Wednesday, June 13

writing {duty}

Growing up, I knew her as Betty the Boss.  At least, that's what mum called her.  We went to meet her at Tullamarine in 1988 {Betty, not mum}.   She wore apricot and smiled warmly, if not politely.  We waved madly and clicked off two dozen photos, quite an investment for 1988!  I'm sure her memories are as fond as mine.

But I must confess, I've always thought of the Queen as the least interesting of all the Royals.  She always does precisely the right thing at the right time in the right outfit and with the right expression.  You'll never see the Queen shuffling through Woolies in her uggs on a Friday night, cruising the aisles for chocolate and sniffing around for marked-down cheese and bacon rolls.  I doubt the Queen has asked someone to chuck a few squares of loo paper under the partition in a public restroom.  She's almost certainly never spilled tomato sauce on her t-shirt at the footy and promptly licked it off lest it smudge her beloved Maggies scarf.

Which makes me wonder: do you think she wishes she could?

Imagine having your friendships, career choices, pastimes, holidays and romances scripted and scrutinised on your behalf - not because you volunteered for a TV talent show, but because you were born to reign over, oh, I dunno, a couple billion people, give or take.

Imagine having the what-you'd-like-to-be-when-you-grow-up chat in a hypothetical sense only.

Imagine being required to remain politically neutral, forbidden from ever lodging a vote.  No #qanda tweeting for Betty!

Are you feeling claustrophobic?  I am.

The notion of 'duty' is just so old hat these days.  We advise engaged couples that it's YOUR day, so do as you please and never mind about the oldies.  We dissolve our marriages to pursue true happiness, rendering impotent the vows we made {and presumably meant} in our youth.  We complain about celebrating life's milestones with the in-laws, preferring the family we birthed over the one that birthed us.  We squirm out of tuckshop duty.  We neglect to RSVP.  We only pencil things in.  We leave our options open.

And I can relate.  I've been there.  And I'll be back there tomorrow and next week, one way or another.

But back to the Queen... I'm not a Royalist.  I don't love the idea that our Head of State lives on the other side of the world, regardless of how dashing her grandsons are.  In my opinion, God Save the Queen is about as stirring as Better the Devil You Know but, sadly, not quite as catchy.  So forgive me if I was mildly surprised to see 3 gazillion Britons going berserk about the Diamond Jubilee.  I didn't know they cared!

As it turns out, Betty knew, and she grandly rose to the occasion once again.  She's been at her post for 60 years.  Sixty years!  On a quick re-cap of the last 60 months I've moved towns, started uni, switched courses, deferred subjects, picked up projects, put them down, volunteered my time, retracted it ... over and over and over.  I can pretty much do whatever I want.

And while it's easy to say "Well so can she!  She's the Queen!" the reality is she can't.

Actually that's not true.

The reality is, she won't.

She won't put herself before her subjects.  She won't let them down, stand them up or do them over.  Her word is her bond.

The Queen's life is a beautiful study in patience and grace.  To happily remain duty-bound for so long and to acquit herself so perfectly indicates a depth of love that leaves me in awe.  Whether this love is for her subjects, for God, for the Crown, her parents or her descendants, I'll never know.

What I do know, however, is that to whom much is given, much is expected.  Queen Elizabeth has been given enormous responsibility and she has unfailingly lavished the fruit of it on us for decades without counting the cost.

So what have I been given in abundance?  Freedom, of course.  And yet, even as I consider how different my life is to hers, I somehow know that the expectation contingent on our gifts is one and the same.

Do you feel constrained by duty?  What have you done to balance freedom and responsibility?


  1. Melc_19118:20 AM

    I couldn't stand being a royal or a celebrity either, constantly under watch, everyone waiting for them to put a step out of place. Then splashing it o. The tabloids. How much pressure would you constantly be under. Love my freedom. Even more so now that I don't have to conform in the corporate world which is also stifling in many ways! X

    1. You're right, the pressure would be awful.

      What I'd find hardest is raising my kids to live that life also. It's one thing to choose a career in the spotlight, but to have it thrust upon your kids and to expect them to devote their *entire* life to service leaves me cold.

      She's a strong woman.


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