Philippa Perry on the Queen: “She is Probably More Dreamed About Than Anyone Else”
We knew little of Queen Elizabeth II’s private life except what she chose to let us see. We saw her behaving regally, with dignity, with appropriate authority and generally personally upsetting very few people. This means she was something of a blank canvas for each of us to project onto.
She was probably more dreamt about than anyone else. This means that as a symbol of great meaning she resided in many of us as part of our psychological make-up. She is a real person but she is also a personal symbol for many people. So if people are feeling bereaved at her loss, and I know I am, it is not because we knew her personally but that we feel a presence that has been with us for all of our lives has now gone.
Whether that presence was a symbol for certainty, stability, truth or reliability, or perhaps authority, or even a deity, we had a relationship not so much with a person but with our idea of a person and we know now that person has gone. We might feel it like like a loss of a parent, or a sister, or a grandmother.
Of course we may not have projected anything onto her, or may have projected a negative part of ourselves onto her and therefore might not understand why others are mourning. Some may claim that revering the royal family is like being in thrall to a cult. But cults do somehow seem to protect their believers and make them feel part of something bigger than themselves and when a cult leader dies, a part of a follower may feel something of them has died too.
We may have thought that she was a permanent fixture in our country and her death may bring home in an unpleasant way the existential reality that nothing lasts forever and uncertainty is our only constant.
It is a risk for me to write about her because as she was part of the make up of this country, she also resides within each of us and so if I try to define what this means, I am describing a part of each reader. They will fight me to protect their own image of her because that image is also an internal part of their own identity. I cannot write about HER because I never knew HER, this is why I have just had a go at unpicking the meaning she may have for some of us and why.
If you do feel upset by the Queen’s death, it may be because she was, without your being hitherto aware of it, a part of you and now it feels as if that part has been taken from you. This might make no sense to you, which I can understand, as I am trying to describe something for which I feel I am just groping for words. All I really know is that today I feel a bit weird. These words are me groping around in the dark trying to make sense of how I feel and how you may be feeling and why. I expect in the coming days and weeks we will all have more clarity.