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Queen for a day

  • Friday, August 29, 2014



I can claim royal blood for my family. It goes back through British history. Not 400 years maybe – but a tenth of that. And it’s inherited in a direct line from our first born.

Let the tale begin.

Last week I shared memories of our time in England when Jim was stationed at Bentwaters AFB and we lived in the tiny Suffolk market town of Saxmundham. How could I have omitted retelling the saga of our foray into royalty?

There were excellent relations between the British and Americans in what was called Sax. The thriving Anglo American Society introduced teens to each other and many socials were held. During an outdoor fete some 40 summers ago, Sax’s Town Council Chairman announced a Miss Saxmundham contest.

On the selection day a couple of weeks later we all waited in anticipation as he proclaimed “The winner is . . . Miss Cathy Hill!”

Our reaction: unbounded joy and cheering.

Cathy’s reaction: “What in the world am I going to wear?”

That problem was solved by an all-day two-way train excursion to Ipswich, traversing at least a dozen shops and ending with Her Majesty bringing home the first gown – a lovely pale blue affair – she tried on.

The date of the crowning approached and it was announced that a young, popular and very well connected Member of Parliament, one Clement Freud, descendant of the famous Sigmund, would come down from London to perform the ceremony. I’m sure that MP, facing an upcoming election, looked forward to the inevitable coverage of his famous name by the press of leading papers as well as the opportunity to see more of his constituents. I’m also sure he had no idea how true that last phrase would turn out to be.

The Crowning Day arrived. A bigger and better fete was arranged and the occasion greatly swelled the population of Sax, coming from nearby towns as well as from visiting dignitaries. The MP and his entourage arrived and he duly placed the lovely silver crown on our curly haired daughter’s head. He invited the royal court to be seated on the raised platform as he took up the microphone to begin his speech.

“Welcome!” he intoned and that’s as far as he got.

At that same moment Cathy, positioned in the center of the princesses, sat down on her metal folding chair which was unfortunately placed at the very edge of the platform. Before she knew it, she felt herself going backwards. Instinctively she reached her arms out to either side for support, and instinctively the princesses did the same. In what looked like a slow motion ballet, all of them drifted backwards and tipped upside down, rolling down a hill. The photographers abandoned politics and swarmed to record the real news of that day.

The only damage done to any of the young ladies was the injury to Cathy’s ego. Her picture appeared the next day on the front page – above the fold – of an international edition of a leading London newspaper. Fortunately her identity was not revealed. Rather than her pretty smiling face in the lovely blue gown (which was not seen at all), the only thing showing of this Monarch’s anatomy was the back of her bare legs – pointing up to the heavens – as she exited the platform.

The headline? “Queen loses seat to Member of Parliament.”

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