Jude Collins

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Dreams of Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Saxe-Coburg-Gotha

Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Saxe-Coburg-Gotha is on my mind today - I've got to meet a man later this morning for an interview about her. Elizabeth and I go back a long way. When she was made Queen Elizabeth II by the Grace of God, an old aunt of mine who'd spent a lot of years serving the Anglo-Irish gentry sent us a glass Coronation mug. It was so heavy it felt more like a weapon. During the 1950s I used to go to the movies in the County Cinema or Miller's Picture House in Omagh. When the girl had got that big close-up kiss and 'The End' had appeared, up would come Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. On a horse. Sitting, to my astonishment, with both her legs on one side of the nag. 'God Save The Queen' would then play and roughly half the cinema would stand, all square shoulders and hard-eyed respect. The other half would do their bit for Ireland by pushing past them and out into the Omagh evening. Sometimes you'd get a big no-pasarĂ¡n anthem-respecter at the end of your row of seats who would ignore your efforts to get out. In such cases the only thing was to do a Fosbury flop into the next row of seats and exit that way. Somebody once wrote a short story about this culture clash: it was called 'The Anthem Sprinters'. I wonder if Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Saxe-Coburg-Gotha ever read it. Somebody told me she wasn't a great woman for the books. 

Then when we got our first television in the late 1950s, I'd watch until close-down time, around 11.00 pm. It was the same drill as the cinema - there was Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Saxe-Coburg-Gotha on the same horse, or one very like it. She always looked concentrated and serious, which I put down to the effort involved in staying on a horse while sitting that way. Sometime in the 1950s she visited Kenya and they made a film of it. We got out of school to see it, provided, the Brother explained, we wrote an essay  afterwards. It showed  Elizabeth Alexandra Mary talking to smiling respectful black people, and then it showed the horrible Mau-Mau, who in dramatic reconstruction set fire to houses and forced new recruits to eat worms in initiation ceremonies. I can't tell you the contrast between their filthy appearance and the coolness of Elizabeth Alexandra Mary in her nice hat and white gloves.
 I was astonished ten years later to hear the Mau-Mau had got Kenya independence and their leader Jomo Kenyatta had got tea at Buckingham Palace.

In my teen years, when she was married and started producing those, um, plain-looking children,  Elizabeth Alexandra Mary got a bit dull for some people, and media attention switched to her sister and the very important question of whether she would marry the dashing but oh-dear-divorced ace pilot or the strikingly-handsome hooray-not-divorced photographer? But my heart stayed with the woman married to the Greek guy. Once I dreamed that she’d tied her horse outside our house and come in and started taking off her clothes, saying she was dead hot and needed a bath and would I come up and scrub her back?

So it's with those happy boyhood memories that I'll come to the interview today. The idea of royalty is anti-democratic and wildly costly, and the Queen of England coming to the south of Ireland ignores a big smelly ape called Partition, so I'm agin it. But even I wanted to, I can't forget those heady days of watching Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Saxe-Coburg-Gotha and her white gloves and pursed mouth and the way she kept her knees together on that horse.


  1. Britain is responsible for many of the world’s historic problems, including the conflict in Kashmir between India and Pakistan, David Cameron has said. The Prime Minister appeared to distance himself from the imperial past when he suggested that Britain was to blame for decades of tension and several wars over the disputed territory, as well as other global conflicts.

  2. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-1375055/Kate-Middletons-cousin-Katrina-Darling-Queen-Burlesque.html