Watching the unexpected cameo of James Bond (Daniel Craig) escorting the Queen to the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 Olympics in London, where fiction met fact in a humorous little vignette, it was then most disappointing to see the Queen actually appear, but without the welcoming smile she is noted for. In fact, as one friend said, she looked 'downright disgruntled', as though she disapproved of what was going on. Worse still, she stayed like that all evening, not a smile to be seen whenever the cameras were upon her. She would have surprised many of her subjects with her steadfast seriousness, which would also have detracted from the general enjoyment of the moment.
Yet, on that momentous occasion, the eyes of the world were focused upon us. As head of our country, a welcoming smile would have said volumes on our behalf, and was essential to set the tone for the rest of the Games. Compare her demeanour to that of her visit to the Athlete's Village the next morning: the radiant smile, and the look of comfort and interest, to get the overall picture. The difference was startling. Yet that was the kind of smile and welcome the Opening Ceremony sorely needed from our monarch.
As one commentator said in the Mail: "she could have looked a bit happier.. my 6 year old daughter asked why the queen looked so sad"
Worse still, that grumpy face has been was beamed across the world and parodied mercilessly on the Internet. One caption read "Let the Hunger Games Begin"! A PR disaster for our country on such a special night. Tons of people would have been watching the Queen instead of the action. How would that sad look have uplifted them? They would be more concerned about the Queen.
We know it was late at night, and perhaps the Queen dislikes night engagements (she was hardly any better at the Jubilee concert given in her honour!). We also do not need to tell our Queen how to do her job. She has been superb at it for 60 years! But during the most momentous year of her reign, 2012, when so much is taking us on to the world sage, the last thing we need is an unsmiling Queen, who seems to be noticeably uncomfortable and unamused, when so many people have put in so much effort to make it right, and other smiling royals are in the background available to help, if required.
A smile is one of the most underrated, yet precious, assets we have as humans, because no language is necessary for it. It speaks across borders, across language barriers, across cultures and across emotions. It reduces fears, apprehension and dread. A smile puts us at ease and tells us unequivocally that we are welcomed and valued. When it is absent, it sets up feelings of discomfort and dread. It creates a different kind of atmosphere altogether, giving out a strong signal of displeasure.
Your Majesty, we needed that smile last Friday night, and we need it throughout the Olympics and beyond. Otherwise there is a powerful message being given of a lack of value and enjoyment which does not sit easily with the sterling role you have performed so far. If you find it really difficult to smile at times like these, then perhaps another royal could step in. But encouragement, motivation and inspiration need to start from the top of our country to allow our athletes to shine. That smile cannot be taken for granted, or hidden under wraps. It needs to be let loose to do its job.
Your smile means a lot to the country. Let it shine for everyone's benefit!
Thank you for your years of dedicated and selfless service.