Goodness Gracious! The Queen Mother is Coming to Town


A Royal Welcome along the length of the Railway Platform

A sky bob from a Sunbeam as she Presents woven bowl of Rhodesian wild flowers to Princess Margaret

A Shy bob as a Sunbeam presents a bowl of wild flowers to Princess Margaret

The formal welcome to Que Que by the Mayor

The formal welcome to Que Que by the Mayor

Having a Last Word with the Queen Mother

Goodness Gracious!  The Queen Mother is Coming to Town

Tuesday 7th July 1953

Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother and Princess Margaret were on a royal tour of Southern Rhodesia and  Que Que was on the map. This day loomed large in everyone’s lives in Que Que.  We’d been on the map before, of course, in 1947 when the Royal Family had visited, but we had grown since then, almost doubled our population in fact, to two thousand two hundred Europeans, seven thousand Africans and 250 Coloureds and Indians.  Preparations were under way. 

Goodness Gracious! The Queen Mother is Coming to Town!

Tuesday 7th July 1953

Everyone who was anyone was a royalist, especially Mom.  Dad could not really understand it, they were mere mortals after all, subject to all the same foibles just like the rest of us.  But Mom insisted that every nation needed role models to look up to.  She took a very dim view of Edward VIII abdicating for that American divorcee.  George VI and his family had, in contrast, done their duty and steadied England and the world through the Blitz and all those long war torn years.

As Mayor and Mayoress, Dad and Mom had the last word on the reception formalities.  Who would be in the receiving line and who would not: every sector would be represented and no one would be overlooked.

“You know I’m not much good at protocol,” Dad said to Mom.  “You’ve got such a knack of smoothing ruffled feathers.  This could get tricky. I’ve got full confidence in you.”

Mom wrote lists she kept on scraps of paper here and there.  As she went about her daily life she added to this list or that:  the “must haves” and the “would like tos” the “maybes” and the “definitely nots.”  Yes, this was tricky.  Names were added as quickly as others were subtracted.  The lists got rather messy I noticed, but were finally consolidated.  “I think we should review this together,” Mom ventured at breakfast one morning, “before the invitations go out.”

“No, no!” Dad said.  “I trust your judgment completely.  I’ve got to run…”

“Well there is just one other thing,” she said.  “It’s the presentation of the bouquets.  I’ve decided on hand-woven bowls of our wild flowers.”

“I’m sure the Royals will be thrilled: a change from the usual formalities.   Good choice.”

“I’ve chosen two Sunbeams (African Brownies) to make the presentations.”

“Sunbeams!  I should have guessed as much, coming from you.  I approve.  It will thwart every Royalist around town vying for the honor for their little darling: no jealousies.  Excellent!”

“Quite,” she said.  ” It will be controversial all the same.  I don’t mind taking the heat.”

“I’ll back you up.”

We were used to our big black Garrett steam engines belching smoke, casting a sooty hue to the brown and gold coaches trailing behind.  Railways had been our life blood to the outside world from the earliest days and we still depended on them very much; supplies in, goods out. The shimmering mirage of spotless white coaches, an apparition in the early afternoon heat, pulled up at the Dutch gabled station, itself newly whitewashed.  Red, white and blue banners and a big welcome sign ran the length of the platform. The town had converged at the station, Union Jacks in hand.  The Africans had the best seats, perched high in the jacaranda trees of the parking lot, with a birds eye view. The ceremony opened with God Save the Queen and introductions began.

Two little Sunbeams bobbed shyly as they presented the bowls of Rhodesian wild flowers to the Royals while the native schoolchildren sang You are in Our Hearts because We are Your People, a song specially composed for the occasion.

Formalities over, the Queen Mother turned to the crowd and chatted along the platform as she prepared to board the train once more.  Suddenly there was a parting of the crowd.   A small boy in a Scottish kilt and beret ducked under the platform cordon clutching a bouquet of Scottish heather, just flown out from Edinburgh.  The queen mother smiled and inclined her head.  The lady-in-waiting stepped forward and accepted the bouquet.