In 1973, I went on a field trip with my high school acting group. To London. To a week of plays in London’s West End.
Because I was far too cool to be a tourist, I did almost none of the typical tourist things while I was there. (I was an idiot. There is a reason folks want to visit the Tower of London, etc.). There was one exception, though. I went to Madame Tussaud’s — the famous Wax Museum. While there, I was still too cool to be impressed by how realistic the wax figures were. Well, until something happened to really make me smile.
My friends and I had just about finished touring the museum, when we entered the exhibit for The Royals. From behind me I heard the sweetest voice.
“Mummy! That’s Our Queen!”
A little English boy, no more than four had entered the exhibit. He wore navy blue shorts and suspenders, and his cheeks were as rosy as a young English boy’s should be. He lit up the room with his pride. In his Queen.
“Yes, Darling,” replied his Mum. “That’s our Queen.”
At that time, Richard Nixon was President of the U.S. I was quite sure that there was no little boy in my country who would speak with similar pride about Nixon.
The image of that boy comes to mind every time I see Queen Elizabeth. And I always smile.
Today I read something about the Queen, though, that makes me smile even wider.
The Huffington Post reported a delightful anecdote about a visit from the newly-late King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia to the Queen’s Scottish castle, Balmoral. The story was recounted by Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, who was the British Ambassador to Saudi Arabia. He’d been told the story by both the Queen and the King, and relayed it.
“After lunch, the Queen had asked her royal guest whether he would like a tour of the estate,” wrote Cowper-Coles, who is said to have heard the tale from both Elizabeth and Abdullah themselves. “Prompted by his foreign minister the urbane Prince Saud, an initially hesitant Abdullah had agreed. The royal Land Rovers were drawn up in front of the castle. As instructed, the Crown Prince climbed into the front seat of the front Land Rover, his interpreter in the seat behind.”
Little did Abdullah know, however, that his driver for the day would be none other than Elizabeth herself.
“To his surprise, the Queen climbed into the driving seat, turned the ignition and drove off,” Cowper-Coles wrote. “Women are not — yet — allowed to drive in Saudi Arabia, and Abdullah was not used to being driven by a woman, let alone a queen.”
Not to mention a queen who can drive like the wind. According to Cowper-Coles, Elizabeth didn’t just drive the SUV, but rapidly whizzed along the estate’s roads as she chatted, prompting Abdullah to become increasingly anxious.
“Through his interpreter, the Crown Prince implored the Queen to slow down and concentrate on the road ahead,” the diplomat said.
Queen Elizabeth II is one badass broad. On behalf of drivers of my gender, as well as men far more enlightened than King Abdullah, I bow to you. I’d curtsey but I’m not that kind of girl.