Sadly, for Queen Elizabeth II, her husband Prince Philip died, aged 99, on 9 April. He has been described by many epithets. The kindest ones are: The Queen’s rock and strength, and the grandfather of the nation. How much of a rock he was only the Queen will know, but he certainly was the man walking two steps behind her, all his life. I must say that I never gave it much thought; it just seemed, to me, an inevitable part of the royal protocol and nothing more. Since Prince Philip’s death I’m wondering if I’ve missed the point entirely. The Queen’s steady, calm, strong and imperturbable personality has been praised over the many years of her reign, and I am asking myself how much did that man, walking behind her like an oversized shadow, contributed to her ability to face the music and dance —it doesn’t matter what? Would the Queen have been equally strong without her supporting husband towering over her? To get a feel of the Queen’s peculiar experience I’m trying to imagine myself, in real life, with a partner standing two steps behind me.
How would I feel? Would that be reassuring or creepily irritating? Just imagine going to an interview followed by someone walking behind you. Exactly two steps behind. After a moment of embarrassment, you would politely explain to the panel that, like the Queen, you take your partner everywhere you go, like a benevolent shadow, and hope they won’t mind. After all the Queen does it, why can’t you do it?
The sense of security that someone standing behind you, when it is not a policeman, must give you is something unimaginable for most people. Some of you might differ, and some others might even be offended by this statement. I am not proposing a new code of conduct nor imposing a male or female chaperon looking after you. I am just trying to imagine what it is like to have that kind of support in our lives.
People with high levels of anxiety are known to take teddy bears (any plush toy will do) with them in situation they find difficult to face. Imaginary guardian angels and benevolent spirits are also a common form of relief and support in times of trouble. In other cases, a lost loved one might be all the support you need. Scaramantic gestures are also widely used to calm oneself down, feel that you are not alone, and something is looking after you.
Unfortunately, the majority of people don’t have a guardian angel, and even less, a supporting partner who can follow them around throughout the difficult times in their lives, or even the good times in their lives. There will always be situations when you’ll have to confront your fears on your own.
Of course, support is not just having someone standing behind you. It could be many other things, and anyone who gets it in life is very lucky indeed. At the core of a happy individual there are always supporting families, partners, friends, and even co-workers. Support is central to our wellbeing. Societies that are not supportive struggle with many evils. Individual are left falling through the security net and a sense of malcontent and injustice spreads out in all levels of our complex societal structure.
My next step is looking at the pictures of the royal couple to see how much I can tell about their relationship, from their body language.
If the Queen’s job was made easier and lighter by her husband’s presence is a question of opinions. Looking at the photograph, where Prince Philip is dressed in a Queen’s guard uniform, I get a sense of how his practical jokes might have brightened up the Monarch’s life. In moments of boredom, when life puts you in unwelcome circumstances, to have someone behind you who is getting as bored as you or makes you laugh, would certainly make anybody feel more light-hearted and able to cope with whatever life throws at you. Although I don’t think that next time I’m bored and tired I am going to catch a glimpse of a guardian angel standing behind me, I am sure that the Queen will feel the presence of a towering shadow, standing two steps behind her, for the rest of her life.