When Daughter was Queen (If Only for a Day)

Princess Catherine and Prince William

[Credit: Tom Hevezi, Associated Press]

I think it’s safe to say that most of you are aware that there was a wedding yesterday.

(Well, probably several weddings, but there was one that gathered quite a lot of attention.)

Of course I watched it. It was lovely to see Wills and Kate take their vows before God, family, friends and country, at Westminster Abbey. (This, too.)

It made me reflect on my own wedding. Every bit as lovely and emotional, minus the ‘country’ part. I must confess that the entire American populace did not turn out.

Oh, and it was nowhere near as big a ‘do’.

Or covered by a media frenzy.

The church we married in was absolutely beautiful and held great meaning for Husband and me, but let’s be honest: it was no Westminster Abbey. I’m just saying.

Yesterday’s nuptials also caused me to reflect on a wonderful memory that I alone share with Daughter.

It was four and a half years ago, when our family was visiting London. At the end of a long afternoon of seeing the sights of this splendid city, we ended up at Westminster Abbey.

The original Saxon part of the Abbey was built in 624 AD. Yes, you read that correctly. It’s undergone a fair bit of renovation and sprucing up over the years, but the original building is depicted in the glorious Bayeux Tapestry in Normandy.

The Bayeux Tapestry is an ornately embroidered 224 foot long piece of fabric (technically not a tapestry, but pshaw – the name has stuck regardless), depicting the events leading up to the Norman invasion and conquest of England by William the Conqueror in 1066.

William ended up defeating the English King Harold, who had been crowned only months earlier, presumably at… you guessed it… Westminster Abbey.

While there is no official record of the coronation having taken place there, many historians consider it a decent bet. This much is known: William the Conqueror and every English monarch since (with the exception of a pair of Edwards) have been crowned there.

No doubt about it, Westminster Abbey is enormous and majestic and full of historical significance, primarily as the scene of royal coronations and burials.

Given that it was November when we visited, we were afforded that pleasure of slowly working our way around this magnificent cathedral; Husband and Son soon became engrossed in some detail or other, and lagged behind.

Daughter and I were near the center of the church, where the two perpendicular aisles meet, when an odd sight caught my eye.

A few fellow visitors had ventured too closely to a roped off area with raised seating on each side of the relatively narrow aisle.

What can only be described as a Fussy Little Man was loudly remonstrating the trespassers, waving his arms about. Just generally fussing this way and that, fussing fussing fussing up a big ole fuss-storm.

The guilty parties slunk off in embarrassment, red-faced and shamed by their accidental transgression.

If he’s this fussed up in the offseason, I can’t imagine what he’d do in summer at the height of the tourist season, I remember thinking to myself.

Intrigued, and knowing Husband and Son were nowhere near ready to leave, I wandered over to where the docent was re-arranging the rope fence, tut-tutting as he did his work.

Slowly I engaged him in innocent conversation. At first he remained in his Fussy Little Man persona, but as I asked him about his duties at the Abbey, he softened.

He began telling me about the various responsibilities he and his colleagues shared, how many years he’d worked there (several decades), favorite reminiscences.

There it was: all he’d ever wanted, indeed ever needed, was to be asked. It all came pouring out.

Suddenly, his eyes darted slyly from side to side, as if to see if the coast were clear. Then he looked directly in my eyes and whispered in a conspiratorial tone, ‘Would you and your daughter like to see where the Queen sits when she attends services here?’

I thought he was kidding.

Next thing I know, he’s unroped the steps up to the raised seating area on one side of the aisle. He quickly waved Daughter up the steps, pointing out the royal chair while looking over his shoulder to see if anyone was watching.

Let me rephrase that: …looking over his shoulder to see if anyone official was watching. Because it seems we had gathered quite a few gawkers, fascinated by the fact that Fussy Little Man was allowing us to climb the steps.

Look! He’s motioning to the girl to sit down on a specific chair!

The crowd grew closer and closer, until one woman was able to overhear the words ‘the Queen’s chair’. She quickly spread the news, and suddenly all you could hear was the titter of those words repeated over and over.

The Queen’s chair! It’s the Queen’s chair! Queen’s chair!

One brave man, assuming that a tour was in progress, raised his knee to take the first step up.

In the blink of an eye, Fussy Little Man whipped about and flung out his arm in the universal symbol for ‘stop’. He didn’t actually have to say ‘stop’; he was that authoritative in his demeanor.

Fussy Little Man rushed back to the steps. As the poor startled man drew back, Fussy Little Man grabbed the rope and quickly re-connected it across the stairway, and returned to my side.

Now there was something that can only be described as a quiet uproar.

Who are these people, the crowd began asking each other, motioning to Daughter and me. Are they famous? Isn’t the young one someone famous? Didn’t we see her somewhere? A pop singer, perhaps?

Fussy Little Man proceeded to give us a five-minute private tour of the seating area, insisting that Daughter sit in the Queen’s chair for much of the time. I found it rather difficult to pay close attention, given the growing audience of bewildered onlookers, eager to determine just exactly who these celebrities were.

Eventually, our private tour ended, and Fussy Little Man escorted us back down the stairway. We thanked him profusely for the special tour, and started backing away. People continued to stare at us, trying to place us as this actress or that teen sensation.

Fast forward almost three years to Bayeux, France. The Tapestry is stunningly beautiful, and we had the opportunity to see it firsthand.

As we marveled at its detail and intricacy of needlework, we came upon the scene showing William the Conqueror’s coronation at the (original) Westminster Abbey.

I asked Daughter at the time whether she remembered sitting in the Queen’s seat in Westminster Abbey. As she slowly recollected the memory, a beaming smile spread across her face.

Of course she does. It was back when she was Queen, if only for a day.


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