Queen Elizabeth: Distant Encounters of the 2nd & 3rd Kind
Some random reflections on the late Queen of England (and Scotland, Wales & Northern Island and not-forgetting the Commonwealth)
I only ever encountered the late Queen of England — Elizabeth II — once in real life. This was back in the mid-1970s when I was still practicing as a barrister in one of the Inns of Court in London. Purely by chance I was walking along Fleet Street/The Strand when I stumbled across a crowd watching a Royal procession. The Queen was in a horse-drawn carriage that had halted at the site of the old Temple Bar (the western boundary of the City of London) just by the Royal Courts of Justice.
This was so Her Maj could take part in a curious custom (dating back to 1067) involving the Lord Mayor (of the City of London) greeting the Sovereign at the City limits and presenting the Pearl Sword of the City of London (hilt uppermost) to him or her in recognition of the Sovereign’s authority. This is reflects the fact that since Saxon times the City of London has had special privileges and a unique relationship with the Crown. (Technically the Monarch is the only person who outranks the Lord Mayor in the City of London.) Please feel free to Google obscure British constitutional traditions. Here’s a painting the Worshipful Company of Ironmongers (a City livery company) commissioned, following the Queen’s Golden Jubilee in 2002, to capture the moment when the Lord Mayor presented the Pearl Sword to the Queen at Temple Bar.
Anyway, I watched the ceremony — the procession moved on towards St Paul’s Cathedral and the City — and the crowd drifted away. Bringing the whole ceremony back down to earth (literally) I was bemused to see that following the procession was a municipal refuse truck whose staff had the job of sweeping up all the horse shit the parade had left in its wake.
I did however have earlier virtual encounter with the Queen… in fact it is probably the first memory I can recollect as a child. It was in June 1953, just a couple of weeks before my third birthday, when my family were invited by my grandmother’s landlord Mr Hodgson (first name lost forever) to watch the…