A BBC documentary last evening (Monday) showed the way Queen Elizabeth II toured the Commonwealth both shortly after her Coronation and all through her reign. Through those sixty-five years of working with leaders from all over the world, she has garnered great respect and has her daughter, Princess Anne mentioned, reached the status of being treated like an “Honourary Man”. It was also clear to see how the Queen changed from someone who with her first speech as Queen in Australia looked down and read the speech, to later someone who was adept at looking at the audience and engaging with them – even injecting humour into what some may thought was going to be a formal speech.
It was also during the Queen’s tours of the Commonwealth that walkabouts started, a chance for the general public to meet the Royals face to face. One other comment the Princess Royal had was as a teenager these occasions filled her with dread. As she put it so eloquently, as a teenager it is bad enough walking into a room of adults you do not know, imagine trying a street. Though, she did say that it gets easier, and as someone who has had the honour of being introduced to the Princess I can say she is very good at relaxing people and setting them at ease, plus she also has the family sense of humour! Though, one of her comments was that nowadays rather than seeing rows of smiling faces they are faced with a wall of clicking i-pads, changing the dynamic somewhat. It is an interesting point that you rarely see or think of, their view of us in a walkabout.
What was clear to me, from the documentary and from other programmes is that the Queen’s father, King George VI was thrust into the limelight, without it being something he was prepared for, and in turn when he passed at a young age she to had to take on the mantle of monarch at a young age. In the intervening years, she has grown in stature but is also conscious that what she does she needs to both think through the implications for the monarchy, the country and the commonwealth. That may mean introducing younger Royals to walkabouts, but at least they have experienced support at their shoulder. It was so interesting and pleasing that the Queen chose to take Prince William with her during her low-key visit to the survivors of Grenfell Tower. As someone who grew up during the Second World War, she knows not all visits and walkabouts are during happy times.