I had always meant to get to London during Queen Elizabeth’s lifetime. As an English major who taught Shakespeare and studied him in college, I thought I would get there in time. I had always planned to add a trek to Stratford-Upon-Avon while there.
As children, we sang “London Bridges…, my Fair Lady.” I could see Big Ben in my mind’s eye as I read Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway. I hear the phrases from English Literature classes such as Lady Macbeth crying, “Out! Out, damn spot,” as her guilt overtook her. Or I hear Hamlet pondering the validity of his existence in his “To be or not to be” soliloquy. We had to recite that speech in front of our Shakespeare classmates taught by the indomitable Dr. McMillan at the then, Chicago State College.
When I taught Macbeth to tenth graders, my coworker Glenda and I loved his speech, “Bring me no more reports!” For he knew that it was just a matter of time before Macduff would find him and exact revenge for the murder of his family. Or I think about Julius Caesar’s look at his friend during the moment of betrayal when he turned and asked, “Et tu, Brutus?”
Thus, I thought I would get there while Queen Elizabeth reigned, but I did not. However, over the years I have watched several documentaries on how she conducted business, interviews and meetings with heads of state. She timed her meetings with them and simply said “Otherwise, the meetings would never end.” This is a simple, but powerful fact and great food for thought in our business dealings.
Yet, I was blessed with a wonderful piece of memorabilia. I was temping as an Executive Assistant at Gillette in Boston. A coworker told me that she was going to London during the Queen’s 50th Jubilee. I was so excited for her because she was a woman of color and able to attend this historic event! I asked her to bring me a memento and she concurred. She brought back the above stationary card of Queen Elizabeth II by Andy Warhol which she purchased at the Victoria and Albert Museum Main Shop.
Also, as a young child in Detroit, me and my sisters were all Christened and given what we called God names from women in the Bible. Mine was Elizabeth, though this Biblical woman was the cousin of Mary, the mother of Jesus. That was another special connection that I had to Queen Elizabeth who became queen when I was about two and half. Quite like most people, she has been on the throne for all of my cognizant life.
Someone said that this loss is a seismic shift for the world because this is a person whom we thought would always be there. It is comparable to me losing my own grandmother, who we assumed would always be up there on Alma Street in Memphis. But when she was gone, there were shifts in the family dynamics but mostly there was a huge hole that no one else could truly fill.
So no, my liege, I did not make it to the UK during your lifetime, but as long as there is life, there is hope. I still plan to go the UK one day, but just know that I am already there in Spirit during this sad time.
September 17, 2022