(In a timeline known simply as OTL, a poster lunges desperately for a bandwagon. Has it already departed? Probably. Will there be obscure references noone gets? Inevitably. Are they going to post anyway? Most definitely.) [*] "I fear we may never see her like again. She was, quite simply, the People's Matron." The Leader of the Opposition closed his eulogy in tones both humble and appropriate. In another time and another place appending such an honourific to the recently passed might have come across as mawkish or overwrought. But for the late Prime Minister, there was no more fitting tribute. Her Majesty watched as the Leader of the Opposition returned to his seat. He was to all appearances a broken man. They all were, in his party. She had been a giant to them; the fierce matriarch who drove them to the sunlit uplands, the Queen of their new Jerusalem. Yes, they were not cold political tears being shed today. The Archbishop had returned to the pulpit. While at all times maintaining the outward appearance of strict attention, Her Majesty let her mind wander. Her ears closed off the insincere sermon of an erstwhile critic. Her eyes drifting across the high-vaulted ceiling of Westminster Abbey. There was no location more fitting for the occasion - save perhaps for that small family chapel in Carmarthenshire, where they'd held the private family service. But this was a state funeral, a much-warranted and needed outlet for national remembrance. It was the first for a non-royal family member since the 1910s, so far as Her Majesty could recall. But then granting it had never been a difficult decision, Who else had there been? Of her calibre? Winston maybe... if he'd led them to the end of the war. He'd been crucial at the darkest point, yes. He'd held them together, led them through. Then he'd been taken from them, him and so many others - Attlee, Eden, Simon - on that terrible night. The stress of all that, at the height of war, well... Her Majesty was certain it contributed to her father's own premature passing. And who else had there been since? Douglas Home? Perhaps... though how much of that was hagiography? The inevitable polishing of a lost legacy, framed against the single cowardly act of assassination. It was one for the historians. His family hadn't wanted a public service in any case. Their grief had been private. That could never have been the way for Her - after even a decade of out of office public affection was still too strong. The large crowds that had gathered in Whitehall, their reserved vigil but a representation of the feeling in the country - though some had harshly objected to this "continental outburst" of emotion. Yes, it was only fitting that there be a national recognition. Through her weekly audiences Her Majesty had gotten to know each of her Prime Ministers well. While the audiences were principally occasions of formal business, they often allowed for something of an intimate relationship to develop - at least with those Prime Ministers with whom she got on. It was the relationship of a confidante and mentor to one seeking guidance. These days Her Majesty's role was very much the former, with the Prime Minister in their often lonely position the one in need of sound counsel. Yet it hadn't always been like that. Megan had been her first. Yes, they'd been on first name terms, almost since the beginning. No-one would ever know that - protocol and Her Majesty herself would never otherwise permit the informality of it. But Megan had been more than a Prime Minister, she'd been a friend; to a new Queen robbed of a father, adrift in a male world. Megan's blunt-speaking common sense, fused with a century of radical tradition - well it was a brush of fresh air against the stuffiness of the royal household. Megan had been in office a couple of years at the accession, and as easily as she'd dominated the political scene she'd taken the young monarch under her wing. And how magnificent she'd been in her prime! Dominating her party by sheer force of personality, leading her county into an optimistic future. Quite the sorry state they'd both been in when she first took the reigns - their government had won in '45 easily enough, but robbed of much of their old leadership they'd just drifted. A won war threatening to become a lost peace. How poor the country had been for political leadership in those days! So much to fall upon her father's weary shoulders. Baldwin was as good as useless, apparently; the apple having fallen very far indeed from the tree. One of the many privileges of Royalty - offset naturally by the great burden of duty - was the need to remain above party politics. Never so much in ignorance - there were always ways of finding out - as in detachment. Her Majesty could easily absolve herself of any responsibility to know therefore, just what kind of maneuvers had occurred behind closed doors in 1947. Those maneuvers that had started with the death of an Earl and ended with the elevation of the nation's first female Prime Minister. Megan had never told her, and Her Majesty had never asked. Bismarck had once made a fitting analogy. As to whether it had been a politically advantageous thing for their party to do - well, that was for others less impartial to say. Certainly the new Earl of Bewdley hadn't much cared for being sent to the West Indies, but even fewer still had cared for him to remain longer in Downing Street. Her Majesty's father, by now entering his decline, had been surprisingly open to a female Prime Minister, as indeed had most of the country. Her Majesty remembered it well; the sacrifices of war, borne ultimately by both genders, had transformed social attitudes. Eyes too had inevitably been on her, as the next female Sovereign. No one could object too strongly to one female leader, without appearing to hold an unfavourable objection to the other. Sometimes history is driven by events, by forces beyond the control of the individual. Sometimes it falls to a great individual to seize events and to push history in their own direction. Megan's premiership was - ironically - the last hurrah for the "Great Man". And that was why they loved her, her party, then as much as now. Her urgency and sense of purpose - of mission - that had let her seize a directionless Parliament and through it build a new Britain. Megan had lost her father too, Her Majesty recalled, in 1941 alongside the others. Maybe that too had driven her? Finally out of his long shadow, free to stake out a new path. Perhaps too it had reminded her of her own mortality, and thus the need for haste - how else to explain that ceaseless breathless industry for which she was so famous? Then there was her iron determination - a strength of will that was Churchillian, but paired with swift action to follow through on rhetoric. As a member of someone else's government she might have been unmanageable - from his exile Baldwin had supposedly complained as much. As the head of her own she was unbrookable. She led. They followed. Not that she was incapable of collegiate or deferential behaviour - Her Majesty recalled with approval that Megan had never tried to upstage her Sovereign. Quite the opposite in fact, it was She who had so firmly built up the new monarch's self-confidence and self-assurance. The image of the new Elizabethan Age was as much Megan's doing as Her Majesty's own. It had been a reforming government like no other - one that could truly, finally escape the shadow of the Prime Minister's father. They'd at last built a land fit for heroes, and more. They'd banished sickness, and idleness, and poverty. Quite frankly, as Her Majesty saw it, the people of Britain had never had it so good. What pedants and jealous Liberals called the "Beveridge State", Megan's party and nearly everyone else called the "Matron State" - an incarnation of kindly maternalist benevolence near-personified by the Prime Minister herself. After she'd gone - as she was ultimately destined to do, the electorate having grown both fatigued and complacent - the Labour Party could never quite fill her shoes. That alone explained the party's decade of wilderness. Their leader was right. Her kind would not be seen again. When had Her Majesty seen her last? It had been Charles' investiture the previous year - though they'd kept in touch by frequent letter afterwards. Megan had suggested some fitting changes to the ceremony. She'd also taught Charles more Welsh than his tutors had ever managed. She'd confided in Her Majesty about her illness, an otherwise entirely private matter. There hadn't been long after that. Her Majesty's attention drifted back to the present and to the Archbishop's lengthily concluding sermon. It wasn't that she'd meant to let her mind wander so far out of rudeness, far from it. True remembrance had led her along its own path - one warmer, more genuine, and more personal. The Cabinet and First Ministers could say their own pieces, but people would always remember Her in their own way. As the Archbishop handed over to the Prime Minister - herself delivering a colder and formal tribute (partisan rivalries being never fully subsumed) Her Majesty found herself once again falling back into personal recollection. This time memory cast her back to 1949, to the death of her father. Megan had been there for her then. Almost to her surprise, and very much against a facade set on reticence, Her Majesty found tears forming in her eyes. Megan was always her favourite Prime Minister. She would admit that, if only to herself. She was a friend too... No, she was more than a friend. She was a member of her own family.