“Her majesty’s a pretty nice girl but she doesn’t have a lot to say.”
So wrote Paul McCartney way back in 1969, as heard in a lick of music tucked in the final grooves of The Beatles’ album Abbey Road.
The Queen’s 70-year reign spanned from well before Beatlemania through Brexit. With the passing of Elizabeth II on September 8 in her 97th year, McCartney wrote down his personal feelings about her passing and has shared them here.
Among his thoughts, McCartney, who was knighted by the Queen in 1997, wrote that, “In 1953 when the Queen was crowned, everyone on our street in Speke, Liverpool finally got a television set and we settled down to watch the Coronation in glorious black and white.”
Elizabeth II made history a couple of times in the world of broadcasting. She was just a teenager of 14 when she made her radio debut by addressing young people evacuated in 1940 during Germany’s blitz bombing campaign. Elizabeth and her sister, Princess Margaret, were on air as part of the BBC’s Children’s Hour.
A dozen years later, in 1952, Elizabeth ascended to the throne when her father, King George VI died. Her coronation, held on June 2, 1953, was the first televised coronation ceremony.
Canadians were able to watch the coronation, not live (there were no satellite transmissions then), but just before it was shown in the United States.
Canada’s first TV network, CBC, had only commenced broadcasting about nine months earlier, in September of 1952, and then only in Montreal and Toronto. By the coronation, there was also TV service in Ottawa.
Getting the footage of the coronation on Canadian TV involved the coordinated efforts of the BBC, the CBC, the RAF and the RCAF. The mission even had a nickname: “Operation Pony Express.”
As reported at the time in The Globe and Mail, the CBC made recordings of the BBC broadcast (likely kinescopes, with 16mm film copies being shot by cameras aimed at TV monitors). The film was then quickly processed and then put straight on an RAF bomber headed for Goose Bay, Nfld. From there, the footage was flown to Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa. The recordings were shared on Canadian screens 27 minutes ahead of the filmed images obtained by the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) in the United States.
That was still 11 hours after it happened — which seemed like warp speed in 1953.
Shows such as The Crown on Netflix and feature films such as Helen Mirren’s 2006 feature “The Queen” have sparked a renewed interest in Elizabeth II through the years. In pop culture, Elizabeth has been referenced on everything from The Simpsons to “The Naked Gun.” Even the Sex Pistols paid tribute.
One ex-pat, James Corden, offered more sincere condolences to her Majesty on his CBS Late Late Show this week:
Many other tributes have followed, including this Twitter post from Kids in the Hall player Scott Thompson:
It will shock no one that I never had any occasion to meet the Queen. Closest I came was meeting Sarah Ferguson or “Fergie,” the Duchess of York. Several years ago, probably the late ’90s, she was in Toronto helping to promote a children’s book she co-authored which was being turned into an animated children’s show and was featured on either YTV or Treehouse: “Budgie the Little Helicopter.”
She was at the broadcaster’s studios in the Liberty Village area of Toronto. I found her very friendly and down to earth. I can happily report that she never poked me with a bumbershoot.
As for the Queen, I grew up seeing her portrait in school hallways and hanging up high in hockey rinks. My mom Margaret (Queen Margaret as she’s sometimes known at her Long Term Care centre) was born in Scotland and her brother Edward and sister Mary and everybody else in her clan seemed to be named after members of the royal family.
Where ever she went, Queen Elizabeth certainly maintained a dignity that is sorely lacking in many people in positions of leadership today. She took her job very seriously. She taught a lot of us about the benefits of decorum and civility.
As for the rest of her family, however, I don’t really look forward to seeing any of them on our money. I find myself agreeing with my favourite TV critic, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. He wrote on his latest substack post that he was a fan of the Queen, and saw her as an inspiration. As for the royals, however, he sees them as “merely wealthy, overdressed brand ambassadors for Britain, shilling for the company that supports them.”
God Save the Queen.