Rosemary McLeod: My Queen mum's common touch


It is a little known fact that my mother could have been the Queen.

This being the case, the whole jubilee shooting match could have been held in her honour, not that of the Pretender we make such a fuss about today, and I'd have been on the royal barge graciously waving, though certainly not in a hat. I'd have worn the Crown jewels.

A mere accident of birth stood between my mother and the English throne, a technicality to do with her choice of parents.

Otherwise she was pretty well the same age as Queen Elizabeth, could be equally photogenic in a good light - and when not carrying excess weight - and loved being the centre of attention.

She often said she could easily have done the job, that smiling and waving isn't that difficult, and that everyone is bound to be of royal descent anyway if they search far enough back in their family tree.

She could have been right about that; countless kitchen maids (my ancestors) must have succumbed to the wicked aristocracy; but any lustre of that kind had worn pretty thin by the time it got down to her father, a small-time berry fruit grower, and her mother, a former nursemaid.

There was definitely no family silver. It was all electro-plated nickel silver (EPNS).<inline type="recurring-inline" id="1003" align="outside" enforce-sites="no" />

Things were a bit different with the Queen's parents. There'd have been no Depression era sugar bag years of penny-pinching, even if castles are draughty and difficult to heat, and if push came to shove they could always flick a Da Vinci.

My mother nonetheless lived in permanent rivalry with the Queen, whose outfits were always dissected and discussed.

My mother shared her love of hats, and always wore a hat and gloves to town with a handbag perched over her elbow.

She also wore the dress-and-coat ensembles the Queen favoured, purchased at Kirkcaldies in good times, and home sewn on the treadle machine in bad.

She'd have been only too pleased to swing champagne bottles against new ocean liners, or declare bridges open, and the Duke of Edinburgh was probably her type.

But fate was cruel. She married a sheep farmer.

Houses are no longer crammed with royalty gear the way they used to be. We had piles of publications about the royal family, and our particular favourites.

My mother's was Princess Alexandra, on the grounds that she was more royal than the Queen; I'm not privy to why.

We had coronation china, too, useful for dust-gathering, and kept in special shrines on the wall with the Limoges miniatures.

I suspect there was a latent belief that if you rubbed these and murmured the right incantations they'd perform magic healing tricks.

Somewhere, I still have a replica of the coronation spoon that anointed Elizabeth, and a painted lead figure of her in coronation regalia, but the time of the china cabinet has passed, and with it the Queen on everyone's ashtrays and cake plates and cake-tin lids.

The era has passed, too, when you had to stand for God Save the Queen at the start of the movies, her image on horseback flickering across the screen, noble and purposeful, before the cackling kookaburras ushered in the Movietone News.

My mother, it must be said, would not have cut much of a dash as a horsewoman.

She'd have had to stand nobly to attention in the back of a limo.

I blame the Queen for a childhood in which my mother slavishly copied the outfits of the royal children and made me wear them. A certain kilt and matching twin set were the bane of my young life.

I also have her to thank for the goofy professional photographs that documented my childhood in imitation of the stuff churned out through Buckingham Palace of Charles and Anne.

But these are harmless grievances. My mother's were more intensely felt.

Just as well, then, that she didn't live to see the latest celebrations.

She'd have had a fatal conniption.

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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