It feels surreal, predestined, and quite fortuitous in many ways that on this long delayed trip back to England we had almost randomly decided to stay in Windsor, a place neither of us previously knew. After an arduous three day journey back to Japan, having left our hotel in Windsor at the break of dawn, with that particularly English beautiful cold damp smell in the air as the sun broke through the clouds, it was startling to wake up to the news that Queen Elizabeth had died. I had just, for some reason, in the grogginess of deep jet lag, been thinking about her, about her longevity, about what the world would say when she reached her hundredth birthday (I think most of us assumed she would go on forever), trying to imagine Charles as an eighty year old monarch, when I walked blearily into the kitchen and D, who had got up very early to go into work, and was looking at his phone, told me the sad news.
I am not a royalist; for me the royal family are just people, like us, with fallibilities and problems, at times even evil (just look at the disgrace that is Prince Andrew), but I do see the value in terms of tradition of the monarchy, and like many, had a great deal of respect for The Queen. She was dignified, hard-working, in many ways a deeply loyal and honourable servant of the country (I personally believe that she was stoically ‘holding on’ as long as she could for the people despite the grief she must have been suffering following the loss of Prince Philip and the exhaustion she was apparently feeling post-Covid infection, knowing that they needed the positivity of the Jubilee and the Commonwealth Games as a boost to the spirits after the misery of the pandemic): a living icon – at least while we were still there, just a few days ago now, her face everywhere in Windsor, probably the most royal family-centred town in the whole of the UK; souvenirs, posters, teatowels, mugs, portraits of her wherever you cared to look celebrating the Platinum Jubilee; we really enjoyed basking in the pub beer and fish-and-chip Britishness. The buildings were beautiful, the atmosphere benificent and calm, the fluttering bunting and flags everywhere very charming – there was a quietly celebratory feeling in the air as the long hot summer continued its dreamy late evening strolls; our hotel just five minutes from the castle, incantatory at dusk; romantic (we asked ourselves if the Queen was also up as we walked back to our room, assuming she was inside, not realizing she was ailing at Balmoral); soaking up what was actually to be the very end of her reign. The place where now the crowds are gathering and milling to see Harry and Meghan, William and Catherine was peaceful and quiet; we had a nice lunch with my parents there, who came down the day after we arrived, sitting together inside the beautiful flowering hanging basket covered pub that is nearest to the royal residence, The Two Brewers, right by the castle entrance; at that time, just the odd family standing happily taking photos in front of the gate; extraordinary to know now that this was the end of an era.
11 responses to “Walking in Windsor”
Thank you for the perfect way to remember this time, and for the very evocative photos.
Thanks for saying so.
I just quickly wrote down my main impressions : it is just so strange watching the news by the Windsor Gates when we just spent three days there : I am somehow glad we got to be there when it was still Elizabethan
Great photos! I think she held on long enough to outlast certain politicians in the US and UK! I find it quite moving, and fitting, that two days before she died, she did her duty as a constitutional monarch by welcoming and appointing the new Prime Minister. She finished her job. RIP.
I thought the same.
I loved your piece on her as well.
This was all very moving. I will miss her presence in this world immensely. I do not know why, but all my life I felt very comforted knowing Her Majesty was here. RIP.
That was very eloquent and moving Neil. I agree with much of your impressions and reaction to the event. I’m also not a monarchist, and I don’t see such a bright future with Charles at the helm. Maybe it’s time for a referndum on what the future of the monarchy might be. Having said all of that, I did admire queen Elizabeth, she was unwavering in carrying out her role. She had characteristics sadly lacking in our corrupt and blase politicians. It is indeed the end of an era, my partner, friend and I all walked up to the Royal Mile today to imbibe the atmosphere. It was quiet, friendly and respectful.
We share an ambivalence but a respect. I am not tearing my hair out, but am saddened as it feels so – I was going to say ‘epochal’ but then felt a bit ridiculous
Loved, will always love our Queen, and so grateful my dad moved us all back from California to British Columbia when we were young kids in the early sixties and things were starting to go sour in the US. Proud being part of the Commonwealth.
Perfect that you were in Windsor then. I’d love to have been. It won’t be quite the same with Chuck’s face on the tea towels.
King Chuck! I will never get that out of my head now
Lovely photos and words. It is interesting that you chose to be in Windsor. Not quite sure what life is going to be like with Charles In Charge (of our days… and our nights…heaven forfend). Not feeling it, to be perfectly honest. I was wondering what the Queen wore, scent wise. Apparently her signature was Floris White Rose, and she also loved L’Heure Bleue. She had excellent taste. x
Strange now that that was what we were swooning on on me in Norwich if you remember: sprayed on at Jarrolds and inhaled from the wrist at the pub. There is a big vintage bottle of the L’Heure Bleue parfum at an undisclosable location I have an eye on for my birthday treat. About 250 quid but I am getting it. I love the idea of the queen wearing this as well – it is truly gorgeous.