Been getting all the feels with the death of Queen Elizabeth II! I wanted to share some memories I had of living in England during her reign. As a TCK, I’m having a lot of divided loyalties going on here, but I’m also being objective.
My Dad was born on her Coronation Day! I’m serious.
My paternal grandfather said that the evening my Dad was born, the coronation was still being talked about on the radio.
Among our family photos, we have the actual telegram that my grandparents sent my great-grandparents announcing Dad’s birth. It said “Coronation Day Baby”.
Ask my Dad his date of birth and he says it with a tinge of pride in his voice! Although, not many people recognize that date. Even when we lived in England, not many people recognized it!
Can you blame him though? I can’t. I would do the same if I was born on a historic day! And no, my Dad has never thought of himself as royalty or had any delusions of grandeur.
Funny story: My Dad got asked for ID to buy alcohol once. Yes, we were in England. And yes, he was obviously approaching seniority.
The UK was going through this phase of carding older people and ignoring younger people when buying alcohol! Don’t ask me why!
Anyway, my Dad doesn’t feel insulted very often, but this took the cake! He said it was on the tip of his tongue to say that he was born on Coronation Day!
When I talked to my Dad on the day Queen Elizabeth died, he seemed to be reeling a bit. He said he might take the pride out of his voice when he says his date of birth from now on. I have a poll at the end of my post that you can fill in on whether or not he should still have pride in his voice.
I say yes! It’s still a historic date!
I was seven years old when Princess Diana died. We were living in Texas and about to move to Colorado. Even though I didn’t know exactly what was going on, I could tell by the way my parents were talking that this was significant.
I cringe to think of this now, but I was as infatuated with England and the Queen just like any American kid. Or come to think of it, any American. I thank my lucky stars now that I’m a dual citizen and TCK and I know better!
If you’re asking whether I think it was fate that Dad was born on Coronation Day and I ended up spending 13 years in England, the answer is YES!!
We were supposed to leave for England on July 28th, but our plane kept getting delayed by another hour. By the time flight had been delayed for four hours, we had to make other arrangements. Good thing we did too because the flight got cancelled!
July 28th was a Friday and Dad was due to start his job on Monday. We got put on the next plane, which was the following day.
We couldn’t contact his new employer because it was Friday night where we were, Saturday morning in London, so the office was closed. Poor Dad ended up only having one day to recover from jet lag before starting work.
Why am I telling you this? Because less than a week later, we went to Buckingham Palace for Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother’s 100th birthday celebration!
A friend of my Mum’s called her to tell her the celebration was happening!
You have to remember this was the early years of the internet and people found out about things by talking to each other.
August 5, 2000:
I was all starry-eyed from the honeymoon period of living in a new country. This was also the type of day when I think, “This is what being a TCK is all about!” I was reeling from the fact this was a historic birthday for Elizabeth, as in “Bertie and Elizabeth” and I was going to witness her turn 100!
We knew the Royal Family would appear on the balcony at Buckingham Palace and we found a place in a massive crowd to see it! We were near the big statue outside the gates. The excitement was palpable and people were ecstatic! Then, suddenly, the Royal Family appeared and the Red Arrows flew over!
And that was how I became a history nerd:
Of course, we started exploring lots of historic buildings in London. I started getting lots of books out of the library on UK history. When it comes to UK history, I am almost entirely self-taught because I devoured those books.
When I went to school, I thought I would get an enriching experience with history. Nothing could have been further from the truth. Ask any English person about their history and they tend to look blank. I figured out why when I learned that the only history really required to learn is WWII history. Kids aren’t even required to learn anything before WWII, like Queen Victoria, or Queen Elizabeth I. That’s because that’s the only history the General Certificate of Secondary Education (GCSE) requires.
You know how these days people are always talking about how they missed so much in history because so much of it was consciously erased? Well, I didn’t know how to articulate that back then, but that was certainly the case.
When my Mum found out what the National Curriculum was actually like in the UK, she was shocked that kids don’t learn anything about the British Empire in school. That included being insulted that American history is not included. She wasn’t insulted in an ethnocentric American way either. She was insulted because the US was still colonized by the UK but it’s still important to know about it.
Then again, there was no hint of world history in the curriculum either, so all the more reason to be insulted if you are from another country.
And this was precisely why my Mum wanted to homeschool me because she could teach me better things than the National Curriculum.
And So Began Divided Loyalties and Constant Questioning:
Here’s another fact about my family. My Mum grew up in an Irish family. My maternal grandmother was so proudly Irish that she never let me forget I had a hit of Irish in me!
Even though it’s very small, I do feel Irish at times. I may not have lived there, but I have experienced some family things that activate my inner Irelander.
If you see the video below, there’s a line that being Irish is like being Jewish. It’s passed down through the mother. Yep.
And yes, my family moved to the US from Ireland during the potato famine, so there is a lot of resentment towards the UK there. Reminders of that on social media are doing this push-pull thing on my feelings.
Not to mention, being American and knowing that part of our history where we kicked the English out was another divided loyalty.
I feel like becoming a history nerd helped me a lot with culture shock and divided loyalties.
Although, whenever I would talk about how much I loved a certain part of English history, my Mum would sometimes joke with me, “You know we’re supposed to hate England right?”
A Note On Learning About Colonization:
There were absolutely no children’s library books on the subject. And didn’t I just say I devoured all the history books I could find?
There was only one thing I found that hinted at the atrocities of colonization in London. We saw this statue of Queen Victoria. At her feet, it looked like she was walking over a pond containing the bodies of children. Their countries were listed too. And yes, they were African and Caribbean countries.
I still remember my parents being solemn seeing that. It was my first lesson in the atrocities of colonization. I saw that statue a few times in 13 years, but that disturbing effect has never left me!
Want to know where it is? Outside the Victoria and Albert Museum. It’s a lovely museum, don’t get me wrong. The two best exhibitions I ever saw were there. Just be aware of what’s outside it.
I have heard from other UK expats that when they leave the UK, they learn what really happened with colonization. It makes sense to me because even though my Mum did her level best to teach me about it, there were still sources that were missing.
BBC history and nature programs were a common staple of my education. They went out of their way to present quality content, but sometimes you would get conflicting messages about colonization.
For instance, even though the UK was clearly responsible for the Transatlantic Slave Trade, there is this pat-yourself-on-the-back narrative for ending it. That’s led to other things in the cultural psyche that drive me up the wall!
Thanks to the Information Age, there’s so much more for a history nerd to lap up!
That was the year the Queen Mother died.
It was also the year of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee. Do you know what I found to be the weirdest thing? School and work calendars were completely adjusted to accommodate the Jubilee celebrations. You get extra time off because Bank Holidays are completely reorganized. Also, you genuinely feel like a subject of the Queen when a royal celebration happens.
Although, one gets constant reminders of one’s place in English society. People might not think that class differences still exist in England.
Newsflash: they still exist!
I learned then that even though a lot of people in England are indifferent to the monarchy, they enjoy the extra time off for the Jubilee and other royal celebrations.
Yeah, there are media people who are obsessed with the royals. Generally, English people are not NEARLY as obsessed with the Queen as Americans!
Whenever the subject came up about the royals (which only happened a handful of times in 13 years for me) when talking to English people, this was the general consensus that I noticed every time.
Princess Diana is well-loved and Prince Charles (as he was known then) was super hated for what he did to her! I wasn’t in England when Princess Diana died. I extrapolated that people got seriously disillusioned with the monarchy.
That was the year that then-Prince Charles married Camilla. By now, I fully understood what had happened to Princess Diana. My family hoped that Charles would calm down more by marrying Camilla, and he has.
I was actually in California visiting family when the wedding happened. So, I have nothing to say about it.
Still, I don’t know what to say about the fact that English people hate Charles for what he did to Diana. It’s not a good start to his reign as King Charles III.
Dad says he wants to live long enough to dance on Charles’ grave! Let’s cheer him on!
That was the year I became a UK citizen. I haven’t told the story of how and why I became a UK citizen on here yet. Although, here’s a taster:
I didn’t want to become a citizen for a LONG time! I hated how xenophobic the UK is and it wore me out. One of my earliest blog posts mentions what happened there. You can read it here if you want.
Back then, my knowledge of the atrocities committed by the UK was not as extensive as it is now, but it was like, “Why would I put my name to this?”
When my Mum encouraged me to get UK citizenship, I was like, “Oh, really? I thought I was supposed to hate Britain and now you want me to swear loyalty to the Queen? Not bloody likely!”
I take oaths very seriously. I didn’t see the point of swearing an oath for something I don’t believe in. More on how I changed my mind later.
I felt like I was compromising my values for a while, and I was genuinely torn while I was applying for citizenship. But Mum said to me, “THEY owe YOU citizenship! You’ve lived here long enough and you and our ancestors have put up with their crap!” I felt a lot better hearing that.
I learned that adopting a country means that you adopt everything about it. You promise to care about everything it means: good, bad, mundane, evil. And… I welcomed it.
So, when the time came for my citizenship ceremony, it was a proud moment for me and my family. It had this deep and genuine feeling in my heart as I took my oath of allegiance.
I’m remembering that day fondly right now. And I should.
Prince William and Kate Middleton got married that year. Or, as the public calls them, “Wills and Kate”. By then, I had picked up the same indifference to the royals as my fellow citizens. However, it is another historic event, so it was fun to see the excitement around the country.
There were lots of concerns about Kate and whether she would end up like Diana. As one newspaper said, the box that is the People’s Princess is a coffin. I can’t find the link to it, but it’s seared into my brain.
As Mum said, it’s like marrying into the House of Atreus. Someone we knew pointed out that the date Wills and Kate married was the same day Hitler married Eva Braun.
The city was positively electric that day! I didn’t go down to the city centre to join the celebrations though. Watching it on television was good enough for me. Still, you could feel the happiness in the air!
I like to remember that even if it’s a royal wedding, or even soon, there will be a royal funeral, they are still weddings and funerals. It’s okay to feel as one would for those events.
I am going to watch the funeral. Of all the royal events, I have not witnessed a coronation or a royal funeral. Although, when you go see the Crown Jewels at the Tower of London, they play the Queen’s Coronation video on repeat!
That Coronation video reminds me of when Obama threw shade at Birthers and show the Lion King intro as his birth video. Yep. The Coronation video is my Dad’s birth video!
The Queen’s Silver Jubilee. By then, I was so indifferent, you could feel it in the air!
Prince George was born right before I moved to California. I had to admit that was mildly triggering, considering what George III was like for Americans. Still, very much indifferent.
Once I moved back to California, there were moments when I said, “I can honestly say I was in England when (blank) happened.” Although, I didn’t talk much about the royals.
One big culture shock moment: I had forgotten Americans say “ma’am”. Like, whoa!
Sometimes, I say, gently “You don’t have to call me ma’am. I’m not the Queen.”
Other times, I put on my most upper-class English accent and say, “That’s ma’am as in palm, not ma’am as in ham.”
If I’m annoyed with someone who calls me ma’am when I specifically say not to, I say, “Don’t call me ma’am. I’m not the Queen!”
I have fun with it!
There is one thing you must NEVER EVER say to me! DO NOT ask me if I know the Queen, or make some ignorant assumption about the Queen because you got that stereotype from Hollywood!
Yes, I am looking at you! I will blow my top if you say that!
One time, I had an even more perfect response. I told a friend that if you say that to an English person, they will DEFINITELY think you are a Trump supporter! She was like, “Noted!” since she hates Trump. That was sweet!
Living in a Commonwealth Country Again:
I love living in a Commonwealth country again. I feel I can get so much out of it because of growing up in England.
There’s something pleasant I have noticed through the years.
When you are from (or “from”) a Commonwealth country, and you meet someone else from a Commonwealth country, you can develop a mutual unspoken understanding with each other. It’s something that goes beyond a shared history of colonization. Even if you never talk about it, it’s like you feel connected in a way.
My fellow Commonwealth citizens, you know what I mean?
There are lots of nuances that I have observed in Canada that let me know, that yep. It’s a Commonwealth country. Case in point: one of the shows I love is Son of A Critch. There’s an episode about Charles and Camilla’s visit.
Talk about divided loyalties! I was laughing at the plot!
Young Mark is infatuated with the royals. I think it’s a totally normal phase to go through. Full disclosure: yes, I went through it too. I feel like it’s only human to go through a phase like that, as long as you also grow from it.
Raise your hand if you have done it too! No shame here.
Let’s just say I will be watching this show tonight and I will be doing what they do at the end. And I mean the VERY end because NOTHING signifies my divided loyalties more than that!
Pro tip: If you have a VPN, you can watch a CBC Gem show from anywhere in the world!
That’s another thing I love about being in a Commonwealth country. Television networks exchange shows. Even though I am particular about shows I watch when it concerns the royals, there are some good ones!
For instance, CBC has a new show from the UK about Queen Victoria. It’s more about behind the scenes with her reign and how people kept trying to sabotage her. I think it’s based on her diaries.
There is plenty more where that came from. I’m not sure what else to say about the new King Charles III. I think it’s too much to expect that he will release the Commonwealth from the monarchy.
He is very environmental though, and I’m interested to see what he does with that. Okay, I know white saviourism is likely to play a role in it.
I think the only rich English people who have tried hard not to be white saviours are Prince Harry and Princess Diana. That’s not to say they are perfect, but they have tried hard.
I’ll continue to sit with my thoughts and divided loyalties here. I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts too.
I also wanted to say I’m not quite back to blogging yet. There’s still a lot going on in my life right now.
Don’t forget to fill in the poll!