The news of the passing of HM Queen Elizabeth II evokes many emotions. It’s a day we knew would happen but never wanted to think about.
The tributes from all from over the world is a mark of the respect and esteem that she was held in by people from all walks of life, from Presidents to ‘paupers’. In the then Princess Elizabeth’s 21st birthday speech she solemnly swore to a life of service ‘whether it be long or short’ and she was true to her word with over 7 decades of selfless and unwavering service to the British nation and the Commonwealth.
Her Majesty has been a constant presence for so long, one of my first memories as a 7 year old boy was a street party with all my neighbours celebrating the Silver Jubilee of 25 years on the throne. As Queen her first Prime Minister was Winston Churchill (born in 1874) and it’s this connection to the past that was such an incredible conduit from today to a bygone era, an era without the internet or even television and when radio was the most used medium of communication.
Her reign was not without challenges. From wars and social unrest, family issues that still exist today and a pushback against the British monarchy after the death of Princess Diana. The Queen faced all her challenges with a traditional British stiff upper lip, stoic compassion and words of comfort without taking sides. She encompassed everything that is thought to be British – her famous mantra was never explain, never complain.
The Queen had a legendary sense of humour but also an empathy with all people and her ability to ask the right question at the right time was a lightning bolt for those present who knew they had to be on their A-game even in the presence of a pensioner, she could never be underestimated. For us ex-pats who live outside the UK, the Queen has been a shining light of Britishness, something to hold on to, a figurehead we could all be proud of. It’s difficult to explain to other nationalities but she seamlessly brought a community together when it was needed most.
Whatever your views on the modern-day monarchy you can’t help but be touched by the worldwide outpouring of grief for the death of a dignified 96-year-old great grandmother who in a world of change represented continuity, in an age of division remained transcendent and in a time of constant self-promotion embodied self-effacement.