If ever there be a life truly blessed, it was surely that of Queen Elizabeth II. What more could anyone ask for?
If at all a perfect life is possible, Queen Elizabeth II surely lived it, wouldn’t you agree? If you were to pray for the best in life, what would you ask? A long and healthy life. A family that respects and loves you. Power. Authority. Wealth. No untoward grief or scandals that you wouldn’t be able to handle.
Well, God gave her all that and more!
To remain a Queen for 70 years! To live to be 96! To be loved and respected and looked upon by millions! To wear the best of clothes and jewelry to your heart’s content! To live with a beloved husband as many years as humanly possible. To be surrounded by your children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. To travel the world and be introduced to varied life and cultures… And above all, to be so loved and respected all around the world that you are above all blame or criticism!
And to top that, Queen Elizabeth was also blessed with the one quality that lifts life a notch above the rest — a sense of humour. The Queen was almost always amused, they say. How wonderful! As New Yorker correspondent Anthony Lane writes while attempting to decipher the secret to the Queen’s success, “You don’t get through seventy years of best behavior, on the throne, without a sense of humor; indeed, it may be the one thing that keeps you going.”
Indeed, the Queen had the best life that anyone could possibly hope for. As such, it is not so much her death that Britain mourns, as it does the ending of the continued stability and sense of comfort that her unchanging presence inspired. The longest reigning monarch of the British empire, Queen Elizabeth II had become Britain’s most enduring symbol of constancy and public duty, a trait that was admired by even her staunchest critics. She has been the only monarch known by a majority of the British since their birth.
Historian Simon Schama talks in the New Yorker about one of the Queen’s worst critics in the 1960s Lord Altrincham (John Grigg who was famously punched in the face for criticizing the Queen in 1957) and how even he later called her “authentically an absolutely decent person.” She was Royalty personified and in many ways beyond criticism. The rest of the Royals now, led by the new King Charles III, are all humans – as susceptible to questions, doubts and explanations as any others. By her sheer number of years and the mystique and splendour that surrounded her, the Queen was almost beyond human.
The mystique, the magic, the esoteric and morally exemplar qualities that Queen Elizabeth II exemplified despite her surprising connect and communication with ordinary people, is a thing of the past now – gone forever with her. In an era of disbelief, fake news, mistrust and cancel culture, this is perhaps what is to be mourned – the end of an era of strong faith, of belief in an institution and an individual who symbolizes it. As one mourner outside Buckingham Palace poignantly said pointing to her young daughter, “She will never again see a Queen reign in her lifetime.” Indeed, the next three sovereigns are all set to be kings!
She knew well when to appear in the public eye and connect with her subjects and when to quietly slip behind her golden screen – keenly aware of the balance she needed to maintain between the extremes of public pageantry and royal mystique – a balance that alone sustains the present modern royalty.
The British understand very well what they have lost in Queen Elizabeth’s death. The comfort and security of a steady presence all their lives, a monarch who set the royal standards high and valued the importance of upholding tradition as well as creating space for change that is inevitable. All her life she maintained in public the stoicism that the British consider so important, even though often reports of her humour and wit seeped out. As a mourner said, “You were the consistent in all our lives.” Another was quoted as saying, “You were an incomparable beacon of duty, faith, steadfastness, humility, humanity, and British values.”
The Queen’s passing was expected of course. It wasn’t a shock; it was only a matter of time. And, considering the beauty of her glorious life, her death is not a tragedy either. The seamless passing of the baton, the transference of monarchy from mother to a son who grieves as well as acquires power and glory, is the way of the British monarchy. Nothing breaks the royal continuity…as ‘God save the King’ effortlessly replaces ‘God save the Queen.’
Will monarchy survive the Queen? How the British relate to their new king is to be seen, and to be seen is also how much King Charles III, at 73, the oldest ever to assume the British throne, is willing to cast himself into his wise, reticent mother’s mold.
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Views expressed above are the author’s own.
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