Saturday 10 September 2022

Do you remember where you were….?

Many of us still can't quite believe that the Queen has died. While expected it still seemed sudden, especially having seen her two days before, greeting the new Prime Minister.  Hearing of her death on Thursday reminded me of the day of her Coronation. I was only a few years old, we had a day off our primary school in Johannesburg and we could listen to the ceremony on the radio. We then went to the cinema on Saturday to see the newsreel from London.

I had grown up with stories of the two princesses and it all seemed very magical, far away and yet personal. I had a Coronation money box and a replica little carriage and horses – would I still had them!

I have seen the Queen close up on two occasions – at a Buckingham Palace Garden Party and when she came to Southwark Cathedral to see the new Bishops’ copes that the Worshipful Company of Needlemakers had subsidised and the Jubilee (Diamond) window. I also remember rushing to the window when I was at a conference overlooking the Mall to see her drive past with Nelson Mandela.  He said he called her Elizabeth as they were both of royal descent.

Tracking back I remember where I was when I heard that President Kennedy had been shot. I was at the cinema in Johannesburg with my parents and they announced over the loudspeaker after the film had finished. No car radios in those days so we had to wait until we arrived home to learn that he had died.   

When Henrik Verwoerd, the then Prime Minister of South Africa (reputedly the architect of apartheid) was assassinated in the South African Parliament I had just left my office in Regent Street in London and saw the headlines in the Evening Standard.

The remainder of my memories “where were you when…” were from television. When Neil Armstrong landed on the moon in the early hours of morning UK time, my husband woke our daughter of a few weeks, propped her on his knee and told her that, although she wouldn’t remember it, she was witnessing man landing on the moon. 

I also remember the greatly revered Royal (and any serious event) commentator Richard Dimbleby saying “Jesus wept” when covering the Queen’s visit to Germany, when he found that the satellite link had broken and he would have to do it all again – not realising he was back on air.  And finally – oh, innocent days, the first use of the f*** word on television – Kenneth Tynan, a critic and writer. I believe that the last two caused thousands of complaints to the BBC.


There is also a strange irony about where I was the day of the death of Her Majesty – that’s for another day.  

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