Sunday, March 31

The language of tributes and condolence

BBC Online ( writes:
‘There can be little doubt that the Queen Mother re-invented the idea of an active Royal Family. Her powerful personality brought about many changes, including the now-ubiquitous "walkabout".’ That she ‘sat out the war in the front line’ (the BBC's phrase) is something of an exaggeration, surely. But she could, of course, have ‘taken the easy option and moved to safety in the country’, or even abroad. Instead, she stayed in London to boost the nation’s morale, and comforted those made homeless by the Blitz. Buckingham Palace took nine direct hits from German bombers, and the first raid involved a fairly narrow escape for the King and Queen. Her tireless wartime efforts are remembered.

As patron of more than 350 organisations, she took an active interest in each one. Never before had British royals undertaken such a diverse range of commitments. Born a commoner, she believed that if the Royal Family were to retain the people’s loyalty it must be fully committed to the people. But there was more to her than that. Her devotion to her family and her passion for horse-racing are well known. And as ‘Karyn’ writes from America:
‘I remember reading about her when I was a child, but the story I recall most clearly was about her sly sense of humor. The story went that one of her favorite tricks was to offer some privileged and honored guest some toffee, and as soon as their teeth were soundly stuck in the candy, say to the hapless soul, "Now tell me, dear boy, what do you think of Dickens?"’
'A committed public servant'. 'The nation’s grandmother'. ‘A national treasure’ and ‘a national heroine’. ‘A classy old broad’ and ‘a class act’. ‘An institution in her own right’. ‘A lovely lady’ and ‘a truly grand lady, who unstintingly did her duty' for her country. ‘A great lady and a great inspiration’ who ‘embodied the old fashioned values of patriotism, stoicism and commitment to family’. ‘She represented all that is good about this great country . . . someone with an infectious smile, who wasn't afraid to speak her mind, and who had so much dignity.’

Clichés all, it's true. And of course there is the classic one: her death marks 'the end of an era'. How many people's passing has been said to do that? (If I had a penny for every time that's been said, I'd be a rich woman.) But their cumulative effect is to move me, a British expatriate with a normally very limited interest in the Royal Family who has hardly ever followed their doings and sayings, comings and goings. Clearly, she really was a great lady. And perhaps this really is 'the end of an era'.

(Source: various pages at BBC Online,, Easter Sunday)