She's Coming Home

Damien | 07/09/2011

"To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance".

I read this and knew instantly that this was not the kind of book I was interested in reading. Far too soppy and girly for my tastes. No, I needed something more manly and rugged for the flight I was about to take.

I was at the airport, just about to board a flight to South Africa where my great-grandmother had been living in exile for the last 60 years or so, ever since she protested a little too vehemently about the way the then King tended to behave behind closed doors.

Prior to that she had been a member of said staff, and had been charged with cleaning Buckingham Palace from top to bottom every week. Normally this wouldn't present too big a problem, as she at least didn't have to do it all on her own, and anyway the place was cleaned so often that a cobweb here or there would barely have time to form before it was wiped away.

But occasionally the King would hold special 'parties', and the stains that were left behind after these get togethers were not the kind of marks that could be disposed of with soap-suds alone.

So she had complained, initially privately, as that was the way these things were done, and then publicly when nobody did anything to rectify the situation. This caused a huge uproar as you can probably imagine, a common char woman accusing the King of doing unnatural things with animals like that, and she was fired from her job.

That turned out to be the least of her worries though, as the Royal Family hit back at her complaints with a smear campaign the likes of which had never before been seen, and within months, a broken woman, she was forced to leave the country.

Of course, at that time there was a huge exodus of people leaving, mainly to Australia in search of a better life. But she didn't want to go to Australia as they had the same King we did, and instead opted for South Africa. I had asked her once why she felt the Royal Family went out of their ways to make things so difficult for her, and it took me years to work out what her answer really meant.

"Even rabbits insult a dead lion," she had said at the time, and it was only much later that I worked out that this was her way of saying that mud sticks, and so by her going public with what the King had been doing, she had ruined his reputation regardless of whether people really believed what she had said.

And as reputation was so important back then, especially to those people in power, they had responded the only way they knew how, which was to drive her away.

Back in the good old days of course they would have just thrown her in the Tower of London and then chopped her head off just before the FA Cup Final to entertain the masses, but they weren't really allowed to do that anymore, so South Africa it was.

But my great-gran was a resiliant woman, and she went to the other side of the world and promptly found a good man to marry her. Whatever regrets she may have had were soon assuaged anyway when the King was proclaimed a half-wit by the people in the Great Revolution of 1950 and was forced to abdicate his throne in favour of a goat he had been caught in a compromising position with.

She told me once that him being unmasked for the kind of man he really was had been a great salve to her frustrations at not being able to go back to the land she loved.

Now I was making the final journey to South Africa to bring her home. She had died a few days earlier and was waiting for me to collect her. The UK Government, finally recognising the injustice that had been served all those years ago had given her a full pardon just before she died and were paying for the funeral. The casket was the highest quality on the market, and the press were drumming up support for a proper state funeral.

I was bringing her home, and she fully deserved the welcome she was going to get when we got back.

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