Premonitions and Princes: Au Revoir, Prince Philip

This past Thursday found me running an errand. As I waited for a light, an unbidden thought came into my mind: Prince Philip is not going to make it to the weekend.

I’d seen the pictures of him when he was on his way back to Windsor about three weeks ago after undergoing the heart procedure and treatment for the infection. The unbidden thought then: hospice.

Well, at 99 and getting discharged after a month in the hospital, no one can be expected to retain the glow of youth. But the bruising and drawn cheeks did not bode well.

Que sera sera. The light changed. I pressed on the gas and went home.

The next morning, Friday, I called Hubby. “Did you hear the news?” he asked.

“No…” I don’t turn on news until I’ve had a cup of tea and written my morning page.

“Prince Philip died.”

Despite my morning page lying there blankly, I turned on the TV. Not quite time for “Today.” This shooting; that vaccine story; yet another carjacking. Prince Philip finally appeared on the crawler. Died peacefully at Windsor at 99.

A small, thin chill ran through me.

I flipped back and forth between the three networks. Their morning shows lead with the story and the summaries of a long life. Not always the nicest person, a definite relic from a harder, more structured world invested in keeping it that way; yet his work for the World Wildlife Fund pointed to a progressive streak that I didn’t know about.

Friday and Saturday found me camped out on the BBC website. Details about the funeral were finally posted mid-afternoon yesterday: 17/4 at 3 pm BST (that’s April 17 at 10 AM eastern, 9 central). Very paired down due to COVID, but would be televised.

In between new postings on the BBC live blog, my thoughts went in two directions: 1. The Queen. She had just lost her husband of 70+ years. How will she cope with his absence? and 2. What is the future of the British Monarchy?

On the first count, I silently wished her and her children strength and comfort. If she’d been a neighbor I would have made a cake or some cookies and taken them over, but since I’m not, and don’t live anywhere near Windsor, and her pastry chef is likely better than me at cakes and whatnot anyway, that was out of the question. All I could do was spare some thoughts as I would for any other woman in her later years. And hope that when the funeral’s done and she can relax her upper lip a bit, go out into the woods near Balmoral with the Corgis, and wail like a banshee until the grief subsides.

My hope is that she’ll get the love and support she needs to carry on around the great gawping canyon of Philip’s absence and stick around a few more years. I’ve always seen them as the type of couple that literally would not be able to live without each other and the survivor would follow the first to slip this veil in a short amount of time. We’ll have to see.

The second one is a lot trickier. The Monarchy reaches back into the mists of time a thousand years ago. It’s been argued that it’s provided structure and continuity since then. There have been calls to abolish it, and after the current Queen passes into the next world, will Charles or William be able to keep it going?

I don’t know. Oh, it needs to be updated without a doubt. But to do away with it altogether…

Perish the thought. It wouldn’t be Great Britain without a monarch. Would it? I don’t know. I have several British friends in the world of social media who feel that it should have been done away with years ago due to costs, creating a more egalitarian society, and so on. However, the last time that happened, England endured years of civil war. I would hope that wouldn’t happen, but in these crazy times, who knows?

As this week plays out, there will be tea to steep and scone recipes to be researched for Saturday. Until then, there are visits to be made to the BBC to see if any new related stories have popped up while hoping for a few more years with Her Majesty before Charles takes charge.

The Royal Wedding Entry That You Knew I Was Going to Write

Image courtesy The Graphics Fairy. Not Harry and Meghan, but you get the idea.

Yes, I was up at 5:30 AM with my tea. (I’m usually up by 6 give or take, so no big deal.) And tissues. I get a little weepy at weddings. (Sometimes a lot weepy, like at my brother’s. Slamming back three apricot sours to numb the agony of a recent breakup while suiting up for bridesmaid duty didn’t help. But that’s a story for another time.)  I dabbed my eyes quietly (neither Hubby or Oakley were up) as I watched the magic, the romance unfold.

After a week of the ongoing constitutional crisis here in the US highlighted with threats to the social safety net and ending with two school shootings on the same day, we needed Bishop Michael Curry to remind everyone of the healing power of love to change the world for the better through his words and the words of Martin Luther King, Jr.

We needed the quiet dignity of a mother who moved mountains by fiercely loving her daughter into a woman of strength, intelligence, elegance, and grace. Meghan’s second major at Northwestern University was international studies. Remember that.

We needed the living timeline of the British royals to see how far the world has come, yet has along way to go.

We needed to see a warrior duchess* and her brave, bold, handsome prince join hearts and hands to advance humanitarian efforts around the world. Their selection of “Stand By Me” took on an added layer of meaning in that light.

Of course there were critics castigating them for spending that much on a wedding in the face of today’s plagues on society. The wedding and receptions were paid for by the Windsors. Meghan paid for her own dress. The balance of the cost was for security, and that came in at around $43 million. That’s rather staggering in total, but if you divide it by  the population of the UK (66,529,896), it comes out to less than a dollar a person. Considering that the Queen and company are a huge attraction, the tourists will get it paid for shortly.

Two days later, I’m back in the groove of tweeting on social issues, doing what I can to promote Lauren Underwood for my next congress rep (I gave up on Randy Hultgren. His apathy towards constituents and rude staffers is legion. I’d rather put my energies on Ms. Underwood). I turn over Bishop Curry’s words in my mind, hoping that love coupled with a healthy dose of action will somehow pull us out of this mess.

I wish Meghan and Harry all the best and then some, but if I had one piece of advice to give them as they go about their lives, I would remind them that they are two fantastic humans, not pizza, not tacos. Not everyone is going to like or approve of their causes. Not everyone is going to support their efforts.

May they stand by one another on this journey, and may all that is good go with them.

*Meghan will be known as HRH the Duchess of Sussex, not Princess, due to not being a royal or noble by birth and her US citizenship.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tea: The Concise History

Ok, you caught me. I’m a royal watcher. 

I have an extra browser window open to BBC’s website to watch events unfolding in London. The Duchess of Cambridge was trundled off to the hospital at about midnight my time (now about 10:45 as I tap the keys). My guess is that she’s at the stage of labor where Prince William needs to stay close enough to hold her hand but far enough away to prevent her from doing any damage. 

So while we wait, let us contemplate that most British of institutions, tea. Not the green stuff, not herbal infusions, but real deal black tea.  Steeped for five minutes and served with a splash of milk. Or cold infused. But it has to be real tea. 

Tea was discovered many years ago in China when leaves fell into a wise person’s cup as he meditated. He found the resulting infusion delicious, and the beverage’s popularity spread through Asia. 

Dutch traders brought tea from Indonesia in the mid-1600’s, not too long before coffee arrived through Austria courtesy of the Turks. Tea made its way up to what we now know as the UK and took hold as the beverage of choice. It was perceived as a more wholesome alternative to coffee thanks to men who went to coffee houses which were fronts for brothels. They returned home without the energy or desire to perform their husbandly duties and blamed it on the coffee. The wives accepted the explanation without question, at least verbally, and banned coffee from their homes.

Tea the late afternoon ritual was started by another duchess in the 1800’s. At the time, dinner wasn’t served until eight or nine at night. She needed a little something about 4:30, 5:ish and requested a pot of tea and a little bread and butter. The cookies, cakes, and finger sandwiches were added over time.

Today, tea is the most widely drunk beverage in the world. Not surprising. Its effects are more subtle than coffee’s thanks to the lower caffeine content. Coffee’s roasting process also causes the formation of alkyd compounds that can impact moods the way caffeine can. Tea offers more comfort. The catch phrase “A cup of tea will fix anything” rings true, at least for one hypersensitive food blogger I can name.

So while the world waits, we raise our mugs, our fine china cups, and our pots to you, Your Grace and Your Highness. Blessings to the three of you as the journey begins.