When I was a kid, I saw the Queen.
Queen Elizabeth came to visit Brisbane. There was so much excitement about this visit of the new young Queen. It was 1954 and fascination with the monarchy was at an all time high. After the dark days of World War 2 and the subsequent illness and death of King George, people were delighted by the vibrant young woman who was now Queen of the British Commonwealth of Nations.
My father was a supervisor at the Arnotts Biscuit Factory in Brisbane and, as it happened, the Royal motorcade was to pass right by the factory. Dad and his fellow workers were informed that they might bring their families in to the factory canteen so that they would have a good view of the motorcade.
I remember sitting on my father’s shoulders and watching out through the big windows that fronted Coronation Drive. There were people everywhere, lining the road, sitting in trees and, like us, looking out of windows. Flags fluttered in the breeze and strands of bunting were strung above the road. It was all very festive.
As a three and half year old, I didn’t really understand the significance of the whole event. I had been told to watch out for the big black car which would be carrying the Queen. My mother had told me that the Queen would be waving to me, so I should wave back. I had my little flag to wave at her. I was ready, eyes on the road, flag held high.
I knew what queens looked like. I had seen plenty of them in my story books. It seemed perfectly simple. I just had to watch out for a lady wearing a crown. Easy.
Then everyone was cheering. A line of cars came by. One of them had a lady and a gentleman in it.
I watched the car go past. The lady wasn’t wearing a crown so I knew she wasn’t the Queen that I had been told to watch for. People around me were making a lot of noise. My mother and father were cheering and waving.
And then it was over. Dad lifted me from his shoulders and set me on the floor.
“How about that?” he asked me. “Wasn’t that great? We saw the Queen.”
I promptly burst into tears, because I was sure that I had not seen the Queen at all. Yes, I had seen the lady in the car sitting beside the gentleman but, no, I had not seen any queens. There had not been a crown in sight.
It took a lot of calming down and explaining about crowns and queens before I could accept that I had indeed seen our Queen. I was left with mixed feelings. It was good to know that I had been part of an important moment in Brisbane’s history, but I felt really sad, and somewhat guilty, that I had not waved my little flag at the lady in the big black car.
To me she had been simply a pretty lady not a queen and that somehow dulled the whole experience. I had seen the Queen and not realised it. I felt as though I had been cheated.
Who knew there were fashion rules stating when and where one should wear one’s crown?