On her twenty-first birthday, 21 April 1947, Princess Elizabeth, in the presence of her parents and younger sister dedicated her life to the service of the Commonwealth. And it was a promise that Elizabeth Alexandra Mary kept throughout her life.
Like so many people around the world, the passing of Queen Elizabeth had a thunderous effect on me. Nobody living can say that they haven’t lived the majority of their lives under the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. For 70 years this woman of sheer class and substance served Britain and the commonwealth with a remarkable dedication to duty. It’s hard to imagine anything about being British without the thought of the Monarch who sat on the throne for over seventy years. With her passing everything changes and the British consciousness is greatly challenged.
It may be hard for those not in tune with the concept of Monarchy or specifically Britain’s Constitutional Monarchy to completely understand how deeply the bond between the British people and the Queen runs. In its most basic form, the Queen was the very embodiment of being British and the institution that she was the head of is the very identity of Britain. She was the very best of being British, she was the epitome of essence and value for the United Kingdom. Nobody in the history of the world has symbolized what it means to be British more than Queen Elizabeth.
She has always just been present with a seemingly resolute and invincible impression. The British people and all the people around the world who revered her must learn to live a life in which she is no longer present. The impact of her death cannot be quantified into words. The transition that will happen in the wake of her death is concrete history unfolding right before our very own eyes.
This incredible woman was the longest serving Monarch in Britain and she was the second longest serving Monarch in the history of the world. She served with 15 British prime Ministers, hosted 13 of the last 14 American presidents. She was Queen before Nigeria gained its Independence. She held more than 100 State visits of the World’s leaders and was the head of state in 17 different countries. She was the head of the commonwealth of nations. She was present through the good and the bad times of the world. Through wars, pandemics, financial crisis, terrorism, natural disasters she was always present. And she stood tall and gave leadership with the dignity, faith and duty of heroes.
One shall remain grateful to have had the opportunity to thank her for her service during her Platinum Jubilee earlier on in the year. And it gave the United Kingdom and the commonwealth an opportunity to show its beloved Queen how grateful they were for her service and how much she meant to them.
She had a sense of magic and majesty. She loomed large in the life of most Britons. She had such warmth and humor which shone through when she interacted with people. She had empathy and compassion. She was strong, intellectual and modest. I was lucky to have had two encounters with the Queen and must say that I was profoundly struck by her warmth.
Her life was one of public service and duty which saw her totally commit to her country and her commonwealth. She was a devoted wife and mother and a constant figure of British national pride. Even when the dynamic reality of the world experienced extraordinary changes, Elizabeth was steadfast.
She was born in 1926 as a princess. There was nothing in her path that suggested the expectation of her emerging as Queen. Elizabeth’s destiny changed when her Grandfather, King George V, passed and when her uncle, Edward VII, abdicated. Her father, King George VI, became King and she became his heir. With those turn of events, her role for life changed and her approach to it was shaped by the second World War. It was during wartime that the most important relationship of her life was sparked when she met Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark, later Philip Mountbatten.
In 1947, she got engaged to Prince Philip. They became a glamorous young couple who were celebrated across the British Isles. From the union, Prince Charles was born, followed by Princess Ann. Even then duty called when her father became ill and she had to take his place on a tour of the commonwealth. It was during that assignment that the tragic news of the passing of a beloved sovereign, King George VI, came.
In a remote lodge in Kenya, her husband, Prince Phillip broke the heartbreaking news to her. In the flash of an eye, she had become Queen in her early twenties. Accounts record that she gulped and gathered herself because, after all, in addition to being a grieving daughter, she had also become the Queen in a way that she could never have imagined. A year after becoming Queen came her coronation.
At only 26, Queen Elizabeth set out to prove herself to courtiers, politicians, the country and the commonwealth. And this she did. From the very start of her reign, she was very deliberate in connecting with the public. She did this by carrying out thousands of community engagements and walkabouts. She was always calm as she constantly dedicated herself to duty, with constitutional responsibilities and with weekly audiences with her prime ministers. She was a figurehead of unity and stability wherever she went. She always applied herself accordingly and never wavered from duty and service. She was the anchor who led her people with dignity. In every situation, she adapted the way she worked to reach out to people, set a steady example and rallied her people with messages of hope and resilience. She was a leader with compassion, who was a symbol of reconciliation, collaboration, and national pride. She was a guiding light through many a dark time. And behind all the formality, she remained a devoted wife, mother, grandmother and great grandmother.
While she was head of state, her husband, Prince Philip was the head of her family and an enormous support for her. In 2021, when she had to say goodbye to her beloved husband and dedicated consort, she weathered it bravely. She grieved with courage and without self pity. She believed that nothing was about her but about the greater good of her nation.
In what can be described as the more difficult personal times of her reign, especially in the 1990’s when her children got divorced and a fire engorged her beloved Windsor castle, she stood strong. In her now famous speech, she described 1992 as a “annus horribilis”. In 1997, when Princess Diana was tragically killed in a horrific car crash, the Queen was challenged by her subjects when she was criticized for not addressing the nation and mourning with the public. The Queen responded by speaking to the public on Diana’s death.
In more recent years, she saw her family and the monarchy through more turmoil when her favorite son, Prince Andrew, the Duke of York, faced sex abuse allegations and her petulant grandchild, Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex, opted to leave the firm with his ambitious and overbearing wife.
It was a given that the Queen didn’t show her emotions in public because she ‘Never complained and never explained’, but she was known to be a woman who was genuinely kind. She had a very British sense of humor, which the world saw a glimpse of in stints she participated in during the 2012 London Summer Olympics and during her Platinum Jubilee in 2022 when she shared the screen with Paddington Bear.
During her milestone moment, the United Kingdom and the commonwealth came together to celebrate, not only with her, but to celebrate her. She went on to become the first British monarch to mark a platinum jubilee. Her long life passed by so many milestones, and it has been a pleasure watching her along the way.
In life, her family was expected to step in and support her and now they have a duty of service to maintain her legacy and the noble lineage she comes from. Queen Elizabeth’s remarkable reign and the stability it bought has ensured to secure the future of the monarchy. Through King Charles III, Prince William (Prince of Wales) and Prince George, the monarchy looks to be in steady arms.
Like millions across the world, I feel a personal loss at the passing of Queen Elizabeth, a loss of an indomitable woman who lived her life with such grace and dignity. Like millions across the world, I shall mourn Queen Elizabeth as I listen to the pledge she made and kept to the British people at the tender age of twenty one.
…”Alas, The Queen is dead, long live the king!”