ZB

Francesca Rudkin: Hers has been a life of privilege, but also of incredible service

Author
Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Sun, 10 Apr 2022, 9:25am
(Photo / Getty Images)
(Photo / Getty Images)

Francesca Rudkin: Hers has been a life of privilege, but also of incredible service

Author
Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Sun, 10 Apr 2022, 9:25am

So Her Majesty, The Queen, has announced she is pulling out of an Easter church service with regret. Bless the Queen – she’s always so apologetic about not being able to mark an occasion, and yet at 95 years old, and with many thousands of church services under her belt, I don’t think anyone holds it against her.  

Queen Elizabeth is of course marking her 70 years on the throne this year, and it’s presented an opportunity to look back on the Queen’s life and reign. I have the utmost respect for the Queen’s sense of duty and service, but I’m not much of a Royalist, so I’m surprised at how much I’m enjoying Robert Hardman’s engaging and informative biography, Queen of Our Time. 

As I was contemplating the book, a photo above my desk caught my eye. In it, my grandparents Peter and Toni Austin – known as Petsy and Muffy – stand on their doorstep amidst flowering roses, grinning nervously at the camera.  

They look dashing – my grandmother in a specially made pale pink silk dress and my grandfather in black tie. The photo was taken in 1986, and they were off to have dinner with Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip aboard the royal yacht Britannia, birthed in Lyttleton.  

My grandfather was the Dean of the Consular Corps in Christchurch which is how they made the guest list. A young teen at the time, I was more focused on Duran Duran than the Royal Family, but I can remember the excitement and nerves leading up to the big night.  

There were strict instructions to be followed and a curtsey to perfect. Muffy was particularly nervous, as Petsy had suffered a stroke and didn’t have use of his left hand and walked with a cane. The thought of getting up the gangway, and him having to cut up his own meal played on her mind. A lot.  

The night was wonderful.  

My grandmother was very impressed with how well-briefed Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip were on each of the guests. They spoke to them as if they knew them. 

At dinner, each guest had a butler standing behind their chair. My grandmother was nervous she would have to ask them to cut Petsy’s meat up in front of the whole table, but, as you’d expect from such well-briefed hosts, his meal arrived subtly cut up and ready for him to eat with his one working arm.  

My grandmother was so appreciative. It’s the little things, right? It didn’t take long before they almost forgot they were dining with the Queen.  

I wish my grandparents were here to tell the story in their own words. It was a very special honour, and meant so much to them.  

I can’t help but think of all the hundreds and thousands of well-briefed dinners, morning teas, afternoon teas, events and occasions Queen Elizabeth has attended over the years, making people’s day, years and maybe even lives in the process.  

Hers has been a life of privilege, but also of incredible service. While few of us can understand the obligation, duty and scrutiny that comes with being born into royalty, Hardman’s book has given me a greater understanding and appreciation of the Queen’s extraordinary reign. 

The Queen, who is wonderfully unsentimental would likely not admire my sudden sentimentality towards her, I hope she rests up this Easter.