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HM Queen Elizabeth II

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Today has been momentous for people in the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth and many others in the world. Queen Elizabeth II was a remarkable world figure, transcending politics and providing a constant presence and an aura of stability through three generations, from the problematic post-war years to today, a time when we face equally daunting challenges.

Queen Elizabeth has been our head of state for over 70 years; for most subjects, this is longer than they have been alive. They have known no other.

For me, today was a time for reflection. I remember the funeral of the late Queen’s father, King George VI, which I initially saw on a cinema newsreel before we owned one of those new-fangled television sets. I continue to view it in my mind’s eye in black and white rather than in colour.

Today’s funeral was vivid by comparison; so many colours and so much more to see. The Queen’s funeral was also different in its location. The last monarch whose death was mourned in the great church of Westminster Abbey was George II in 1760.

I feel extremely sad, and it takes a period of adjustment to get used to a king instead of a queen. I remember watching live the investiture of the new King as Prince of Wales on 1 July 1969 at Caernarfon Castle. He has been in waiting for a lifetime and, at 73, is the oldest British monarch to have ascended the throne.

Yet within the space of a week, I have grown accustomed to the idea of King Charles, whose last namesake died in 1685. I have mentally changed all the Hers to Hises, and so it will be for the rest of my life.

I look forward now to the Coronation, probably in June 2023, to mirror the late Queen’s coronation in the same month in 1953. We will soon have new postage stamps, new coins, new bank notes, new everything in the realms of governance and justice. The change of monarch has far-reaching implications for the country as a whole, yet the wheels of governance continue unchecked.

Curated viewing

In common with what is said to be 4.5 billion people, I watched today’s events unfold on television. Although living no more than six miles from the centre of the action, I reasoned that a curated television view of the proceedings would offer a fuller picture. I can understand those who lined the streets of central London, feeling the need to be present, if only for a fleeting moment.

Had I been younger, I think I would have been there with them. I would almost certainly have joined the long queue to file past the coffin in Westminster Hall, despite joining that queue presaging a near 24-hour shuffle along the banks of the Thames.

So magnificent was this quiet, orderly queue, stretching from Westminster to Southwark Park, that it has been hailed as an example of what it means to be British. We are traditionally a nation of patient queuers. As I read in one newspaper commenting on the temporary closure of the queue because of overwhelming numbers:

In a bizarre twist – and perhaps this could only happen in queue-happy Britain – there then formed another queue to join the Queue. This second queue – and here it gets truly surreal – spawned a third queue to reach the second queue to reach the Queue.

Yet thousands more took the opportunity to line the 24-mile route from Central London to Windsor as the cortege travelled by at a sedate twelve miles per hour. It passed near to my home in West London, and, like most of my neighbours, I was there to catch a very quick glimpse; my own little last memory of a woman who has been a fixture throughout most of my life.

A very brief glimpse of Queen Elizabeth II as she heads home to Windsor and final rest

In many ways, the events of the past ten days have brought home to the British people the underlying reason for a monarchy. It’s old-fashioned, it’s irrational, but it has the ability to unite a nation as nothing else can. It also provides a continuing thread through all the trials and tribulations any nation must go through.

Whatever their politics, most people can relate to an independent, apolitical head of state. Britain is not a monarchy in the established sense. The monarchy has no real power except in its ability to steer a steady ship and overcome transitory extremism.

The people have the power; the monarch reflects that power and provides a national consciousness and continuity. Britain is, in reality, a republic, but a royal republic. Many, of course, will disagree; but I believe it is a most rational form of government.

Sadly, tomorrow morning the shackles of mourning are off, and it will be back to the unpleasant cut and thrust — and divisive nature — of politics. I just hope that the death of Queen Elizabeth II and the seamless, well-oiled transition to the new monarch, King Charles III, will remind everyone that, ultimately, we are all in this together, and we all wish for the best for our nation.

God Save The King.


11 COMMENTS

  1. God save the Queen.
    Here abroad, many things (all of them?) have been told day after day, in the morning, in the midday, in the evening, about the British, about the royal family, about the Queen Elizabeth II. And I have to confess I understand less and less about all those things. I’m sorry 😐

  2. I am an American through and through, but my wife and I loved all things the Queen. She was true stable force in a mad, mad world. God rest her soul.

  3. I am both American and British, but grew up in a French colony in West Africa. For me the Queen has been a source of certainly and calm in the maelstrom of a changing world. I’m truly sad to see her passing, but I hope that Charles can continue to evolve the monarchy and to find new ways to make it relevant to younger people.

  4. As you know Mike, I spent some of the week marshalling the queue – oh how we love to queue. I then spent the weekend with my mother in law, a genuine queen in waiting – if ever one existed.

    I have watched todays events with a whole range of mixed emotions. The loss of someone I swore to defend, the arrival of King Charles, the wonder of where and how will we inter our beloved queen into the after life.

    The world is full of change, I do hope we are in for a period of better news as the weeks, months and years advance ahead of us. Lest we forget. QE2, left an incredible legacy.

    • I agree that we can hope the events of this week will make Britain stronger and more able (willing) to do what is necessary to overcome the current economic problems. I confess I have always had mixed views about Charles, as Prince of Wales, but I think he has acquitted himself well in this first difficult week as Charles, King. In any case, he is now the head of state and deserves our full support. I think the Queen will keep him on track; I’ve always been a fan of Camilla and she’s the right woman for the job right now.

  5. As much as the world will miss her I think the kingdom is going to realize that they are what this is about, and if Charles the King has half their favor and support, the Kingdom will survive and thrive.

  6. Yesterday I was particularly touched by two things. The lone piper playing the sad laments, simple personal endings to the grand services. And the procession from the cathedral being led by the Metropolitan Police and behind them the Royal Canadian Mounted Police – the Mounties. They and their horses looked magnificent and they spoke to me of the deep fellowships between the UK and the Commonwealth countries. Very moving.

    Also the grace and humility shown by Joseph and Jill Biden whilst they waited for the holders of the George Cross and Victoria Cross and others to take their places before them.

    I think we are in good safe hands regarding the monarchy for the next generations.

  7. I am not a monarchy person but I have to say that THE Queen was deserving of her position and makes all leaders of countries look self serving and low class. God save the Queen.

    King Charles has very big shoes to fill!

    God save the King.

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