As the nation celebrates the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, Wanstead resident Eileen Flinter reflects upon her memories of the monarch’s 70-year reign
When I was six, I saw my mother cry for the first time. We lived in a tenement in Glasgow and I was in bed suffering from chickenpox when Mum came into the room, wiping her eyes and crying. “The King is dead,” she told me. It was February 1952.
By June 1953, we had moved and our home was a fish and chip shop in Manchester. My parents, like millions of others, bought their first television to watch the Coronation. I can remember perching on the arm of a chair in our crowded sitting room as the young queen was crowned and family and neighbours watched in reverent silence.
My brother and I were two of the many children who were given Coronation mugs at school. We used our Coronation mugs on a daily basis for years. One of the mugs still survives. As the Queen passed more and more milestones, this shabby piece of crockery was elevated to the status of family treasure and put away for safety.
By the time of the Silver Jubilee in 1977, I was married and living in Dublin. This was not the easiest place to look for red, white and blue bunting or Union Jacks, so I watched the events in Britain on the BBC and spoke to my parents on the phone.
When the 2002 Golden Jubilee took place, I was living in Wanstead. My daughter remembers that everyone in the estate agents where she then worked was told to wear red, white and blue that day. She also remembers I bought her Union Jack shot glasses which she and her friend used as ashtrays when I was out one night. Apparently, I was mad with them for abusing the gift – and for smoking!
Ahead of the Diamond Jubilee in 2012, my granddaughter was taken to see the Queen and Prince Philip in Valentine’s Park. Niamh had her photo taken wearing a Union Jack hat and clutching a flag. This photo is stored in her memory box, along with the mug she got at the Cranbourne Avenue street party, and the 1953 mug from her grandmother.
Fast forward another decade to the Platinum Jubilee. From Brexit to the pandemic and an 11-year-old asking me if we are going to have a nuclear war, the intervening 10 years have been tumultuous and unsettling for many, and tragic for some. And the Queen has not been exempt personally, losing her husband and enduring the most tragic of all funerals for anyone, let alone doing so in the glare of cameras. She is left dealing with the fallout of the shameful behaviour of her favourite son and the absence of her cheerful grandson.
Around these landmarks, I have grown up and grown old, but the young girl who inherited the Crown whilst on holiday in Africa has gone on doing the same job, day after day and year after year. It is a formidable employment record. For all of us, there have been good times and bad, happy times and sad over the last 70 years.
Royalist or republican, it is hard not to offer the Queen respect and admiration for a life lived in complete dedication to a job and way of life that came to her accidentally. Elizabeth’s recent birthday photo with two ponies signalled the life she would have chosen for herself. Most of us have no memory of another monarch. So familiar that she is just there, an unconsidered part of our lives. We owe her our very warmest wishes. She has done us proud. Take care, ma’am.