I lost my mother, Isabelle, eight months before Princess Diana died.

My eldest sister was the same age as Prince William. I was the same age as Prince Harry.

Losing a mother, we knew what that meant. We knew how it felt.

We went to Diana's funeral, the princes walking behind her coffin, the whole world watching. I don't know how they managed it.

At my mother's funeral, I remember walking down the aisle, the entire church full of mourners. I had to take a deep breath.

Our grandmother, Ruby, remained our enduring mother figure. We treasured her every ageing year.

We called her Bullah since my older sister couldn’t pronounce "ambuya" which means grandmother in Shona, our family having lived in Zimbabwe.

She, the matriarch, was also very much loved by her church. My grandfather, Wilfrid, the founding pastor of Lincoln Road Chapel, built the chapel with bricks salvaged from the bombed-damaged Holy Trinity Stroud Green, demolished in 1960.

Ham & High: Ruby (right) with Wilfrid and their daughter Isabelle in her Crouch End High School uniform in 1963 outside their homeRuby (right) with Wilfrid and their daughter Isabelle in her Crouch End High School uniform in 1963 outside their home (Image: Susannah Spring)

Bullah was devoted and devout, teaching generations of Sunday School children who knew her as Aunty Ann, and attending the meetings every Sunday until they had to close under the first lockdown.

Her last service, she stood so smart with her hat and handbag. Always dressed with such classic taste.

I saw in her, the Queen, and in the Queen I saw my Bullah.

Two different backgrounds yet entwined. My grandmother humble, the Queen royal, they embodied a lasting steadfastness.

Ruby Norfolk had moved to London aged 15 from Essex. Born at home, in a thatched cottage in Ridgwell in 1923. On her move to London she said it was "paradise".

She had been recruited to work as a housemaid, at a rate of £1 a week “all found” meaning room and board, in Coolhurst Road by her housekeeper cousin, who soon admonished her:
"If you talk like that, people will think you've come up on the down train!"

Over the years, the Essex accent left, except when she spoke with her siblings. She was the second youngest of seven.

Ham & High: Susannah Spring's grandmother Ruby and Great-Aunty MarySusannah Spring's grandmother Ruby and Great-Aunty Mary (Image: Susannah Spring)

I loved meeting my great-aunts and great-uncle, it was like stepping back in time, peering into my grandmother's childhood. They called her Pip, and even at a grand age, my Great-Aunt Mary (who lived to 101 and was the oldest resident of Wrabness) still talked to Pip as an older sister would. Her authentic Essex accent strong and bold.

They had endured many a hardship as children, which certainly made them all the more tenacious.

Growing up at first without running water, electricity, or even a toilet, my grandmother didn't have any dolls to play with; she told me she made one using turnips for the body and head, with sticks for arms and legs. The head would sometimes roll off and she would fix it back on.

At one of the last meetings of the two surviving sisters. Ruby said: "Life was better back then."

She had very fond memories of her childhood and their close-knit family.

Great-Aunt Mary, in her older-sister way, replied: "Neow Pip, you knaow heoww it woas, oi'm very graiteful for me woash’n machine."

Ham & High: A picture of Ruby in 1942, which was sent to her husband, ArthurA picture of Ruby in 1942, which was sent to her husband, Arthur (Image: Susannah Spring)

In London, my grandmother lived through the Blitz, a bomb going off right near her bedroom blasting out the windows. She recalled waking with glass covering her bed.

A month after the war ended in 1945, she lost her first husband, Arthur, an RAF navigator who died in active service. She gave birth to their son as a widow only a few weeks later.

She was a woman of endurance and quiet perseverance.

She remarried, starting a life with my grandfather. They had two children, my mother and her younger brother, and bought a home in Horsey Borough, now part of Haringey, my grandmother ran as a boarding house.

My grandparents greeted visitors to their home from all around the world.

Our family's dentist lived with them while he trained and stayed for 10 years. Now semi-retired, he was one of the few we could invite to her funeral, Covid measures only allowing up to 30 mourners.

She outlived many a butcher in Crouch End. Her routine shopping always the same. Popping into Dunns for their farmhouse loaf, the fish shop Purkis, Budgens for groceries, she knew the area like no other.

Her days steady and busy, filled with housework, cooking, gardening, sewing. Even into her 90s, she kept going.

2020 marked 70 years of my grandmother living in her home, her own Platinum Jubilee.

Just like the Queen, her 70 years of housekeeping and dedication, was a milestone. Her bones tired and weary, aged 96 she passed away on October 15, 2020, surrounded by her family.

At the critical hour, the hospital enforced more Covid restrictions. Only one person could stay. My younger sister volunteered. Leaving her bedside was heartbreaking, yet we were grateful to have even one person there, as so many before had died alone.

The night she passed away, London lost one of its longest-time residents. She had lived in Horsey for a total of 80 years. Her Chapel lost a founding figure, and we lost our beloved Bullah.

Our Bullah never met the Queen, they were like two passing ships.

Two women, two crowns, one for state and country, the other for faith and family.

The Queen's death echoes to us all, it is the final farewell to the second Elizabethans, as their ships sail on over the horizon.

The Queen they witnessed crowed seven decades ago, now joining them at the helm.

As one mourner said, whilst queuing for hours at St Giles' Cathedral in Edinburgh to pay her last respects to the Queen:

"She's everyone's wee granny."

Ham & High: The Queen and Prince Philip walk to the House of Lords before the Queen's speech in 2001The Queen and Prince Philip walk to the House of Lords before the Queen's speech in 2001 (Image: PA Archive/PA Images)