What is (not) said of Elizabeth II

What is (not) said of Elizabeth II

It is said that his alarm went off every morning at 6.45 am, with the bagpipes playing for 15 minutes under the bedroom window. It is said that before going to sleep she sipped a glass of champagne and that her habits included an alcoholic aperitif in the late morning, with strictly round ice cubes, not square, so as not to be too noisy when shaking the glass. It is said that she was a great dancer, that she loved musicals, that she had a soft spot for Cole Porter and Irving Berlin, for Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone and Barbra Streisand. It is also said that to prevent the wind from lifting her skirts, she had small weights sewn in the hems, that the handbag was a strategic tool for sending coded messages to her staff and that if she could she would have worn only the blue and the dark green, other than rainbow colored dresses.

Truth, legends: who can tell. And what does it matter, in the end, to know what a queen really was, Queen, in the enclosure of its palaces; wife, grandmother, mother, employer of housekeepers who may have asked to pass a cloth over the dust-covered furniture or to take off her apron, because she would have thought of making a quick sandwich. What does it matter, after all, to ascertain Elisabetta’s private life when she was only Lilibet. So much is said of her, it has always been said, without fear of denial, that the satisfaction of conceding crude disavowals of her did not give it, she sipped it, reserved it for a few important cases. In conclusion, “Never complain, never explain” it is said – even here, it is said – was her motto: complaints and explanations remained outside the gates adorned with her initial gifts, prerogatives of a people free to imagine her as they wanted, protagonist or antagonist of a fable that now yes, “there It was once”.

The truth is that she has always been discussed, and always with the same conviction of never being able to really tell her completely. A mixture of reality and artifice, history and fantasy, mystery and verisimilitude, Elisabetta – who has only once been interviewed by Bbc – was and will remain the only one of an extinct genre along with its last breath. A genre that today is remembered, regretted or perhaps not, but in any case it is difficult to grasp the complexity of a current context that exists as its exact antithesis.

Elizabeth II between “never again and forever”

Everything is recorded, everything is shown, everything is shown off; image is existence, appearance is substance. Today a joy does not seem such if it is not shared, an emotion does not seem really deep if it is not told, a feeling exists to the extent that it is expressed, in words or through photographs. And how alienating it sounds, then, to think that on the day of her coronation as queen, in 1953, the 27-year-old Elizabeth asked and obtained that the cameras, for the first time in history called to film the historical event, would not linger on her face trembling with fear. “Coldness” will say those who understandably disapprove of an excess of rigidity that overwhelms human emotion; “Modesty”, on the other hand, those who consider the opportunity to express a disturbance, but depending on the conditions, the circumstances, to reserve it only for the confidence of the few capable of truly understanding it. She hid Elisabetta for a whole life, in public she was, but only her “her majesty” of her. And as she could, she kept that granite reserve even 68 years later, with a black hat and a mask on her face held low, in mourning during the funeral of her husband Filippo: sitting alone among the benches of the chapel of St. George c ‘was the Queen of the United Kingdom saddened by the passing of her Prince consort of Edinburgh, not the sweetheart who will be blushed for a kiss, not the bride, tender or uncompromising, next to him for 73 years. We have never seen her, that Elisabetta there.

And never again will we see someone like this, someone who succeeds in the today so abstruse enterprise of being other and beyond, of stopping time but, at the same time, of growing and aging at its own pace. And always with the same clothes on, then, so different but so the same; always with the same fluffy hairstyle, brown first and then gray; always with the same tough inalterability that also passed through an image designed to remain so, to reinforce the sense of an institution that, like it or not, she represented and guaranteed.

The most abused term to describe it these days is “icon”, “emblematic figure or character of an era, of a genre, of an environment”, to use the definition of the Treccani dictionary. Epoch, genre, environment that in the din of the so-called trends as lasting as a social whim, will remember her. For better or for worse, the memory of a “never again” that is already “forever”.


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