted into grief. Not just an adored monarch but a consummate diplomat, who spent 70 years promoting social harmony and healing, talking sensitively around painful legacies, be it in Africa, India or Northern Ireland. The just departed UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, well known for his brilliant oration, gave a wonderfully fitting tribute in the House of Commons and explained the deep emotional and personal attachment felt by British people. This reporter has never known a United Kingdom that was not reigned over by Her Majesty. Every Christmas Day in living memory has been designed around watching the Queen’s speech live at 3pm, and reflecting on the message within. The British have depended on the Queen to articulate their feelings in times of crisis and today King CharlesIII stepped into his mother’s shoes.
Everyone including the new cabinet are airing their fond recollections of Her Majesty (HM). My family had a small connection with HM. After World War II my maternal grandmother, became a “vendeuse” in the couturier Hardy Amies’ Savile Row salon. Granny had two clients, HM The Queen and Diana Lady Delamere. As a child I sat through many Hardy Amies fashion shows but never saw HM; because Granny rarely spoke about the detail of her work I imagined the Queen must have had personal fashion shows at Buckingham Palace or Windsor, or at Balmoral. I do remember Hardy designed some of HM’s wardrobe for the 1979 tour of six Gulf countries and Granny was the vendeuse in charge. I remember conversations about how covered up the Queen had to be, even not showing an ankle when sitting down. The Queen knew how to break the ice and no doubt her smile, and passion for thoroughbreds and horse racing played a part in this. The Queen dressed in Hardy Amies fashions fitted by grandmother during her visit to Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, KSA and UAE gave British fashion, Arab culture and trade a worldwide audience.
Hardy Amies remained the Queen’s favourite couturier for 50 years, my grandmother eventually collapsed in her late 70s whilst fitting the Queen at Balmoral. Granny remembered the Queen calling, “Sheila, Sheila, are you alright?” Help was summoned and Granny finally retired, with many mementos from the Queen, including an ER coin charm for her charm bracelet.
HM met more diverse world leaders than anyone ever, always with complete equanimity, from Ronald Reagan to Robert Mugabe, Haile Selassie to General Suharto, her neutrality always apparent. Apart from all the tributes, praise and history about Her Majesty, one must assume that she had the most wonderful sense of humour, first because she was married to Prince Philip who is infamous for his wit, and secondly because she allowed “herself” to be parachuted out of a helicopter accompanied by James Bond/Daniel Craig into the centre of the arena at the 2012 London Olympics; also for her charming tea ceremony with Paddington bear during the Jubilee weekend this year.
The Queen has been a pillar of modernity for women, serving in WWII in uniform, being a pioneer working mother, a top class equestrienne, the Head of the British state and a non-executive Stateswoman, an upholder of the traditions of indigenous peoples all over the world, facilitating the passage to independence of several African countries, Her Majesty is an unforgettable force.