The British Queen passed away around 6 PM on September 8, 2022 after a reign of over 70 years. Quite naturally, she had become an institution, and many of her subjects could have been born, lived and died while she was monarch.
World leaders who had met her remarked on her graciousness, wit and wisdom — accumulated no doubt through her travels, meeting endless people, and above all her regular weekly audience with the British prime minister who apprised her of important events and government business. Over the years her experience must have also become valuable.
People who had met her also noted her genuine kindness and an ability to put people at ease in formal situations. No doubt her sense of humor came in handy.
During my stay in London, I saw her many times at various ceremonies and events. Trooping the color to celebrate the sovereign’s official birthday in June — her actual date of birth was in April — was one of them. She would ride down The Mall, sitting side-saddle on her horse, all the way to Horse Guards Parade where she would take the salute.
A friend and I, seeing an open space just by the fence, quickly seized the spot overlooked by others. We soon found out why. As the ceremony commenced, a troop of horse guards lined up at the fence. In front of me then was an enormous horse’s behind giving an extremely blinkered view of the occasion. The horse’s anatomy is etched in my memory as is the flicking of his tail too close to my face for comfort. To end it all, the horse coup de grace was an emptying of his bowels — a memory one would dearly wish to forget but remains unforgettable.
The Queen’s mother, also named Elizabeth, was the Chancellor of the University of London. In England that is an honorary position for the executive officer is the Vice-Chancellor, akin to a U.S. university president.
Well, the Queen Mother came to visit King’s College. She was welcomed by all the chief officers and proceeded to tour the classrooms and labs. We were instructed to address her as Ma’am (a long ‘a’ followed by a short one). We were in a room with wide tables where we could set up our engineering drawing boards and their T-squares . My place happened to be close to the aisle, and when the Queen Mother passed by she asked me what I was drawing. “It’s a roof TRUSS Ma’am”– it was a structural engineering class. She smiled and walked on. I was so nervous the words “It’s a roof” were barely audible although “TRUSS” was loud and clear, and I have often wondered what she thought.
Of course now there is a Truss in Britain’s future. Liz Truss as prime minister is leading it with a cabinet that for the first time does not have a white male heading a principal ministry.