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The Canberra Times
The Canberra Times
Megan Doherty

The Queen and I

Queen Elizabeth arriving at Fairbairn in Canberra at the start of her Australian tour in 2011. Picture by Marina Neil

Maybe love for the royals - especially the Queen - is genetic.

My 84-year-old Aunt Glennie from Raymond Terrace near Newcastle has been a massive fan of the British royals ever since I can remember.

One of her favourite party tricks is being able to reel off the birthdays of every one of the Royal family, right down to the most obscure earl or viscount.

Her house is full of books and magazines on the Royals. An inveterate traveller, she always made sure to stop by Buckingham Palace every time she visited London, just in case she caught a glimpse of the Queen.

My aunt Glennie as a young woman in 1954, the year of the Queen's triumphant tour of Australia.
My aunt Glennie as a young woman in 1954, the year of the Queen's triumphant tour of Australia.

She remembers as a 10-year-old staying up one late autumn evening in 1947 on her parents' property in Walgett, listening on the radio to the wedding of the then Princess Elizabeth and Philip Mountbatten, in faraway England. It was beyond magical.

When she was at boarding school in Sydney, her favourite past-time was to go into the city to the old Farmer's department store and buy a book about someone in the royal family.

"When I left school, I had about 40 or 50 books," she said.

"The Queen was always my favourite."

And by the time the newly-crowned Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip toured Australia in 1954, Glennie, fresh out of school and about to start a new job with the Commonwealth Bank back home in Walgett, was well and truly obsessed with the glamorous, young monarch.

"Everywhere the Queen went during that time, so did I," Glennie said.

"I saw her three times at least!"

My Aunt Glennie sent away for this photograph from a newspaper of the Queen in Sydney in 1954. Fresh out of school, Glennie followed the Queen everywhere during her visit and spotted her three times.
My Aunt Glennie sent away for this photograph from a newspaper of the Queen in Sydney in 1954. Fresh out of school, Glennie followed the Queen everywhere during her visit and spotted her three times.

Over the years, Glennie has spotted the Queen again during her tours of Australia, including once up close in Newcastle in 1988. Her fascination has never waned.

"I just love the Queen. She's only 11 years older than me, so that makes us pals. I wish!" Glennie said.

"No one else in the family is a mad Royal fan - except you - and can't see the sense, but it makes sense to me.

"I don't do rock bands or Kardashians, so royals are my weakness.

"There's no secret to my love for the Queen and the royal family, well, some of them. It's just something I've always been - a fan. Or fanatic, if you like!

"It hasn't done me any harm and I've loved every bit of it!"

And, yes, as Aunt Glennie says, I am the only other royal nut in our family, but my love was firstly with Diana.

It's only now I realise there was almost the same age gap between myself and Diana as Aunt Glennie and the Queen. Princess Diana was 10 years older than me and at once relatable (She loved ABBA! And rollerskated!) as she was so beautiful and otherworldly.

I was 10 years old when I sat up to watch the wedding of Diana Spencer and Prince Charles in 1981. I couldn't get enough of her. I still have a scrapbook plastered with pages of images of Diana, cut out from magazines. I've loved to watch every royal wedding since. And Kate and William, to me, are perfection.

The Queen was truly never on my radar growing up. From my childish view, she always looked stern. And dowdy, clutching her black handbag. I probably only noticed her when "she" popped up on an episode of The Goodies, which mercilessly sent up the royals, despite Tim's devotion to the monarchy. (And, fun fact, Prince Charles was actually a firm fan of The Goodies. Another reason to love him.)

But as I've gotten older, I've grown to admire the Queen. Marvelled at her resilience, her poise, her grace over so many years. The sheer effort of decades of small talk with strangers. Always standing ramrod straight. Rarely putting a foot wrong.

She has been a unifying force. Her tours to Australia brought joy to so many people. Even the most ardent republican, could not turn down an audience with the Queen, it seemed.

I've seen her up close a few times. Once at the Commonwealth Games in Malaysia in 1998 and covering her tours of Canberra in 2006 and 2011. She seemed to grow softer and lovelier as she got older. More pastel. And more often with a smile on her face.

The fact Elizabeth only became Queen because of the abdication of her uncle King Edward VIII, forcing her father to take the throne as King George VI, makes her story even more remarkable. Becoming queen in 1952 at just 25-years-old, she accepted what fate had handed her and never swayed from that duty. She just got on with it.

This year, as the Queen turned 96 in April and celebrated an astounding 70 years on the throne, there was a sense of her getting things in order, ensuring Charles became King and Camilla the Queen Consort. And that Prince Andrew was stripped of his official duties, the cancer of the sexual abuse allegations against him no longer ignored.

Since the death of Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh, in April last year, the Queen seemed more fragile, bowed and thin. That loss reminded us she was not just a symbol, a figurehead, a monarch, but a woman who loved and missed her husband of almost 74 years.

Something popped up on social media recently that might have revealed more than it intended about who the Queen really was.

It was an unearthed video of the then 60-year-old monarch emerging from the 1986 wedding of Prince Andrew to Sarah Ferguson. The happy couple are being hurried away in a carriage, the congregation following them.

But then four-year-old pageboy, Prince William, breaks away to chase the carriage. Queen Elizabeth for that brief moment stops being a monarch and becomes a grandmother, chasing after him in her heels and pearls, to rein him before he goes tumbling under the wheels.

She was the Queen, but she was also a human being. And the unwavering service and dedication she showed over 70 years reminds us all that we are capable of more than we think.

It's difficult to think of a world without her. I'm glad she passed away at Balmoral, a place of rest and happiness. RIP Elizabeth.

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