Whatever your views on monarchy there is little doubt the passing of Queen Elizabeth II signifies the end of an era. For a 96-year-old woman to continue working for her country is phenomenal. She devoted her life to her service, which seemed to be a facet of the war generation who put duty first.
When I was doing research for my debut novel, Warm Pearls And Paper Cranes, I interviewed people who lived through WWII and the theme through all the narratives was the overriding sense of duty, of putting their needs aside for the greater good. This was something Maud held true to, just like the Queen.
Despite her wealth and power, the Queen had very little wriggle room to express herself, and she was supposed to be entirely neutral. I love that she engaged in a little humorous subterfuge, making political comments even though she never said a word out of place. For example, she wore a brooch given to her by the Obamas, when she met Trump; she wore a floral blue and yellow hat that looked like the European flag in post Brexit Britain; and drove the Saudi prince herself in her Land Rover. I also wonder if Paddington Bear coming to tea for the Jubilee was not just about the joke about what she had in her handbag, but also that she welcomed the bear from Peru, the refugee, at a time when the Government is making refugees criminals and deporting them to Rwanda, rather than treating them with the compassion and respect they deserve.
The lack of expression and opportunities was even more so with ordinary people. Ironically, women were only given opportunities because of war, whether that was jobs or unchaperoned access to a social life, and there would’ve been no women’s baseball team if it hadn’t been for the Second World War.
Like any self-respecting lesbian, I devoured the series A League Of Their Own desperate for queer representation on the small screen. The storyline that resonated most was that of Max and Clance, their wonderful friendship, and battling for representation and access to equal opportunities, which was denied them, despite there being an edict to help the war effort.
Although there are more opportunities for people now irrespective of race, gender, sexual orientation than there were when the Queen served as an ambulance driver during the war, we need to cling onto our rights and push for those who are denied to be who they truly are.
I did not Queue (capitalised of course) for hours to see the coffin, but I do mourn the end of the second Elizabethan age, and rue the passing of the putting-others-first war generation, and hope that we will continue to approach life with discussion across the divide and retain a sense of humour.