I guess I didn’t realize how emotional it would be for me when Queen Elizabeth’s long life ended. I was in tears when the news came, and I expect I was one among many.
For almost my entire lifetime of memories, the Queen has been a part of it.
The first memory was in 1939, when her parents, King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, arrived in Victoria on the major Canadian tour they undertook before the Second World War outbreak.
At Sooke School, we all knew about their little daughters, Princess Elizabeth and Margaret Rose, who’d been left at home in England.
As we grew older, we developed a greater understanding of how King George had become king due to the abdication of his older brother Edward, a move Edward VIII had made to marry American divorcee Wallis Simpson.
News out of Britain always carried photos of the Royal Family, and we saw images of the King and Queen visiting bombed sites and of their daughter Elizabeth, by her late teens, working as a mechanic in the British army. The romance between a handsome naval lieutenant, Prince Philip of Greece, and the charming princess, caught everyone’s attention, and the world watched to see if there would be a wedding.
Sure enough, the glamorous images of Elizabeth and Phillip’s wedding so soon after the hardships of the war ensured that much of the world was attracted to following the lives of the young couple.
A trip across Canada in 1951 introduced the couple to Canadians, beginning a love affair with this country which continued throughout their lives. Many locals were royal watchers who collected every photograph.
Sadly, with the early passing of King George, Princess Elizabeth was plunged into an enormous role on the world stage at the age of 25. Mother to two children, Prince Charles and Princess Anne, the young Queen Elizabeth needed to balance the roles of wife and mother alongside the global responsibilities she inherited.
It seemed the longer Queen Elizabeth reigned, the more comfortable she became in her role, and the serious-minded young woman developed a reputation for warmth and understanding, taking a genuine interest in the places she visited on her many tours. As well, with two more sons born into the family, their lifestyle turned to spending more time in the countryside, which was particularly important to the Queen.
At Expo 86, held in Vancouver, many of us saw the Queen’s eldest son Prince Charles and his bride Princess Diana from our seats in the bleachers at the Stadium. Twenty years later, we were all stunned at the tragedy that occurred to Diana in a Paris tunnel, leaving the Queen’s two grandsons, Princes William and Harry, to grow up motherless. Many in Sooke joined in the world’s sadness at a difficult time for the Royal Family.
In 1994, Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip were in Victoria in celebration of the XV Commonwealth Games. At that time, our MLA for Malahat-Juan de Fuca was Rick Kasper; he was part of a group that set about organizing an afternoon tea in Beacon Hill Park, where specially-invited seniors could meet the Queen on her walkabout while he and his colleagues served them tea.
Another Commonwealth Games celebration that included Sooke was a banquet at Government House that gave Rick Kasper and his wife Doni Eve, my husband Jim and me, the opportunity to be presented to their majesties. There would have been perhaps 150 guests, at round tables for eight. Our table, adjacent to the Queen, included the Queen’s lady-in-Waiting. I’m sure all of us were impressed with the warmth and friendliness shown by the Royal couple.
I’ve always felt that Prince Philip was an enormous support to the Queen, and was saddened for her that she had to experience his loss in 2021. Without his support, it was not unexpected that her own time was drawing near.
While no one can predict the future, it seems likely that the incredible era of Queen Elizabeth II will be forever unmatched.
Elida Peers is the historian of the Sooke Region Museum. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.