Are we a different country now?
The whole world seems to have been rocked by the news of Queen Elizabeth’s death. After ruling for 70 years, she has been a permanent fixture of most of our lives, but not for absolutely everyone.
Harry McQuillen, aged 89, remembers when King George VI was on the throne and what it was like after his death.
Harry described how there wasn’t the same amount of media coverage of George’s death. “There was very little TV. Everyone used to buy newspapers every day, and the radio was where you used to get most of your news from.
“That was just how it was. You didn’t react in any over the top way,” he said, describing the general attitude towards George’s death, as opposed to the nationwide mourning that is happening now.
However, this may also be to do with the length of the Queen’s reign. Harry also remembers the shorter life expectancy at the time, which meant that there was quite a succession of kings within a shorter time, whereas Elizabeth lived for almost a century.
He remembers the excitement of getting coins with Elizabeth’s face on them, but also the conversation around her as she ascended to the throne.
“People thought it was very sad because she was just so young, but she moulded herself to fit the role very quickly. I think Philip helped with that. They always set an example.”
Harry believes that King Charles’ reign will have a greater focus on environmental issues, but says there is two sides to this coin.
“Rich countries can afford to spend money on the environment, but unfortunately we’re a rich country with a lot of very poor people. They will see spending money on the environment instead of things like keeping food prices down as a waste.”
“This is as good an age as there’s been – especially for women,” he told us, thinking back to the time of George’s reign.
“If you were different, life was very hard for you. There was no tolerance of difference then, which has changed now. We’re a more tolerant country now, as we should be.”