Joan loved England all her life. She first visited there with my dad, Bob, in 1951, and continued to travel there until 2004, when my husband, children, and I lived there for a year.
She first came to love England through literature, which is, I suppose, how many of us come to love a culture and a people.
Here she is at age 14, writing about the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II’s father.
Wednesday, May 12, 1937
This day is the 12th of May in the year 1937 and it was Coronation Day. I woke up at five o’clock, turned off the alarm, awoke again at six and listened to the actual coronation. I bundled up in all my blankets, leaving one ear out, and sat on the sofa listening.
I heard George pronounced and anointed King and Elizabeth queen. Wonder what Edward VIII who abdicated is thinking tonight. When they sang “God Save the King,” while I was putting on my stocking, I simply listened like a loyal Englishwoman. I would have even stood up, except for the cold and I couldn’t stand on one foot. I just sort of listened and thought of the peoples of all colors in all lands who were listening and wondered what they thought. (That shows what reading Kipling can do—it’s made me a better Englishman than American.) Well, Coronation or no Coronation—there was school today. . . .
 These are the parents of Queen Elizabeth II.
 Rudyard Kipling, English poet who often described the colonies of the British Empire. He won the Nobel Prize in Literature and is famous for books such as The Jungle Book.
She writes about the famous White Cliffs of Dover in her poetry.
June 4, 1939
While in Britain
The Druid columns crumble
And the white cliffs rust
Underneath the grass
A Roman centurion
Is becoming a tree.
By Severn’s stream
Ripe rich mold
Has long been
A bramble hedge.
Only where it is quiet
The most ancient of all,
Is a hill.
I, too, have a gift
See, I give this little girl
To the island
That it may become
An English flower.
This last stanza references Joan’s belief she gained from science class. There she came to believe in the conservation of matter, where “all matter goes on forever. When I die, perhaps I shall lie in the cool earth, and grass and flowers and weeds will send their roots to find food in me—in my dead body—perhaps then useless to me. But useful to the flower root—the thin, sensitive white root hairs shall enter me and use me. And the flowers will grow. And a deer will eat the flower and a man will shoot the deer and his family eat the deer and I, I shall be in them all. And who shall know me then? Will all my secret atoms ever find their way together again to form the same cohesion that made me? Such is the conservation of matter and shall my soul too find a use? Or ever cling together with my original atoms again?—In the church I looked at the wood—the hard, varnished wood of the pew and I thought, “This was once springy wood through which the sap of life went up in spring.” Oh, is nothing ever lost? It gives you a secret everlasting feeling to know part of you at least will never be lost. . . .” (written age 16, January 15, 1939).
The White Cliff of Dover become a symbol for England itself, standing firm in the wake of the Nazi onslaught.
A 1944 film with the title, The White Cliffs of Dover, features Irene Dunne as a young woman visiting England before WWI.
She loves England – and those White Cliffs.
You can see a scene from the movie here.
“The White Cliffs of Dover” also became the iconic song of the WWII era, sung by Dame Vera Lynn.