I hope everyone had an enjoyable and restful Thanksgiving. We have spent much of the past few days binge-watching The Crown, which I had never seen before. Apparently the story will follow Queen Elizabeth II from her 1947 marriage through the Thatcher era. The 7-8 episodes we have watched so far have been set in the 1950s. Watching them drives home, among other things, just how much England lost in the Second World War. The two decades after the war’s end were the years of Austerity Britain, with its food rationing, coal gray skies, and declining empire. When the Beatles woodshedded in Hamburg in the early 1960s one of the things that struck them the most was how much farther along was that German port city’s recovery than their native Liverpool’s. While Germany was rebuilding, Liverpool–and even London–were still scarred with roped off bomb craters a full decade and a half after the war.
I suppose the queen’s 1953 coronation was an important reminder to the British people of their heritage, which is why they were so enamored with the twenty-six year old monarch. The nascent media of television helped too, humanizing the young queen and bringing her and her family into people’s homes in a way literally never seen before. The royals are all too human and it is wise not to idealize them too much, or even at all. At its best however the Crown as head of state represents continuity even in the most challenging times. One of the reasons I became interested in philately as a teenager was the manner that French and British stamps evolved in the 1950s & 60s during the transition of their colonies to Independence. Sometimes the nearness and immediacy of these events get driven home even in the course of daily life. Just this past week I had a conversation with someone born in the early 1970s in an island Commonwealth country in a hospital dedicated by the current Prince of Wales earlier that very year. Charles’s mother–Elizabeth II–had herself very publicly visited this same small country herself around this same time. Two decades into the twenty-first century Elizabeth II is still serving.
Enjoy your Thanksgiving weekend.