Even though we had been aware that our Queen Elizabeth was showing signs of coming to the end of her long reign as well as her life, when the world was told on Thursday, September 7th, that she had passed on, many of us were left with a feeling of shock and sadness. Wasn’t it just a few days before that she had inducted the new Prime Minister of England into office, a tradition that has been carried out by the reigning monarch of the UK for eons?
No matter what anyone may think about the value for maintaining the monarchy these days because of its cost at a time when a large part of our world is suffering from famine, climate change disasters, war and terrible injustices, the Queen’s death has revealed to us that there is something very worthwhile about it after all. The debate about abolishing the monarchy has been ongoing for almost as long as the Queen’s 70 years on the throne. The fact that she, a woman who wasn’t the next in line but unexpectedly inherited this responsibility because her uncle abdicated the throne so he could marry a divorced woman, put her in the position of ruling over one of the world’s oldest empires.
Seventy years is a long time to have to reign over an increasingly more complicated role as the British monarch for the “Commonwealth of Nations” which reached to the far corners of the world. Gradually as the world population increased and became more connected, many of the countries conquered by the Brits no longer wanted to be ruled by a distant relative who knew little about them and their customs. Wanting their freedom from the monarchy’s tight control, they either set up their own monarchy or elected their own leaders to form a republic. Despite her efforts to connect with her far flung family with more frequent visits and in some cases a first visit from a monarch, she was dismayed to see more than 30 members leave the commonwealth during her reign. Nevertheless, she handled every crisis within her dwindling empire with grace and understanding. On top of this kind of pressure, she also had to handle the precarious position she was put in as a Head of State demanding she be supportive of the numerous changes of government and Prime Ministers in England whether she liked them or not. Again, she was able to handle every political crisis and leader with an astounding knowledge and understanding of their roles. I think there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that she was born to be both a Queen and a Head of State. Totally dedicated to her job with its responsibilities and changes, she revealed such dedication that at times the media blatantly accused her of neglecting her own family. No doubt she did but she never faltered. She came through both her personal and her public life with aplomb.
We, being her people you might say, have always taken a tremendous interest in her personal life. Unfortunately, the media may have expressed too much interest in the the Queen and all the Royals. Many of us will remember the time when Princess Diana was killed in a car crash in Paris in 1997. Unfortunately, the Queen was instantly chastised for the how she handled the tragedy. Why had she waited so long before issuing statement after the tragic news to the people, and why did it take her so long to return London from Balmoral where she was taking a holiday? Did she not care? Was she that much out of touch with the public that she was not there to mourn with all her subjects the death of a young woman who inspired all those she met with a freshness that the monarchy had never seen before? All of this kind of publicity was probably one of the worst times of Elizbeth’s reign. I remember distinctly listening to her annual Christmas speech that year when she described her year as a “horriblis annibus”. Well, to her credit, she took the message from the people to heart because from that time on the whole mood at the palace began to change. She made more appearances and somehow appeared to be more vulnerable as a person whom they could connect to. Yes, she had listened to her people and had learned from them.
During this time, I wasn’t paying much attention to what was going on with the royal family. I had other, more important things on my mind. I remember thinking, however, that the media were making far too much fuss over Diana and being almost cruel to the Queen. I could understand the difficulty Diana would have had dealing with her role as wife to the future king, the protocol that this role required, and worst of all realizing that she had married a man much older than she who was in love with another woman… Camilla…his first love. Of course, the media had a hay day with this family affair making it into a sordid event which must have been extremely difficult for Elizabeth.
Somehow the whole tragic story got absorbed into my subconscious because one night I woke up from a dream I had about the Queen. It went something like this. I found myself enjoying a beer in a typical British pub and sitting across from me at my booth was the Queen! She was casually dressed with no hat and purse. She seemed relaxed and to be enjoying herself. All I could think of was how natural she was and how normal she appeared. Our conversation…can’t remember what we were talking about…flowed so naturally that I felt I was talking to one of my close friends. Not long after that dream, I heard on the CBC news that the Queen was making a huge effort to visit some of the small villages in England that she seldom got to, and that she had actually visited a pub or two. Wow! To this day I fully believe that our dreams sometimes do foretell the future, not just for ourselves, but for others we may know or events that are about to happen.
Now almost two weeks later since her death, the out pouring of love for this remarkable woman has been phenomenal. England hasn’t seen anything like this since the death of her father, King George VI, and the invincible Winston Churchill, the Prime Minister who carried the British through WWII to victory over Germany. There have been many great men, including past Kings of England, who have been proclaimed as heroes but few women. Elizabeth II will be the first to have ever succeeded in her role as Queen for over 70 years making her the longest reigning royal in the world. She will surely be missed for her undying sense of responsibility to a job she never asked for. Once she revealed her vulnerability to her people via the media, we came to see her as a human being dealing with the trials and tribulations of life. She became better at her role as Queen and as a person as she grew older. She never gave up. We have been moved by her death more as the person she was than what she represented in a way that we never anticipated. She has been a great role model for us all and will remain in our hearts for a long time.
“God bless the Queen and God save the new King”– A quote from an anonymous admirer.