by Shelby Larsen, SC Columnist
They stood on the very top of the display case: the Princesses, Elizabeth and Margaret. They were made by Madame Alexandra, one of the most prestigious doll makers of the early 1950’s.
Perhaps it was the absence of a plethora of Disney princesses, perhaps because most dolls were baby dolls, or rag dolls, but they were the most beautiful things I had ever seen. I was entranced. I wanted them. Obviously, Elizabeth would be mine. Margaret Rose was clearly destined for my younger sister, who was fortunately still in the stroller, and unable to point out any flaws in my plans.
Adding to my perception of Elizabeth as a Very Important Person indeed, we were let out of school to watch the coronation ceremony. I have no idea why this event was of significance to an American elementary school, other than it came during the last few days of class, and the teachers thought it would be instructive — and simpler than setting up the film projectors used to distract restless students when not much was being done, anyway. This was history.
I did not appreciate the history; as soon as I saw her enter the Abbey in her gorgeous dress, I was onto other things. Books, outdoors, I don’t remember. What I do remember is the next day in class when the teacher quizzed each of us on our favorite parts and why they were significant. I had to listen carefully to my classmates responses, so that I had more to say than “what she said” or “it was a beautiful dress.”
I had the longing, as most girls, to be a Princess. The Scepter, the Orb, the sword had no significance. Just to be a Princess. Who, of course, needed to grow to marry a Prince.
Princes, though, were in short supply, They were either of European royal houses, or minor countries of which no one had ever heard. That left Prince Charles, a couple of years younger, which seemed to me an insurmountable barrier. So, no Princess status for me.
But as I have grown, and watched Elizabeth maneuver her status as a Constitutional Monarch (as opposed to my childish idea of Absolute Monarch), I have lost that envy, but gained an admiration for her. It is a much more diﬃcult position to be a symbol for a constantly changing, constantly evolving country while remaining a constant symbol. It’s going to be a hard act to follow.
England has had good, bad, indiﬀerent, and standing-above-the ages monarchs. America has had fewer such leaders to it’s relative youth and I suspect all nations have had or will have similar leaders.
What I realize now, and probably intuited then, was being a Princess was pretty cool, but being a Queen was significant. Three of England’s most influential monarchs were of the female gender: Queens. Elizabeth I, Victoria, and Elizabeth II. There will be no more Queens in the foreseeable future.
The line will run through Charles, William, George.They will be Kings. Their wives, at best, will be consorts, walking one step behind, significantly subordinate.
Kings Charles, William, George — Good luck. Another Elizabeth looks unlikely.
Queen Mary Tudor, Queen Anne, and Queen Mary who reigned jointly with her husband King William (as in William and Mary) were all reigning monarchs. The Empress Matilda claimed the throne in the 12th century, leading to a civil war.