Driving up Royal Deeside last weekend, I spotted a harvest under way on that magical Hobbit-esque green/gold/purple hillscape. It all came flooding back. One year on from the death of Elizabeth II, it’s the sight of the tractors lined up next to the A93 which remains among the most enduring images. It wasn’t just that they all had their shovels dipped in tribute, like the dockers’ cranes saluting the Havengore as it carried Churchill down the Thames in 1965. It was the fact that they were all spotless. At the busiest time of the year in this lush agricultural belt of Aberdeenshire, farmers had paused their harvesting, taken their machines out of the fields and given them a very thorough hosing down before lining up for hours to salute the late Queen. They did it because, to them, Elizabeth II – staunch countrywoman, the most Scottish monarch since James I and VI and the first British monarch to die in Scotland – had been ‘one of us’.
How should we remember her? I do not envy Lord (Robin) Janvrin, her former private secretary, who is to lead the committee charged with choosing the appropriate memorials. Late of the Foreign Office, he will need all his diplomatic skills to handle the cascade of ‘helpful’ ideas which will land on his desk between now and his deadline, Her Late Majesty’s centenary in 2026. He may start by ruling out some of the obvious ones. Certainly no airport (she has a Heathrow terminal already). We do not want future generations wailing: ‘I lost my bags at QE2.’ Nor a landmass. The government named 170,000 square miles of Antarctica after her in 2012 and, besides, that sort of thing might seem a tad imperial for modern tastes (it might be a Labour government signing off on this one).