FAREWELL MA’MA, as they say! Diana-Margaret-Queen
Lord Nelson at Trafalgar - Duke of Wellington - Sir Winston Churchill - Henry VIII
last week (31 March 2002) in the United
Kingdom, particularly London, we have
been talking about DEATH, the
most natural thing to happen to us,
yet something that it strange to sort
out in your mind and even more difficult
I can recall Diana’s
death. Everyone in London
was extremely sad, emotional and sentimental.
She was a glamorous, young, beautiful,
princess and a mother of two young
boys, one of which (Prince William)
is in line for the throne. She
was a celebrity, a magnet for the
networks. How could someone with all
of this die so abruptly? Many people
had questions and many could not accept
her death. Hundreds and thousands
gathered together to grieve her death.
I don’t believe we will see such a
huge _expression of sorrow as was
then for many decades. There
is still a cry, by public acclaim,
for her canonisation. The British
are known to mourn in a proper controlled
manner – often call the “stiff upper
lip”. However, when the news
of Diana’s death broke, the British
showed a dramatic outward emotion.
She was the most venerated icon of
her age. We held an image of
her as a victim, oppressed by forces
outside of her control, and her identification
with those who suffered as she did.
We also identified with her crowed
married. She once said, “There
is three of us in this marriage –
Charles, myself and Camilla Parker
Bowles.” How could she
tolerated that she was used just for
this country, used as a virgin, for
a virgin meant that she didn’t have
a past, she didn’t sleep with anyone
before Charles – no wonder she was
cynical. I call this abused.
I can’t believe that even after she
had given Charles an heir (and a ‘spare’),
that Charles went on with his love
affair with Camilla!!
Diana elevated feelings above reason,
and her scandals and lovers are now
buried with her. The tragedy of Diana’s
death was damaging to the monarchy.
Her funeral brought to light the degree
in which she was deeply loved and
respected and the astounding grief
that accompanied her death still cannot
be understood. I was privileged to
be on Park Road where I saw Dodi’s
Funeral cortege leaving the Mosque
and I saw Diana’s procession in route
to Althorp in Northamptonshire.
I also signed the books of condolence
– both at Harrods and Kensington Palace.
I loved her, for I too had a crowed
Next was the death
of Princess Margaret. Germaine Greer,
a woman who claimed to have had her
hair done by Princess Margaret said,
“In the years between, Margaret and
I met several times, always on a receiving
line, where we would murmur pleasantries,
smile and part. Each time I was left
with a vivid impression of a real
person condemned to live her life
as a pantomime.” The Queen was
tearful on the farewell to her sister.
Princess Margaret’s funeral took place
on the 50th anniversary
of the funeral of her father King
George VI. It was the princess’
decision and wishes to have a simple
funeral and cremation; her ashes were
placed beside the coffin of her father.
(Princess Louise, a daughter of Queen
Victoria, was the first of the Royal
Family to be cremated in 1939.)
After Margaret’s death the media gave
her the title of the most beautiful
and the kindness princess of all time.
Although in all honesty, the only
people who were truly saddened by
her death were the elderly monarchists.
She was scandalous in the 1960s. She
had affairs, long cigarette holders,
and parties on yachts and tropical
islands. She was the forefront
of Britain’s new social revolution.
She had many affairs but the one I
like to gossip about is the one she
had with Peter Sellers. She
was a mimic, a singer, and a pianist.
Prince Charles said, “she sang like
an angel.” Before she died,
she reduced her estate by giving it
to her children. My mother had her
stroke on the same day of Princess
Margaret, and Margaret was transported
to London to the Edward VII Hospital
on Beaumont Street, where my mother
had her flat. From the window, I was
able to see when she left the hospital
as well as when other Royalty had
attended the hospital (such as when
the Queen Mother broke her hip.).
Queen Mother's funerals
The most recent death
was of the Queen Mother, 30 March
2002. I saw on TV the coffin
being moved from Windsor to London.
I went to see the lying-in-state.
I couldn’t believe how many kilometres
the queue was for passing in front
of her coffin. People waited
hours to pass by, just to say ‘I was
there’. Some of the comments
that could be heard from the crowd
where, “It is a piece of history that
has gone.” “I saw Churchill’s
so I travelled to see our Queen Mother
that did so much for this country
during the war.” “She saved
the monarchy when Edward VIII resigned”.
People slept on the pavement for more
then two days to get in the front
row of the Westminster Abbey.
I found this incredible. Being brought
up in a presidential country, I don’t
know much about the Monarchy except
for what I have heard in children’s
stories. “Once upon time a prince
and a princess…” I found this to be
pure theatre; I think you have to
be born into a monarch country otherwise
it’s just interesting and fascinating
to you, there’s nothing that lies
deeper. The Queen wrote a simple
message on a wreath of white roses
using her childhood name. It
read, “In loving memory, Lilibet”.
Prince Charles wiped away tears, for
his ‘magical’ granny. The country
mourned for 10 days. Because her death
was not sudden or unexpected due to
her age, the country was not thrown
back by surprise or horror (as with
Diana’s death). They mourned
but they mostly celebrated her life
of dedication to DUTY! – above all
she was a person of old Edwardian
values. I like what Prince
Andrew said to Sarah: “First I am
a Prince, then I am a marine, then
I am a husband.”
The bulk of the Queen
Mother’s wealth was in her art collection,
her porcelain, silver and jewels.
Her paintings are valued at £36 million,
which includes a Monet, Study of
Rocks: Creuse, Fresseline,
painted in 1889. She has a series
of John Piper watercolours, a Latour,
a Millais, and a Raffaellino del Garbo,
the Florentine master, of the Madonna
and Child with St John.
Her collection of Chelsea porcelain,
her silver, her clocks and her furniture
are worth around £15 million.
Her jewellery is worth around £16
million. One of her jewels is
a diamond tiara with flower motif,
which was a wedding gift from her
father, the Earl of Stranthmore, is
worth £450,000. The most valuable
item of this collection is a diamond
and pearl necklace worth approximately
£2 million. She lived in five
castles but owned only one, the Castle
of Mey, in Caithness, North of Scotland.
The other castles were provided by
the State or by the Queen. Her racehorses
had given her more pleasure than financial
gain. At the time of her death she
had 10 horses in training.
Something that caught
my attention was that for more than
20 years the Queen Mother’s funeral
had been rehearsed. It was thought
to be politically incorrect to have
such an elaborate funeral, but the
Queen Mother had already decided that
she deserved it! But no one
can emulate the British media’s coverage
of events – it is the best in the
world and nobody does ‘pageantry’
like them!! (It took the Brazilian
newspapers three days to print the
news because the Sunday newspapers
were already on sale on Saturday morning.
They should take notes from the Evening
Standard, which has three editions
a day as an example of how to run
newspapers). Even after
all the rehearsals and pre-arrangements
that were made, the press were not
prepared for the Queen Mother’s death
to fall on a weekend of a Bank Holiday.
It became the most expensive story
ever told. The Sunday Mirror had 41
pages and the Sunday Express an extraordinary
74. The announcement of her
death came at 5:45 PM, which couldn’t
have been a worse time for Sunday
papers. It was the exact time
that they send the first edition to
printing. All the newspapers needed
instant coverage; the result was the
most extensive forward planning in
modern journalistic history.
It was also an unusually expensive
moment in history. The original
editions had already been printed
and had to disposed of. Then
the new edition was printed; this
was a great financial cost for the
British press. Presumably,
they also have draft press releases
for the Pope, Ronald Reagan, many
member’s of the Royal Family, and
for TV personnel. Apparently,
the new releases did not reach all
the TV personnel in time, one BBC
newsreader failed to wear a black
tie. People were extremely upset
and it was talked about for days.
The news of the Queen Mother’s
death took precedence over the reports
of the Middle East. Two hundred
million television viewers across
the globe watched the funeral that
involved over 250 cameras and 400
technicians utilising 10,000 metres
of cable, which made the funeral available
to 187 countries to view. The BBC
World Service Broadcast, CNN and SKY
News provided live coverage in 45
languages. One fifth of the
one billion viewers who tuned in to
the funeral of Diana, five years ago,
watched the ceremony for the Queen
Mother. 19 million people watched
Sir Winston Churchill’s funeral in
1965. Earl Mountbatten of Burma’s
funeral was viewed by 15 million (he
was killed by an IRA bomb, another
victim of the religious war).
14 million people from the UK tuned
in for the wedding of the Earl of
Wessex and Sophie Rhys-Jones.
Nothing about the Queen
Mother’s funeral was left to chance;
they rehearsed during the night with
the regiments, bands and with a replica
coffin. One of the female soldiers
that participated in the funeral was
suppose to get married on that weekend.
She and her future husband postponed
the wedding. During a television
interview she said she was honoured
they were choose to participate in
the funeral and that DUTY came first.
Now I don’t know any Italian or Brazilian
that would postponed their wedding
for a funeral of any member of their
country. I think this is what
makes Britain so great, the sense
of duty and respect for their institution.
Though, I must sadly say this concept
does not apply at the hospital in
which my mother is residing.
In Britain I see two countries – one
that can do magnificent things, that
has great pride and respect and the
one that is greatly lacking, that
falls short in areas such as public
transportation and healthcare.
The other thing that
caught my attention were the comments
by the people interviewed regarding
the Queen Mother. Some of
them were very funny.
One English girl about 12 years old
said, “I love her because she was
‘NORMAL’ she was ‘A HUMAN BEING’
she was like us!” I would like
to hear what she thinks about the
other members of the Royal Family.
Another vignette in The Times
was about a man in a sleeping bag,
who was asked how long he was sleeping
on the pavement.
He said, “I am not queuing for the
Queen Mother. I live here!
The British are pomp
and pageantry, and they do it well.
The Times wrote:
“The art of perfect
pomp. The pageantry of royal funeral
was invented for war heroes. Much
in common with the Duke of Wellington’s
quick and dignified end at the age
of 83. His decease, long anticipated,
also induced a profound sense that
an earlier wartime era had passed.
For Wellington’s funeral Charles Dickens
called the display ‘such a palpably
got-up theatrical trick.’ Sir Winston
Churchill received the honour of a
state funeral, normally limited to
sovereigns. Secondary to this
is a ceremonial royal funeral, largely
paid for by the Queen, for members
of the royal family who hold high
military rank (such as Lord Mountbatten),
the sovereign’s consort (the Queen
Mother is “queen consort”) and the
heir to the throne. There is a third
type is a private royal funeral, held
for all other members of the royal
family, their children and spouses.
Princess Margaret’s funeral in February
fell into that category. The format
evolved after the death of Victoria
in 1901 prompted the first full-scale
state funeral since the Duke of Wellington’s
half a century before. The Tudor monarchs
had funerals on a grand scale. Henry
VIII’s death in 1547 at the age of
55 unleashed an outpouring of public
grief and ritual. The period following
his funeral has been characterised
as the ‘theatre of death’, next marked
by Elizabeth I’s passing in 1603.
However, the £50,000 bill for of her
successor, James I, dwarfed the £11,305
cost of her elaborate funeral (today
about £1.5m), in 1625. However,
the death of Lord Nelson at Trafalgar
in 1805 released all restraint, resulting
in a spectacular funeral that vied
with Wellington’s. Nelson’s
body, preserved in a cask holding
180 gallons of brandy was brought
Farewell Ma'Ma in HMS Victory’s five-week
passage from Trafalgar to Portsmouth.
Sir Winston Churchill’s death at the
age of 90 in 1965 had some affinities
with Wellington’s. Both recalled a
heroic defence of the nation, a time
when Britain had fought on against
a Europe dominated by one power –Napoleonic
France and Hitler’s Germany.”
The Queen Mother’s
funeral was great theatre, so very
well orchestrated; I loved it!
When the Scottish’s piper led the
procession in the Abbey my heart cried
the same melancholy sounds that poured
out from his instrument. The Queen
was standing alone by the front door
of the Abbey waiting for her mother’s
coffin. At the end of the service
the Irish pipe played the coffin out
of the Abbey, another melancholic
sound came from this instruments.
I got emotional when the military
members of the Royal Family gave a
salute. For the first time, a woman
(Princess Anne), followed the coffin,
which was something she had asked
permission to do. The Cardinal of
the Catholic Church and the Head of
the Scottish Church were present for
the first time.
I liked the poem that
was chosen….“You can shed tears that
she is gone or you can smile because
she had lived.” This elegy was
also spoken at Lady De L’Isle’s funeral
service (a friend of the Queen) but
the author of these beautiful words
remains unknown. The next trip
I take to Brazil I will arrange for
the same poem to be read at my funeral.
The words were sent to the Queen and
she liked them so much that she chose
it for her mother. The Queen
said in her broadcast to the nation
that people should celebrate the life
of her mother and not grieve her.
The poem was used as the preface to
the Queen Mother’s funeral.
Clarence House may
be bequeathed to Prince Charles.
“Death starts a royal race for the
best palaces.” said The Times.
A race for not only who will be the
new occupant of the Clarence House
but where her statue is going to be
erected. I think Trafalgar Square
would be ideal, as the fourth plinth
is currently empty. Another
possibility is the Mall.
With all this talk
of death and non-resuscitation being
discussed in the UK and in the media,
I find its words ringing close to
my heart as I think upon my mother.
There are people who are going to
court for the right to die; I can
think of two women in particular.
One, known in the media as Miss B,
asked for her ventilator to be switched
off. The other, Diane Pretty,
has motor neurone disease, a disease
which slowly kills every muscle in
the body but leaves the brain fully
functional and alert. She has
requested from the European Court
the right to die. They have
denied her request. Both of
these women wanted the choice to be
able to depart from life when it no
longer had value to them. I
wrote to the authorities about my
mother concerning her request to be
resuscitated for as long as it is
possible, only two people answered
my letter. It’s so difficult
to speak of death and most of us try
desperately to avoid the topic.