The Queen was a nice little movie that covered much of the same ground as The Remains of the Day or the lesser known Mrs. Brown, in terms of raising questions about the proper sensibilities, conventions, and mores we should adopt and live by. Although the movies were set in different eras and concerned with different circumstances, the plots of all three revolved to a large degree around the tension between public and private worlds:
- between assuming roles for the sake of others versus being real and true to self,
- observing protocol versus informality,
- being structured or spontaneous.
- self-contained or expressive.
In other words, the kinds of things every generation has to deal with to some degree and some generations (where there is rapid social change), deal with considerably more. In The Queen, Princess Diana has died and the nation is effusive in its grief. There were so many bouquets of flowers placed outside the gates of Buckingham Palace that the changing of the guard was disrupted and they were forced to use a different gate. Rather than respond publicly to the outpouring or even to express their own pain, the royal family retreated to their Balmoral estate in Scotland. They were concerned with sheltering Diana’s two sons and viewed their mourning as a private matter. Their seclusion was interpreted by many (especially the media), as cold indifference.
After several days of intense discussion with family (including Prime Minister Blair), Queen Elizabeth was convinced to change her role in regard to how she had responded to Diana’s death. As a result, the royal family left Balmoral and returned to Buckingham Palace. There she appeared at the front gates to acknowledge both the crowds who had gathered and the outpouring of sentiment in the form of flowers and cards lining the palace gates. Cordoned off from the people, she inspected the flowers and read the cards. They spoke not only of “love” for Diana, but their disdain for the royal family (“You were too good for them,” “They didn’t deserve you,”). She was hurt by what she read but nevertheless turned to face the crowd with a brave smile. As she walked by them, there are two small girls. One of them was holding some flowers.
“Hello,” she said to them. Then to the girl with the flowers she asked, “Would you like me to place those for you?”
There was a pause as the Queen pondered her latest rejection.
Then the girl said, “These are for you.”
Can a small kindness make a difference? It did to the Queen of England that day.
Cultures change. The Queen learned the hard way that what constitutes exemplary behavior does not remain the same. But kindness is never out of fashion and is never too small to be insignificant.
Try some today.
“An anxious heart weighs a man down, but a kind word cheers him up,” (Proverbs 12:25).