Would you expect a circus elephant to work this hard?

by Guest on March 28th, 2011
in Know Your History and tagged , , , , ,

England’s reigning Queen Elizabeth holds a place in my history. My family bought our first television set and allowed me to stay home from school to watch her coronation. We cheered the new queen from Temple TX. For years after that, I had a recurring dream that Queen Elizabeth was coming to dinner and I had nothing prepared. I would awaken in a cold sweat after trying unsuccessfully to cobble together a dinner from leftovers I found refrigerated in my grandmother’s multicolored Pyrex dishes.

After reading this lovely piece by Suzan St. Maur, I think I would not stress so much over an unexpected visit from the queen, but rather would order in Chinese and look forward to a chance to chat with a hardworking woman who prepares her own breakfast cereal. Of course, I’d want to ask her about the upcoming royal wedding and what advice she’d give to the soon-to-be princess Kate. What would you ask the queen if she came to have dinner with you?

Although this old lady lives in comfortable surroundings, she is nearly 85 years old and still works a full week from 9 to 5 plus several evening shifts and on weekends. She has to be nice to thousands of people every week, shake hands with hundreds of them, share her mid-day and evening mealtimes with dozens of them, and look absolutely perfect at all times no matter what.

She’s been doing it since 1952. And she has to travel thousands of miles every year to gigs in far-flung places where she’s expected to be charming, and perform.

An inhumanely overworked elderly circus elephant, perhaps? Nope. She’s the Queen of England.

Or to be more correct, she is Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, (titular only) Head of State of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland plus 15 other Commonwealth realms. Those realms include Canada and various Caribbean nations plus Australia, New Zealand and some further nations in the south-west Pacific.

Of course the British Republicans sneer and snort, waving anti-monarchy banners and saying how dare a woman like Queen Elizabeth complain about her workload when she lives in several different palaces and doesn’t have to worry about paying bills or maxing out her credit card.

Well, I don’t care what the Republicans say: this woman, Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor, to my mind is a huge inspiration to all of us who value the work ethic.

Unlike other vastly wealthy women, she wasn’t able to choose a lifestyle or career à la Paris Hilton, Oprah Winfrey, Martha Stewart and so-on. She was born into her job and had no choice. So without so much as a jump up and down on Jay Leno’s armchairs or a spell in rehab after shaving her head, she grabbed that legendary stiff British upper lip and got on with it. Elizabeth may shout and rant at her beloved Corgi dogs when life gets frustrating, but not a word gets said out of place at official levels.

Did she, and does she still complain? Probably she did, and still does, but behind closed doors. Given the choice I suspect she would have been a contented gentlewoman who loved her children, horses and dogs and led a fairly boring, basic-but-financially-comfortable British life.

Even now, we read in the media that she and hubby Phil (a.k.a. The Duke of Edinburgh who also is still working, aged nearly 90, bless him) serve themselves their own breakfast cereals out of humble Tupperware containers and think the most exciting way to relax with the folks is to barbecue British sausages on a wood fire in the rain in Scotland.

Glamorous, it ain’t.

To women who work around the world, it’s a sobering reflection to think that a woman like Queen Elizabeth II really isn’t a fairy queen leading a charmed life, but a hard-working professional who makes most of the fat-cat billionaires sunning themselves around priceless Bahamian swimming pools look like, well, just that. Fat, lazy people who may have worked hard to get where they are, but aren’t obliged to work so hard any more until ill health or death overtakes them – unlike her.

Whatever you think about the idea of a monarchy you’ve got to hand it to Elizabeth. She is an inspiration to working women everywhere.

Do you agree?

About Suzan:
Canadian-born best-selling author Suzan St Maur is a contributor to Sarah Arrow’s UK-based BirdsOnTheBlog, one of Forbes’ top 100 women’s websites in the world today. Suzan and Sarah also run the associated blog HowToWriteBetter.net.

Suzan’s most recent published book is “How To Write Winning Non-fiction.”


6 Responses to Would you expect a circus elephant to work this hard?

  1. I had a really big mindset shift about Queen Elizabeth after I watched “The Queen.” I thought it was so interesting to examine Princess Diana’s death from Queen Elizabeth’s point of view.

    The Netherlands has had a very long history of strong queens. When Prince Alexander becomes the king, he will be the first in over 200 years. The Dutch have really bonded with Alexander’s wife Maxima. I am hoping that the British will respond as well to Prince William’s marriage to Kate Middleton.

  2. Gloria Feldt says:

    Here’s another amusing anecdote that the late Ann Richards told when she spoke at a political fundraiser in my backyard in AZ. As a girl, whenever she became too sassy, her mother would put her in her place by asking, “Well what do you think you’re doing? Going to see the Queen of England?” Then after she became governor of Texas, Ann was in fact invited to see the queen. Once she got there could only think of her mother’s admonition, and wished she could tell her that yes indeed she was going to see the queen.

    Personally, I’d hate to have to be as charming as Queen Elizabeth must be most all of the time!

  3. Celeste says:

    In many ways the Queen is also a politician, albeit one with no term limits! Or an ability to claim any political alligance! Imagine, a politician who has to be nice to everyone, and maintain cordiality no matter WHAT she may think of the opposition. Also remember the queen does “advise” on policy and has to review matters of state(the famous red boxes) every day and undoubtedly is privy to events that she can share with no one. Imagine, all this and no venting. That would be impossible for me to do, and to do it for a lifetime! Amazing.

  4. Further to Celeste’s comment … my heart goes out to Queen Elizabeth when I think that despite being able to wear a “uniform” of haute couture designer clothes and fabulous jewellery, she has to smile and be amiable with politicians and others who probably creep her out. If my job involved that I would have been in the funny farm decades ago…give me my computer, some wonderful colleagues and the casual slacks and sweater – any time!

    Thank you for your kind words, Gloria, and I hope your readers enjoy this contribution to your superb site!


  5. Sarah Arrow says:

    Lovely article Suze, I wouldn’t want my grandmother to be working as hard as the Queen does.

    @Gloria, a lovely anecdote about Ann Richard that made me grin as I’d have been the same

  6. andrew Douce says:

    …. I also wonder if/how the British will respond as, it seems that ‘Blair’s children’ have no identity, no understanding of heritage and a blatant desire to be rid of the monarchy!

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