I’ll Always Look Back, As I Walk Away

I feel a new obsession coming on with Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon, the Queen Mother.  And can you blame me?  Just read the Legacies section of her Wikipedia Page , which is really more a selection of unexpectedly funny stories, for example: On hearing that Edwina Mountbatten was buried at sea, she said: “Dear Edwina, she always liked to make a splash.”  I would also love to see the video of her rising from the royal carriage to beat an overly enthusiastic admirer about the head with her umbrella, but they didn’t have YouTube in 1947.

On her 70th birthday, photo by Cecil Beaton

On her 70th birthday, photo by Cecil Beaton

The current Poet Laureate, Andrew Motion (what an appropriately Romantic name!) has said publically how difficult it is to write about modern royals.  I can imagine it’s not a pleasant obligation, the British Royal fam are sort of concurrently uber-familiar (the faces you can count on seeing at the supermarket aisle or doctor’s waiting room) and so distant from the average life that it is almost impossible to address them seriously without feeling a little bit ridiculous.  But the other day I stumbled upon his two poems about the Queen Mother – written for her 100th birthday and funeral – and curiously found myself in tears.  Excerpt below, poems in entirety here.


No changes, on the face of it: the balconies,
the open smile and wave, the garden parties,
and the hats, the hats, the hats, all pictures
in our albums or our heads along with these:
the photos no-one took of you…
the grandmother-confessor-friend, the mourner
at divorces and the rest, the worldly watcher
of the world who shows the world no changes
on the face of it: the balconies, the open wave
and smile, the hats, the hats, the hats. 

Hugo Vickers has written a biography of her (Elizabeth, The Queen Mother) – he also edited the collection of Cecil Beaton diaries I’m reading at the moment, so it’s sort of nice to have a familiar voice to guide me into another person’s life. I am expecting it to be shriekingly funny…

 The Queen Mother, on her 100th birthday
The Queen Mother, on her 100th birthday

“Then we had this rather lugubrious man in a suit, and he read a poem…I think it was called The Desert. And first the girls got the giggles and then I did and then even the King”
The QM, on T.S. Eliot’s visit to Winsor Castle to recite The Wasteland in 1947


April 26, 2009. Tags: , , , , . history, poetry.


  1. cephalic replied:

    another useless distraction of a person

  2. swingsandskateboards replied:

    Oh kitten, amusing distractions make the world go round. You know I am only this frivolous to balance out all your deep & dark thoughts… if you would only start reading New Weekly I could indulge in some meaning myself!

  3. Maybe I’ve been here before « Swings & Skateboards replied:

    […] knew I’d love this book! [Actually, there's no happy ending to that story – she was a crazy […]

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