The Widow at Windsor


Oh, holy cow. It’s January 22. Exactly 120 years ago today that Queen Victoria popped her clogs breathed her last.

I don’t know why the recency of that date surprises me so much. Perhaps because so many members of my family whom I remember were alive on that date. Great Granny, who was born four years after Abraham Lincoln was assassinated and who died when I was 14, was 32. She was a fearsome old bat, a product of the Victorian age, and could have given the Dowager Countess a run for her money any day of the week. I was born only 53 years after Victoria died. And now I’m 66, 13 years past the midpoint of the arc. One grandpa was eight when Victoria died, the other was 25. One granny was three, the other was 23.

I never could cotton much to the recent Victoria series on Masterpiece. Perhaps that’s because the portrayal of the Queen as a sweet young thing was a bit unsettling. For those of us who think of our beloved dumpy, plump, female British monarchs (Victoria, Elizabeth I, etc.) as grey-haired old hags, Judi Dench is our girl–although, let’s be clear, Dame Judi was, in the early days (and I remember the early days), quite a “babe.” But even the presence of one of the men regularly voted “the sexiest actor alive,” Rufus Sewell, couldn’t rescue that series for me. (I did, however, love, love, love, Dame Judi and the irreverent Scottish comic Billy Connolly in Mrs. Brown, a sweet little film about the widowed Victoria’s predilection for what I’ll just call “inappropriate relationships.”) Let’s move on.

What today does, above all else, is give me an excuse to post some more poetry. And although Alfred, Lord Tennyson was Poet Laureate for a considerable portion of Victoria’s reign, I’m going with the guy who, had Tony Blair been alive at the time, he might have dubbed “The People’s Poet Laureate,” in much the same way that he dubbed Diana “The People’s Princess.”

Rudyard Kipling.

Herewith, The Widow at Windsor. It breaks my heart every time.

‘Ave you ‘eard o’ the Widow at Windsor
With a hairy gold crown on ‘er ‘ead?
She ‘as ships on the foam — she ‘as millions at ‘ome,
An’ she pays us poor beggars in red.
(Ow, poor beggars in red!)
There’s ‘er nick on the cavalry ‘orses,
There’s ‘er mark on the medical stores —
An’ ‘er troopers you’ll find with a fair wind be’ind
That takes us to various wars.
(Poor beggars! — barbarious wars!)
Then ‘ere’s to the Widow at Windsor,
An’ ‘ere’s to the stores an’ the guns,
The men an’ the ‘orses what makes up the forces
O’ Missis Victorier’s sons.
(Poor beggars! Victorier’s sons!)

Walk wide o’ the Widow at Windsor,
For ‘alf o’ Creation she owns:
We ‘ave bought ‘er the same with the sword an’ the flame,
An’ we’ve salted it down with our bones.
(Poor beggars! — it’s blue with our bones!)
Hands off o’ the sons o’ the Widow,
Hands off o’ the goods in ‘er shop,
For the Kings must come down an’ the Emperors frown
When the Widow at Windsor says “Stop”!
(Poor beggars! — we’re sent to say “Stop”!)
Then ‘ere’s to the Lodge o’ the Widow,
From the Pole to the Tropics it runs —
To the Lodge that we tile with the rank an’ the file,
An’ open in form with the guns.
(Poor beggars! — it’s always they guns!)

We ‘ave ‘eard o’ the Widow at Windsor,
It’s safest to let ‘er alone:
For ‘er sentries we stand by the sea an’ the land
Wherever the bugles are blown.
(Poor beggars! — an’ don’t we get blown!)
Take ‘old o’ the Wings o’ the Mornin’,
An’ flop round the earth till you’re dead;
But you won’t get away from the tune that they play
To the bloomin’ old rag over’ead.
(Poor beggars! — it’s ‘ot over’ead!)
Then ‘ere’s to the sons o’ the Widow,
Wherever, ‘owever they roam.
‘Ere’s all they desire, an’ if they require
A speedy return to their ‘ome.
(Poor beggars! — they’ll never see ‘ome!)

(Note to self: Glory be. I look at this photograph, posted everywhere today, of United States National Guard personnel being deployed from the States to Washington DC in gleeful fearful anticipation of an “insurrection” that wasn’t, being forced to take their rest on the concrete floors of parking garages while (I’m pretty sure) the likes of Nancy Pelosi celebrated the inauguration of Joe Biden with her specialty, and very expensive, ice-cream, and I can’t decide if I’d rather laugh, or cry. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.)

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  1. Percival Thatcher

    I think Nancy owes every last Guardsman a pint of that ice cream.

    • #1
  2. She Reagan

    Percival (View Comment):

    I think Nancy owes every last Guardsman a pint of that ice cream.

    At least.

    • #2
  3. RushBabe49 Thatcher

    Didn’t Queen Victoria have something to do with the spread of hemophilia through European aristocracy?

    • #3
  4. CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill Coolidge
    CarolJoy, Not So Easy To Kill

    I’m hearing Trump has opened up one of his Washington Hotels to save the lot of service people struggling to sleep on the cement of a parking garage.

    None of us who have supported this president find that a bit odd.

    I too loved “Mrs Brown,” as it brought to life a character that until that movie, I had held few clues about.

    And a big thank you for bringing forth the The People’s Poet.

    • #4
  5. She Reagan

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):

    Didn’t Queen Victoria have something to do with the spread of hemophilia through European aristocracy?

    Yes. I think she had everything to do with it. It’s an uncommon form, different from the one from which most hemophiliacs suffer. It was apparently the result of a gene mutation passed down from one of her parents, which she carried herself, and which was inherited by several of her children, although some of them (all female I think) were carriers only and exhibited no symptoms of the disease which generally presents itself in male offspring. Through marriage, it was passed into the royal families of Russia, Germany, and Spain (and likely others). The most well-known sufferer was probably Alexei, the son of Nicholas and Alexandra, last Tsar and Tsarina of Russia. I remember reading some articles several years ago after the bodies of the murdered family were found and exhumed in Ekaterinburg, that genetic testing had been done on the remains and finally confirmed the presence of hemophilia in the family. Interestingly, it was Alexandra’s care for her son, and her constant state of worry that he’d injure himself, or worse, that got her involved with, and increasingly dependent on, the manipulative “holy man,” Grigori Rasputin.

    • #5
  6. Gary McVey Contributor
    Gary McVey

    Another wonderful post, She. As invigorating as a bowl of hearty soup on a chill winter night. Thanks as always for your warmth and your wit!

    • #6
  7. Addiction Is A Choice Member
    Addiction Is A Choice

    She: I did, however, love, love, love, Dame Judi and the irreverent Scottish comic Billy Connolly in Mrs. Brown

    I love, love, love that movie, too!!

    • #7
  8. Seawriter Contributor

    Then there is The Widow’s Party:

    “Where have you been this while away,
    Johnnie, Johnnie?”
    ‘Long with the rest on a picnic lay,
    Johnnie, my Johnnie, aha!
    They called us out of the barrack-yard
    To Gawd knows where from Gosport Hard,
    And you can’t refuse when you get the card,
    And the Widow gives the party.
    (Bugle: Ta–rara–ra-ra-rara!)

    “What did you get to eat and drink,
    Johnnie, Johnnie?”
    Standing water as thick as ink,
    Johnnie, my Johnnie, aha!
    A bit o’ beef that were three year stored,
    A bit o’ mutton as tough as a board,
    And a fowl we killed with a sergeant’s sword,
    When the Widow give the party.

    “What did you do for knives and forks,
    Johnnie, Johnnie?”
    We carries ’em with us wherever we walks,
    Johnnie, my Johnnie, aha!
    And some was sliced and some was halved,
    And some was crimped and some was carved,
    And some was gutted and some was starved,
    When the Widow give the party.

    “What ha’ you done with half your mess,
    Johnnie, Johnnie?”
    They couldn’t do more and they wouldn’t do less,
    Johnnie, my Johnnie, aha!
    They ate their whack and they drank their fill,
    And I think the rations has made them ill,
    For half my comp’ny’s lying still
    Where the Widow give the party.

    “How did you get away — away,
    Johnnie, Johnnie?”
    On the broad o’ my back at the end o’ the day,
    Johnnie, my Johnnie, aha!
    I comed away like a bleedin’ toff,
    For I got four bearers* to carry me off,
    As I lay in the bight of a canvas trough,
    When the Widow give the party.

    “What was the end of all the show,
    Johnnie, Johnnie?”
    Ask my Colonel, for I don’t know,
    Johnnie, my Johnnie, aha!
    We broke a King and we built a road —
    A court-house stands where the reg’ment goed.
    And the river’s clean where the raw blood flowed
    When the Widow give the party.
    (Bugle: Ta–rara–ra-ra-rara!)

    (Also by Kipling)

    *Edited for CoC purposes.

    • #8
  9. SkipSul Inactive

    Photography during Vickie’s day was still in its infancy, but someone did get a shot of her smiling during a parade. The story has a funny anecdote about her sense of humor too.


    • #9
  10. Skyler Coolidge

    Judi Densch was never good looking, in my opinion. She was ugly when she was young and uglier now. I have no idea how she became so famous, it certainly wasn’t her acting. To each his own, I suppose.

    Victoria was a monarch and as such, I don’t much care about her. She never did the only moral act she could have done, which was to abolish the monarchy and the institution of royalty.

    As for the National Guard: I’ve had MUCH worse accommodations for far longer periods of time. I’m not all that sympathetic. They’re deployed to keep security for the capital of a banana republic, what did they expect?

    • #10
  11. She Reagan

    Skyler (View Comment):

    As for the National Guard: I’ve had MUCH worse accommodations for far longer periods of time.

    I’m sure you have. Thank you.

    • #11