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    Why I Dressed as Queen Elizabeth II for the San Francisco Pride Parade Bay Times Contingent

    By Irene Hendrick–

    I dressed as Queen Elizabeth II at the San Francisco Pride Parade in the San Francisco Bay Times contingent for several years because I wanted to bring a little of the English quirkiness into a representation of England’s LGBT community. I wanted to show that our Queen was in solidarity with the San Francisco’s LGBT community, and to present a tongue-in-cheek nod to San Francisco’s very own San Francisco queens. These were fabulous experiences for me.

    From growing up with the Queen, I already knew how to perfect her wave, and so I tirelessly performed it from my vantage point in the Bay Times cable car float. Once the crowd saw my Queen’s face, waving with an oversized Union Jack flag draped around me, they erupted into hysterical laughter and smiles, nudging others and saying, “Look, there’s the Queen!” My face ached from smiling so much behind the mask, as people curtsied and bowed.

    I’ve resided in San Francisco for many years and call both this city and London my home. As a child and to this day, the Queen has just always been there, like a stable grandmotherly figure—the kind of grandmother who would always be neutral, would never tell secrets, never say anything nasty about anyone, and never take sides.

    My mother would tell me stories of wartime England, of how King George (Elizabeth’s father) and the Queen Mother, rather than evacuate, would stay in London during the Blitz, visit bombed sites, and chat with neighborhood residents. This all gave a sense that the King and Queen really did care about the population.

    In addition to this, the fact that Princess Elizabeth actually worked as a truck mechanic during the war gave my mother comfort as she went about her work making batteries in the factories, for wartime airplanes. And in 1953, as the Princess was crowned Queen, there were street parties everywhere, seemingly a great sense of the nation coming together for a much-needed post-war community and a distraction from the hardship that was everywhere. Austerity was side by side with ostentation.

    From these stories, I saw how the Queen’s self-sacrifice and hard work made my mother, who eventually went on to raise seven children, feel that the Queen was on her side. And I was inspired to paint images of working-class people going about their daily lives in wartime, whether it be children playing on bombed out ruins, mothers walking with prams and young children, or girls and boys holding suitcases as they prepared to be evacuated to the countryside away from the bombs.

    England-born artist Irene Hendrick, based on both San Francisco and London, often draws inspiration from U.K. history, particularly through stories that were told to her by her mother and grandmother concerning the post-World War II era.

    Published on September 22, 2022