Don’t get me wrong – Her Majesty didn’t even know I existed. Didn’t know my name. Couldn’t have picked me out of a lineup.
But, Her Majesty has been a constant and strong part of my life. This was aided and abetted by the fact that my Canadian father was a staunch monarchist (he volunteered for the Canadian army at 31 years of age to defend England from Germany. My mother was an English war bride. The monarchy was in their blood.
I’ve had five live views of Queen Elizabeth.
During my first, as a child, I got lost in the crowds who were also present. I confess I don’t actually remember ‘seeing’ the Queen. She was in a cluster of people in the far distance. But, I am rather proud that I was able to find my way back to our hotel on my own.
At university the Queen visited the campus to have a meal. I saw her pass in a motorcade.
My most significant encounter (which I will class as an encounter) happened when she visited the provincial legislature. I managed to get close to the main entrance of the building and hoped to take pictures. I did not succeed with the photos, but realized I was not far from the Royal car. I moved to stand near it and wait for her to leave.
When Ii saw The Queen leave the building, I got as close to the car and waited. I was not watching her progress, but was trained on the car door she would enter. Just as I saw her walking toward the car, I put my eye to the view screen. (No iPhones in those days). She just came into view when someone walked right in front of me. I looked up, ready to say something rather negative. It was Prince Philip.
Next time, the Queen was to unveil a monument in a historic park. I thought I got there in plenty of time, but the crowds were five deep. But I did see her.
And, finally, the Queen was in Halifax Nova Scotia for the 100th anniversary of the Canadian Navy. The ceremony was on National television. I was able to watch a good deal of it on TV, then gauged when the ceremony would be coming to a close. It was a long event, with a Naval pass by of many ships. I got down to the harbour, knowing which dock the Queen’s ship would tie up to. But, not only did thousands of other folk know this, but the Security Services had created a No Go Zone near that dock. I did see her. but just as she came down the gangplank in the far distance.
In fiction, Her Majesty has graced two of my novels. Yes, I will relate one such encounter from Being Famous.
The soup bowls, with their attendant spoons and plates, are whisked away from all the tables, and conversations begin to occur throughout the room. Now the woman to ST’s right leans toward him. As a vase of flowers partially obscures her place name, he can only tell that she is Lady Holmes hyphen.
“I’m very interested in your work.”
“It’s interesting work to do.”
“But then – “
Lady Holmes hyphen leans very close to ST, revealing an intriguing décolleté, and breath which indicates the wine steward has not been her only source of wine this evening.
” – perhaps interest in your work can be taken to extremes.”
“You haven’t written a book, have you?” ST’s smile is moderately genuine.
“Not about Space/Time.” Lady Holmes hyphen adjusts her gown in a manner which actually reveals more flesh. “And it has yet to be published.” She could not be offering more if she held a serving plate beneath her breasts. “I wouldn’t mind your help on a chapter or two.”
ST is not without interest. He is spared the task of making any response, when a hand from off stage of the lady’s right is laid heavily on the wrist of his conversational partner. With a sigh and a shrug (which causes interesting motion within the revealing gown), she swivels away.
“Are you enjoying yourself?”
“Yes, Ma’am.” ST turns toward her voice.
“Good.” There is a rustle of napkin across the Royal knee. “Although I do hope the poor girl doesn’t catch a chill.”
The next item on the menu – and ST notes they have yet to hit the main course – is Berner Rosti, upon which sits a quail’s egg and a teaspoon of caviar. Does one scoop up the caviar on its own, or does one mix it about with the potato and the egg?
ST decides he would like the taste of the caviar to be exclusive, so he pushes it onto the plate, and consumes the rest of the dish. Then, with a (fresh) glass of white wine to wash it down, he savours the salty sea taste.
“It meets with your approval?”
“It is Oestrova caviar. A subtle difference from the Beluga.”
“Has Your Majesty ever had golden caviar?”
ST has asked a question.
Not only is this a breach of Royal etiquette, but did he not himself advise her bare weeks ago to rein in the Royal answer to questions. Still, he is almost the guest of honour, and it really could have been a bomb. And her own royal wine steward does nothing to hamper his quest to alleviate his thirst. A thirst (he could point out, if asked) exaggerated by the consumption of caviar.
“A taste to remember.” She looks down somewhat wistfully at her plate.
“I have long wondered, Ma’am. Does golden caviar actually possess the colour of gold?”
“Oh, yes.” She glances at him. “It is a most exquisite shimmering gold” A small smile crosses her face. “It outshines the gold pot in which it is served.”
“I must say, Ma’am, it sounds exceptional.”
“Yes, it is.” She places her hands in her lap. “The last which we received came from President Gorbachev.” She again sits back as her plate is removed. “Isn’t it strange how people come and go?”
The main course is Canon de Venaison Farci Sauce Fines Herbes.
ST would like to leave his place, scurry down the length of chairs, give Howard a jovial pat on the back (or a nudge in the ribs) and point this out to him. Admittedly, it is neither a steak nor a chop, but a whole saddle of venison, stuffed and sauced. Still – a hunk of deer is a hunk of deer.
But, he decides it would be unwise to even glance in Howard’s direction.
Accompanying the venison, along with the Pommes Nouvelles, are Courgettes Farcies A La Mingrelienne. This poses a mild problem for ST, for he is not fond of zucchini, no matter how they are stuffed or cooked.
For some reason, this particular deficiency of his palette was a great failing in the eyes of wife number two. And, although she is not present to point out his shortcomings, he decides to follow what he knows would be her preference, and eat them down without hesitation.
Is this not why God created wine?
And anyway, the venison makes up for everything.
It is as he finishes his last mouthful of stuffed zucchini (the fennel makes it almost palatable), that a Royal hand is placed close to his own. He immediately turns.
“We shall introduce you before the cheese.”
“Yes, Ma’am.” ST glances at the menu, and notes he will precede the Baked Brie in Puff Pastry.
“We shall be brief.”
“It is customary for you to then say a few words.”
“As few as possible, Ma’am.”
“You return to America tomorrow?”
“The first flight of the Concorde.”
“I would like to express my thanks for your advice.” She leans ever-so-slightly closer to him. “There has been a decided lack of errant Windsor tales in the media.”
“The power of the closed mouth, Ma’am.” ST gives a brief smile. “Silence can be as golden as caviar.”
“And as rewarding.” She smiles in return. “Also, please accept our additional thanks for being here tonight.”
“My pleasure, Ma’am.” ST suddenly laughs. “Happy to fill the space.”
“Well put.” The Queen unexpectedly laughs also, causing some heads to turn. “We are relieved that you had the time.”