Monday, June 4, 2012


When you're the parent of two little girls you often have to deal in the realm of the royal.

Story after story describes the life of some princess or other. Usually they're getting themselves into trouble. It’s not the sort of trouble which involves hanging out with a known love rat, sucking the toes of a Texan oil millionaire, or other misadventures that will be screamed about in the tabloid press (which only screams and never utters).

They don’t develop eating disorders but a lot do have a drinking problem, insofar as they can’t seem to stay off the secret potions for very long, sometimes before lunch.

They're often wandering away from where they should be and becoming hopelessly lost. Whoever Disney put in charge of palace security must be on thin ice. In a typical storyline that could have come straight from the desk of Germaine Greer, they like sitting around doing precious little whilst waiting for a good looking prince to turn up. Sometimes they’re even unconscious. In short, they’re a bit useless.

So it was refreshing to be able to deal in some real royalty recently as our house has gone ga-ga for Queen Elizabeth II for her Diamond Jubilee.

Of course we've had to explain what a jubilee is, and why it's different to a plain old anniversary like taxpayers have. It sounds great to kids, a jubilee, and our daughters Lani, 6, and Evie, 5, would have been happy just going around saying the word over and over. But it was also a good excuse to explain and question a few things.


Lani: Queen Elizabeth.
TF: Right, Queen Elizabeth.
Lani: Daddy, why did she chop off her cousin's head?
TF: Did she?!
Lani: Yeah.
TF: Wow - you've got that story to yourself. You should sell it to a newspaper.
Lani: Ye-e-ah. you remember? Mary. And the head fell off and went rolling away.

I realise Her Majesty didn't behead anyone, that it was a case of mistaken identity.

TF: No, you mean Elizabeth the first. We're talking about Elizabeth the second.
Evie: Who's the second Elizabeth?
TF: The Queen of England. And Australia. And a few other places. She's the one having the jubilee.
Evie: What's a jubilee? Can you eat it?
TF: No, it's not a lolly. A jubilee is an anniversary for a king or queen.
Evie: What's an anniversary?
TF: It's when someone's been doing something for a long time, like 10 or 20 years or so. The Queen has been queen for 60 years, so she gets a jubilee. Because it's 60 years it's called a Diamond Jubilee.
Evie: Does she get a diamond?
TF: No.
Evie: Oooooh!
TF: It’s ok. She’s got plenty.


Evie: Because she chopped the other queen's head off!
TF: No.

If it’s not obvious by now, our kids are obsessed by the story of Mary Queen of Scots and her lost head, particularly the gory details about how it took a few blows for the thing to come off, and how, once it did, it went bouncing across the execution yard. I felt it only fair on the Virgin Queen, insanely jealous though she was, to point out that the phrase “had her killed” doesn’t mean Good Queen Bess actually swung the axe herself. Likewise Henry VIII didn’t physically do his wives in.

It was at this point I felt the need to explain the royal succession, to show how Elizabeth I was Henry’s daughter and so on down to the modern crop. This would have been easy a few years ago when on the wall of my home office I had the English royal family tree. It was right next to another must-have, a large poster of the world at night, showing the bright lights of the Earth’s urban areas. Both pieces had been expertly unfolded from the magazines they came in and magnificently mounted on blue tac to decorate my workspace. However, my wife, shall we say, tore them down in revulsion one night in one of those things women sometimes do when they move in with a man and become pregnant and stop thinking straight. So these days when we need a quick reference to the English royal family tree, like some backwoods caveman we have to go online. As for the Earth at night, we’re all at sea.

TF: So how did the Queen become queen?
Lani: Because her father died.
TF: That’s right. She was next in line.
Evie: It’s good to wait in line.
TF: That’s right. So she became Queen 60 years ago, in 1952.

The utterance of this year, as with most years, is followed by an obvious question.

Evie: Were there dinosaurs around then?
TF: Aaaah, no.

I’m not sure how long my kids think 65 million years is, but this question keeps coming up. I guess it’s no slight on the Queen. The other day I was asked if there were dinosaurs around in the year I was born, 1967. Perhaps they meant the Rolling Stones.


Evie: She’s on the throne all day.
Lani: She what? She’s on the phone all day?
TF: Yes. She’s just one the phone yabbering away to her mates all day that Queen. She’s a shocker.
Evie: No, she’s on the throne all day.
Lani: Oh, yes. That’s what she does.
TF: Is that it? Just sits there?
Lani/Evie: Yeah.
TF: All day??
Lani: Well, OK, probably not the whole entire day.
TF: Thank God for that. It’d be a pretty boring life otherwise.
Lani: She’d have to get off to do important stuff.
TF: Like what?
Lani: Like go and buy the groceries.
TF: Oh right.

I don’t deny this but make a mental note. Next time these kids complain about going to the supermarket, remind them that even the Queen has to do it.

Lani: But apart from that she doesn’t leave the throne.
TF: What about going to the toilet?
Lani: Well, OK and maybe going to the toilet.
Evie: She must have a special toilet.
TF: Well, I’d suppose it’s very clean.
Evie: Is there someone who wipes her …
TF: No I don’t think so.


Lani: Rule 1: No riding about in shopping trolleys.
TF: What? That’s the first thing you’d think of?
Lani: Yes. No careering across the road while riding in a shopping trolley.
Lani: It’s dangerous.
Lani: I saw it in a book. This woman went across a road in a shopping trolley.
TF: Alright, well, yes we’d better jump on that.
Evie: I know! Everyone can eat ice-cream anytime.
Evie: And no putting holes in things.
TF: What?
Evie: Kevin put a hole in my painting at school.
TF: OK. No putting holes in things.
Evie: No littering and no running in the house.
Evie: And no chopping people’s heads off.


Evie: I know! I’d get someone to make me a special throne.
TF: I think you’d already have one. They come with the palace.
Evie: No, a special throne that was also a toilet.
TF: Ah. A combination throne/toilet.
Evie: Yeah.
Lani: So then you wouldn’t have to leave the throne to go to the toilet?
Evie: Yeah!
TF: Just do your business right there, in front of everyone, while tending to matters of state!
Evie: Yeah!


Lani: Willy Wonka.
Evie: Mummy.

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.

In the past, story princesses were solitary beasts, free to
roam around by themselves. However, following the
global financial crisis the six strongest ones announced
a merger in which they formed a power-and-beauty bloc
known as the Disney Princesses, or the so-called P6.
They still indulge in traditional princessy activities
such as preening, dancing at balls and waiting to be
swept off their feet by a handsome prince, such as this ...

Or this.

Here is another famous princess. However,
those in my daughter's DVDs and story
books hardly ever look like this.

Her Majesty the Queen, snapped
recently at the proverbial opening
of an envelope.

And here's another recent photo of the
monarch, full name Elizabeth Alexandra
Mary Windsor, 86, of London. She is also
known as "Elizabeth the Second, by the
Grace of God of the United Kingdom of
Great Britain and Northern Island and of
Her other Realms and Territories Queen,
Head of the Commonwealth, Defender
of the Faith". However, since this is
something of a mouthful, all monarchs
also have a nickname by which they're
known around the stables, in this
case "Reg".

And here she is again bobbing up on the
one dollar coin of tiny, ocean-locked
Tuvalu. It is rumoured she had to
sit for an extremely long time while the
Tuvalu mint's engraver did her portrait,
which is why she looks decidedly
pissed off. 

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