Wednesday, September 9, 2015
Well, she's done it, and if it the "it" is simply having lived this long, the manner in which she's done it comes as close as I can imagine one human's efforts could to actually deserving the global outpouring of praise and sheer affection that's coming her way.
In another life, she would have been a happy countrywoman, one who put up with her husband's naval career (as she has had to, in any case, with his oh-so-occasional out of place remarks) with good grace (she would have made a first-rate admiral's wife), busied herself with horses and dogs, became a pillar of the local Women's Institute, and reluctantly ran half-a-dozen committees and good causes "because you're so much better at that sort of thing than we are, dear" (the fate of innumerable competent gentlewomen of the last two centuries or so, put upon by their flightier friends and relations). Instead she oversaw the final dismantling of the British Empire, supervised the successful completion of the Commonwealth (in the role of head of which she wields a great deal more direct authority than she does at home), and has with indescribable skill shepherded the institution in charge of which her birth placed her.
I like her look of wariness in this photo, back when she was starting out on all this, the journey of decades that's taken her this far. There's a new photo today (by Paul McCartney's daughter, of all people), that, while it initially seems much sunnier, on closer reflection has some of that same distancing caution. Her personal style, too, is unchanged, the flowered dress, pearls, and carefully curled hair. She is, to an eye more used today to synthesized celebrities and one-day wonders, intoxicatingly of a piece, herself, and nothing but. Few women are better known; few are greater mysteries. And on she goes, having today opened a railroad line and retreated - back to the house in which her great-great-grandmother celebrated crossing her own regnal long-distance finish line 119 years ago - home for dinner with her family.
The title? It's from an old joke, one that over the years has been told to me by at least three different Very Well Known People as either having happened to them or in their presence. You see, someone (either the teller or Their Friend) is at a swank cocktail party and runs into a chatty, very dressy, and slightly tipsy lady, smoking in a corner. They know they've met her before, but can't think where. Small talk ensues, and eventually a light dawns - perhaps it's someone in the family that they really know. They take a little flyer and ask, haphazardly, "And how is your dear sister?"
After looking just a tad mystified and following the slightest of pauses, Princess Margaret answers, "Oh, still reigning..."