Monday, September 19, 2022

The Last Royal Moments

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The funeral of the Queen was bound to be a historic event. But the funeral pales in comparison to the series of last moments leading up to today. Since she died eleven days ago, there have been multiple moments. The ones that finally bring it home to you that she is gone. 

Each of these moments has affected people differently. For some it was the moment they saw the coffin. For others, queuing at Westminster Hall. Who could forget the corgis awaiting their mistresses arrival? Or the sight of the Queen's fell pony, Emma, with the Queen's headscarf on the saddle?
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Seeing 1926-2022 for the first time. The blankets of flowers, the marmalade sandwiches, the Paddington bears, the thoughtful tributes. The last official portrait. The stoic members of the royal family, sharing their grief with the world. The stoicism slipping in public. Royals being human. Imagine that.
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The touching official statements. The King's first speech. The historic vigils of the Queen's children, and grandchildren. The meaningful jewels worn in tribute, the wreath and note on the coffin. The editorial cartoons. The sight of Prince George and Princess Charlotte at the funeral service, starting a lifetime of sharing their grief with the world. 
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Last Moments.

Leaving Balmoral for the last time. Last stay at the Palace of Holyrood House. The last flight. The last stay at Buckingham Palace. The last arrival at Windsor. Hearing her styles and titles read aloud. Watching the Lord Chamberlain break his wand of office and place it on her coffin. The removal of the regalia atop her coffin. Her duty done. The last sight as she descended into the royal vault, finally at peace, away from the public gaze. Reunited with those she loved and who loved her. 

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I can't pinpoint the exact moment it hit me. Maybe taking these moments together is enough. Watching the funeral, the interminable drive to Windsor. It felt like this moment would go on forever. Watching these moments all week, it was almost too much. Now that it is over, it may never be enough. 

What is the moment it finally hit you that she was gone?

© Marilyn Braun 2022 

Thank you for enjoying this article. If you use the information for research purposes, a link to credit the work I've put into writing it would be appreciated.

Wednesday, September 14, 2022

A Resting Place fit for a Queen: The King George VI Memorial Chapel

Lambert, CC BY-SA 2.0 , Wikipedia

As details emerge regarding Queen Elizabeth II's funeral arrangements, one question on many minds is where she will be buried. While Westminster Abbey, the site of her wedding and coronation, as well as the final resting place for previous monarchs, would seem fitting, St George's Chapel, Windsor, has been the preferred location for royal burials. Sovereigns from several dynasties are buried there. While many historical royals are buried in the vault, it is now used as a temporary location to keep coffins until ready for burial at Royal Burial Ground at Frogmore. Or another location, such as the interment of Prince Philip's mother, Princess Andrew of Greece, who was initially interred in the royal vault in 1969 before being transferred in 1988, to the Mount of Olives convent in Jerusalem. The longest royal to stay in the vault is Prince George, Duke of Kent, who died in 1942. It wasn't until 1968, after his wife's death, that he was removed for joint burial. Some members are sent directly to the private burial ground instead. The Duke of Windsor is the only former monarch to be buried there. 

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In Queen Elizabeth's case, it was very unlikely she would be buried in the private grounds. It is speculated she will be interred in the King George VI Memorial Chapel. This chapel is not specified on the official Royal Family website. As of this writing, the arrangements end with A Committal Service will then take place in St George's Chapel.' But many expect the King George VI Memorial Chapel to be her final resting place. When the Queen's father died in 1952, he was temporarily kept in the King George III vault, until a new chapel was built. The King George VI Memorial Chapel was the first new addition to the St George's Chapel since 1504. 

It was designed by George Pace, with stained glass windows by John Piper and Patrick Reyntiens. There were design challenges in applying a 20th century design that worked with the existing architecture.  Over 200 drawings were created for the building and furnishing of the chapel. The final design was inspired by the spirit of late-Gothic.  Located off the North Quire Aisle, the chapel took nine months to construct and was completed in 1969. It was designed in two parts, the outer Liturgical Chapel and the inner Mortuary Chapel. The chapel is tiny, but it also looks simple. According to the designer, this is not so. The Queen and Queen Mother took a personal interest in the planning and design, which leads me to believe it was planned as a final resting place, not only her father, mother and sister, but also the Queen and Prince Philip in time. 

By VCR Giulio19 - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Wikipedia

The stonework of the chapel is Clipsham stone, and a polished Purbeck stone floor. The wrought iron gates are inspired by the ones at Edward IV's tomb. The chapel is entered through an arched opening, down three steps, and the ceiling is painted with a network of gold leaf tracery. A black marble ledger stone, reminiscent of the one for Henry VI, marks the entrance to the vault. The names of George VI and his consort, Elizabeth, are inscribed and bronze medallions of the King and Queen are mounted on the wall. The king's medallion was made by William Reid Dick, and the Queen Mother's by Michael Rizzello. A Caithness stone slab commemorates the interment of Princess Margaret, who had died in February 2002. Her ashes were interred at the same time as her mother's coffin in April of that year.

The chapel is furnished with a small stone altar, on top of the altar stands a modern Celtic cross donated by Princess Margaret. The altar has two silver candlesticks on each side. These were presented to the Queen by the Royal Air Force to mark the fiftieth anniversary of its foundation. As Prince Albert, King George VI was certified as a RAF pilot in 1919.

King George VI was privately transferred to the chapel in March 1969. The chapel was dedicated on Monday, March 31st 1969 with a service attended by the Queen, the Queen Mother and other extended royal family members. You can watch footage on the day of the dedication below. 

The message on the gates of the entrance is from the poem, "God Knows', by Minnie Louise Haskins. The King quoted this poem during his 1939 Christmas broadcast.

'I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year;
Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown. 
And he replied:
Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the hand of GOD, 
That shall be you better than a light and safer than a known way.'

Prince Philip, who died in 2021, is likely, currently still in the royal vault, with preparations made to inter him with the Queen. George VI referred to himself, his wife and two daughters as 'The Firm'. If the Queen and Prince Philip are interred in the George VI chapel, they will all be together again. 

Update, it has been confirmed that the Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh will be buried together in the King George VI Chapel.



The Royal Tombs of Great Britain by Aidan Dodson
The Royal Way of Death by Olivia Bland
St. George's Chapel Windsor, 1968 and 1969 Annual Reports
The Romance of St. George's Chapel, Windsor Castle
St George's Chapel, Windsor Castle
Windsor Castle, A Thousand Years a Royal Palace

© Marilyn Braun 2022 

Thank you for enjoying this article. If you use the information for research purposes, a link to credit the work I've put into writing it would be appreciated.

Sunday, September 11, 2022

Now that the Queen is dead, the long goodbye begins

The Queen died on Thursday, September 8th. At 96, it wasn't a shock. She had looked frail in photos and public appearances in recent years, no doubt having slowly gone downhill after the death of Prince Philip. Those around at the time of the death of her father in 1952, unlikely to provide perspective in how to grieve someone like her. Someone many of us have never met, but who has been a constant in our lives. The only monarch many of us have ever known. We are in a less deferential time, experiencing the event different from previous generations. What would people in Queen Victoria's day make of hearing the news via social media alert?

On Thursday morning I awoke to the news she was under medical supervision, but thought little more about it. She is frail, but she will rally. This is the person who recovered from Covid. She wasn't going anywhere. A photo of her at Balmoral, meeting her latest Prime Minister had her looking frail, but still with that spark. Truth be told, I thought she would outlive us all. We would celebrate her 100th birthday in due course and with concern, while admiring her all the more for it. 

Later that day, when I heard she died, I was surprised. When I heard Prince Charles referred to as The King, I was even more surprised. This was new and would take some getting used to. From this point forward we would have three kings. It is unlikely we will ever say God Save the Queen at any point in our lifetimes. Depending on whether Prince George's first child is a girl, it could be 100 years from now, or more. Who could have known that Wednesday, September 7th would be the last time saying it would apply?

Watching her coffin leave Balmoral for the last time brought it home to me. Watching coverage of her cortege as it made its way to the Palace of Holyroodhouse, the official residence of the British monarch in the Scottish capital. It will remain in Scotland until Tuesday, when it will make the journey back to London by airplane. We will watch again as it disembarks. Another hearse, another journey, lying in State in Westminster Hall, then her State funeral, before she makes her final journey to St. George's Chapel Windsor. A life, and a death under global scrutiny. 

I'm not a monarchist by any means. I had a respect for the Queen, but truth be told, I've long thought she should retire. No one could argue she has not carried out her duty. The longest serving monarch in British history, she had earned the right to rest, and enjoy her life. When Prince Philip retired from public life in 2017, I thought he had the right idea. No one thought any less of him for doing so. Nor would anyone have thought any less of her. It was difficult to watch her grow frail before our eyes. No one could avoid the reality. It was only a matter of time before we would face a new one. 

On September 19th we will say our final goodbye. Finally, a long earned rest, free from the gaze of the public eye. 

© Marilyn Braun 2022 

Thank you for enjoying this article. If you use the information for research purposes, a link to credit the work I've put into writing it would be appreciated.

Tuesday, May 03, 2022

An Exhibit fit for a Princess

As an avid follower of the British royal family, I have seen more than my fair share of exhibits about Diana, Princess of Wales. I have seen one at Althorp, her ancestral estate, Kensington Palace, Cleveland, Ohio, an elegant exhibit in Hudson’s Bay, Toronto, as well as a truly terrible one at the Design Exchange in Toronto, where I found one of Diana’s famous dresses, (auctioned in 2013 for $80,000 CDN), roped off in the corner of a gift shop.

Almost 25 years after Diana’s death, it is hard to believe that there is sufficient interest to warrant an exhibit. Judging by the gift shop dress, you could say the interest peaked a while ago. This is not the case with Princess Diana: Accredited Access, where it combines two of my interests, photography, and the royal family.

A photography exhibit in as lovely a setting as Casa Loma befits a princess. True, it’s not Buckingham Palace, but it beats a sparse meeting space with video footage on loop. Built in 1914, it is a Gothic Revival mansion and garden in Toronto, which is a popular wedding and film production venue. I highly recommend a visit if you haven’t already done so.

The exhibit features the photos of two generations of royal photographers. While the photography can stand on its own, the audio tour is an absolute must to follow along. Narrated by the photographers, they discuss each photo, the context it was taken, how they took the memorable photos, and the impact. A masterclass if there ever was one.

In her time, Diana was arguably the most photographed woman in the world, she knew how to use the camera to make an impact. One famous photograph of Diana shaking the hands of an AIDs patient, without gloves, did more to dispel myths behind transmission, than any campaign ever could. The imagery is that powerful.

The exhibit was set throughout the historic mansion, winding your way with life sized portraits of Diana, it makes you feel you are in a special place. The life-sized portraits add an impact, bringing you into the scene as no previous exhibit ever has for me. The audio tour wasn’t in chronological order, which makes for a disjoined journey. There is an art installation, inspired by royal millinery, which felt tacked on. Impressive but it felt disjointed without the connection to the previous exhibit. It ends, as all exhibits do, in an exorbitantly expensive gift shop, (sans famous dress). You don’t need to be a fan of Diana to enjoy Princess Diana: Accredited Access, but it helps.

Princess Diana: Accredited Access runs at Casa Loma from April 20, 2022, to June 12, 2022.


© Marilyn Braun 2022 

Thank you for enjoying this article. If you use the information for research purposes, a link to credit the work I've put into writing it would be appreciated.