Our longest-serving monarch celebrates her ninety-first birthday. We pause and ponder. The image that swirls is one of snowy froth and crinkled eyes, a discreetly-slicked lip, trusty pearl and diamond earrings, a triple-rope pearl necklace, a glinting brooch. Robust hat and handbag. The Anello & Davide shoes that somebody else wears in for her. Modest, dedicated, dignified public outfits, as befit a head of state. Sovereign. Mummy. Granny. Great-Granny. Long live our gracious Queen.
What was she like as a child? What games did she play? What did she fantasise about? What scared her? She'd survived a world war and was barely a woman when she ascended, before we were born. She was a mother at twenty-two. How did her pregnancies affect her? How did she really feel when she was forced to put duty before motherhood, and leave her children for long periods? What about her surgeries, her dental treatment, her menopause, her ninety-one birthday cakes? What did she think about the Munich air disaster, Beatlemania, England winning the World Cup, the assassination of JFK, the EEC, the miners' strikes, Watergate, Concorde, Red Rum, Thatcher, Lady Di, the Falklands, Reagan, the IRA, Live Aid, Fergie, Lockerbie, Mandela, the royal divorces, the burning of Windsor castle, AIDS, the Euro, 9/11, Camilla, Obama, Michael Jackson's demise, William and Kate, George and Charlotte, Blair, Cameron, May, ISIS, Brexit, the relentless crowds of subjects thronging beyond the gates of Windsor and of Buckingham Palace? The huge headlines that have punctuated her reign read like a variation on Billy Joel's 'We Didn't Start the Fire'. It was always burning, since the world's been turning ... and inside, a fragile woman, an ordinary mortal, with the most extraordinary story to tell.
What I wouldn't give to read her autobiography. What I wouldn't give to write it. She will all too soon be gone. The dense linings of her heart, her throbbing thoughts, a lifetime of echoes piled and toppling from the groaning shelves of her mind, will soon be gone too. Halted. Silenced. Done. Ninety, ninety-five, a hundred years of precious, priceless memories will be wasted. It is thus for all of us. Unless we write them down. Why didn't she?