She was the only real queen we knew outside of our storybooks. A queen who wore a crown on a bed of ermine, lived in a palace, rode a carriage like Cinderella’s own, had footmen and had a prince that looked like he, too, leapt out of a storybook.
Queen Elizabeth II’s reign spanned the lives of our great-grandparents, our grandparents, and our children. We know of a few other real-life queens, but no one quite permeated our consciousness or our world — though we live a world away — than the British monarch, who died at the age of 96 on Sept. 8 after a 70-year reign. For Britons themselves, she was their “only queen.” She wasn’t just Britain’s longest serving monarch, but also the world’s.
“Lilibet,” who ironically was not born heir to the throne (her uncle King Edward XVIII abdicated, thus her father became King George VI), broke many records during her 70-year-reign. In September 2015, she became the longest reigning monarch in British history, surpassing the reign of her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria. She downplayed that milestone and was quoted as saying that the title was “not one to which I have ever aspired.”
Her death was the end of the second Elizabethan era, and the beginning of a new era, still to be defined. As one BBC anchor said, “Yesterday the people had a queen, today, they have a king.”
Another said, “the British people have lost an elbow,” a part of themselves they have had since they were born, an intrinsic part of themselves that they can lean on.
“The Queen is dead, God bless the Queen. God save the King.” That, as far as I know, is why the monarchy endures. Though the Queen’s duties were largely ceremonial, they had gravitas. Two days before she died, she was still on her feet — though with apparent difficulty — appointing Britain’s new Prime Minister, Liz Truss. She was working till the virtual eve of her passing. Perhaps, the queen, who swore at her coronation to serve her country till her last breath wanted to keep her vow and truly waited till she appointed the country’s new prime minister, the 15th under her reign, before her curtain call. She was a woman of her word.
Many of her critics failed to understand that she was from a generation that recoiled from the almost hysterical displays of public mourning that typified the aftermath of the princess’ death.
She once recalled, “When I was 21, I pledged my life to the service of our people and I asked for God’s help to make good that vow. Although that vow was made in my salad days, when I was green in judgement, I do not regret, or retract, one word of it.”
She died in her “happy place,” Balmoral Castle, just a year after her beloved Prince Philip passed on at age 99. Now, they are together again.
According to Prime Minister Truss, Queen Elizabeth was “the rock on which modern Britain was built.”
All citizens of the world who put a premium on dedication to duty appreciate how Queen Elizabeth walked her talk, and hopefully learned from it.
US-based psychiatrist Dr. Geraldine Mayor said that the Queen’s fidelity to duty “is beyond compare,” her steadfastness, “one of a kind.”
Herald Sun immediately came out with an edition with a smiling Queen Elizabeth on the cover with this headline: Irreplaceable.
Like Dr. Mayor, I admire how, despite the difficulty of adapting to an increasingly changing modern world far different from the one her generation was used to, Queen Elizabeth endeavored to adapt to the changing times. She hurdled the gaps.
She ascended the throne because her uncle King Edward chose a woman who was twice divorced and therefore unacceptable as a queen consort. And yet, Elizabeth, gliding graciously with the times though holding fast to the railings, eventually came to accept her own children’s divorces, including the heartbreaking one between her heir and now King Charles III and his late wife Princess Diana. Two of her other children, Princess Anne and Prince Andrew, are divorced themselves. Queen Consort Camilla Parker Bowles is a divorcee herself, and was once very unpopular because she is believed to have caused the breakup between Charles and the much-loved Diana. And yet on the eve of her Platinum Jubilee, the Queen said: “And when, in the fullness of time, my son Charles becomes King, I know you will give him and his wife Camilla the same support that you have given me, and it is my sincere wish that, when that time comes, Camilla will be known as Queen Consort as she continues her own loyal service.”
Ironically, the flowers outside the gates of Balmoral remind me of the day Princess Diana died 25 years ago. The Queen and Princes William and Harry were at Balmoral, too, when news reached them that the princess had died in an accident. I remember how, during Diana’s death, the people were looking for the Queen to commiserate with a grieving nation. I know, I, too, felt at the time that the Queen’s lack of emotion at the demise of the mother of her grandsons, was a character flaw. But I am not to royalty born and know not of their strict code of conduct.
And yet, Queen Elizabeth listened to the public outcry.
In her defense, BBC says, “Many of her critics failed to understand that she was from a generation that recoiled from the almost hysterical displays of public mourning that typified the aftermath of the princess’ death.
“She also felt as a caring grandmother that she needed to comfort Diana’s sons in the privacy of the family circle.”
Five days after Diana’s death, she paid tribute to the latter, saying, “I want to pay tribute to Diana myself. She was an exceptional and gifted human being.”
Her grandson and future King Prince William said during his grandmother’s diamond jubilee 10 years ago, “She was a woman in a man’s world.”
He recalled in an interview with ABC News’ Katie Couric that though she was the queen, she was “Granny” to him, the person he turned to for his support when he was given a list of 700 guests to invite to his wedding, none of whom he knew.
And Granny Elizabeth, according to William, told him, “Oh, don’t be ridiculous. Invite who you want, starting with your friends.”
Adapt, Queen Elizabeth did, indeed. And the monarchy has endured. Her legacy will be the cornerstone on which it will continue to stand.
God bless the Queen.