Canadian Royal Heritage Trust

A National Educational Charity

Courage of The Queen

by Claudia Willetts

During the Queen’s Jubilee tour of Ontario, the Premier announced that a provincial honour would be named the Ontario Golden Jubilee Award for Civilian Bravery. It is fitting that Her Majesty be associated with this virtue, for she has demonstrated personal bravery on many occasions.

One of these is described by naturalist Jim Corbett who accompanied Princess Elizabeth and her husband on their visit to a hunting lodge in Kenya on the fifth day of February 1952, in his book Tree Tops. Mr Corbett tells us that Tree Tops was a hut built on an elevated wooden platform deep in dense forest. Just before the arrival of the tiny royal party on foot along a narrow path, the author observed a herd of forty-seven elephants near the lodge. At that moment a big bull elephant charged two younger bulls, and the enraged animals dashed in the direction of the path. Presently, amidst the rampaging of angry elephants, the author caught sight of a small figure who, smiling her greeting, and without a moment’s hesitation, walked unhurriedly towards the crowd of elephants who were within ten yards of the base of the ladder which she climbed.

Courage was urged on the Queen during the coronation service. The Form and Order of the Service…in the Coronation of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, tells us that after the crown was put on, the choir sang “Be strong and of a good courage….”

Robert Lacey speaks admiringly in Majesty: Elizabeth II and the House of Windsor, of the Queen’s proving her mettle during a planned visit to Ghana in 1961. Before the visit, strikes and demonstrations erupted in an ugly fashion. There were bomb explosions and threats made against the life of the president Kwame Nkrumah. Though there was real danger that the Queen might stop a bullet intended for Nkrumah, she did not falter in the slightest when the suggestion was made that she not travel to Ghana. Harold Macmillan wrote at this time that “the Queen has been absolutely determined all through. She is impatient of the attitude towards her to treat her as… a film star…She has indeed ‘the heart and stomach of a man’…She loves her duty and means to be a Queen.”

A similar situation occurred in 1964, when the Queen was invited to Quebec, according to Robert Speaight in Vanier, Soldier, Diplomat and Governor General: A Biography. There were fears for the Queen’s safety, while the media whipped up a campaign of fear around the risks involved from separatist threats, and there was talk of cancelling the tour. The Queen’s Private Secretary replied that the Queen would have been horrified to have been prevented from going because of the activities of extremists.

During the celebrations marking her Silver Jubilee in 1977, the Queen toured the United Kingdom, including Northern Ireland. Many people warned against her going there, as the killings, bombs and violence continued, as described in The Sunday Times Book of Jubilee Year. But despite chilling threats from the terrorists, the Queen’s determination to include Ulster won her many friends among Catholics and Protestants.

Four years later, after Earl Mountbatten of Burma was killed by an IRA bomb in Ireland, the Queen herself was the apparent target of an assassination attempt during her 1981 Trooping the Colour ride in London, as recounted by Arthur Bousfield and Garry Toffoli in Fifty Years the Queen. Six blanks were fired at her, but Her Majesty merely ducked, reassured her horse, and rode on. The Canadian Commons was so impressed that a motion was passed expressing admiration for her outstanding courage during the ordeal.

According to Elizabeth Longford in Elizabeth R: A Biography, the Queen rejected a specially proofed “Trooping cloak”. Lady Longford remarks that courage is the Queen’s hallmark, and that this has enabled her to sympathise with the heroism of her people.