As a five-year-old child living in College Park, Maryland, one of my lifetime memories is when Queen Elizabeth came to a University of Maryland football game in 1957.
My mom and dad took us to watch the parade. I remember my father sitting me on his large shoulders so I would have a clear view of the queen as she drove by, waving.
“Karen, she is a real queen,” he said. This a day you will remember all your life.
He was right, but little then did I know that this would not be my only in-person viewing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.
It’s kind of ironic — but Maryland was playing Carolina in the football game that day and according to an old newspaper clipping, here is what happened:
It was a big game for the Terps, entering the contest with a 1-3 record against the rival Tar Heels. However, with the Queen and a season-high 43,000 fans in attendance at the former Byrd Stadium, Maryland played its best game of the season, defeating North Carolina 21-7.
The Terps would finish the 1957 season with a 5-5 record, but the victory against the Tar Heels was Maryland’s only ranked win of the season.
My father kept his business in the north but moved my family back to North Carolina when I was in the second grade to be near our family here. Our ancestors here date back to the 1770s.
When I was a sophomore year in college, I set my plans in motion to try to spend my junior year studying overseas. I applied to The University of Edinburgh and The University of London. When I was accepted to both schools, I knew instantly that London was where I wanted to be, the theaters, the concerts, the 1970s was a lively place for a 20-year-old and her college pals.
Academic challenges and road trips to Europe, Scotland, and an island off the coast of Spain were also on tap for the future, and we took full advantage of living in such an exciting place. For someone who has deeply loved history, it was indeed the spot for me.
I also had the chance to see the Queen of England again – and this time – in all her regal splendor — as she road in her fabulous carriage adorned in the crown jewels no less on her way to the official opening of Parliament that year.
What a crowd and what a memory.
Events like that far overshadowed the pick pocketing of my alien registration card, the stewed tomatoes served us at breakfast and the bad imitation of pumpkin pie that year.
But from a historical vantage point it was a time of rolling power brownouts, studying by lamplight in an Old Wesleyan Seminary where I lived in Richmond, Surrey, with my fellow students. We hurried to catch our trains to be sure we didn’t get stranded, as they ran on strict schedules.
We ate boiled eggs and hard rolls – wore mittens as we held our books in the cold library, wrote endless papers on Dickens, and English Architecture, traveled to churches built by Christopher Wren for lectures, and starred at stained glass windows recently rebuilt, even decades after Hitler’s bombs landed.
We studied philosophy and art, sat on folding stools in drafty museum halls, gathered around exhibits on the Anglo-Saxon Sutten Hoo Ship burial relics, and gazed down at the beautiful guilt pages of illuminated manuscripts.
We drank in the totality of living in a different country – and for many of us – the country where our ancestors came – mine among them.
With Queen Elizabeth’s passing, I feel a window closes for me and countless people worldwide.
I admired her devotion to duty, love for her people, and lifelong, selfless service to her nation.
News reports say that as the flag came down at Windsor Castle – a rainbow appeared for a few moments and then disappeared.
As was said about Abraham Lincoln at his death…
“Now he belongs to the ages,” as does Queen Elizabeth II.
Karen Hayes Rotterman is a native North Carolinian, former college professor, director, and communications business owner.