Obituary: Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, 1926-2022
From the EDITORS
The United Kingdom has changed rather a lot over the past years. Even in this past decade the nation has altered its course markedly. If it has changed profoundly since 2012 then it does not take a lot for one to think about just how much it has changed since the early 1950s.
But one thing, perhaps only one thing, has remained constant through that period. Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, governed over a longer period of time than any British monarch before her. In serving the British people for so long, the Queen also presided over change which no leader may ever witness again. She led a quite remarkable life – one which is difficult to contract to so few words, but one which cannot be ignored.
Her Majesty helped steer the UK through the tumultuous periods which have beset the nation in the last seventy years. When she took over, the country was a global superpower – a coal-burning, goods-dominated economy. Now, our global status is much diminished, and the economy is gas-concentrated and services-led. The Queen was the first monarch where media played a role – her Coronation in 1953 was broadcast to 20 million people on television, the first event to outnumber the radio audience – and has since seen the media develop into the hugely important role it plays today, none more so than with social media. The Queen, her power thin in her role as Head of State, has been the constant; a reassuring face to help Britons cope with the movement away from what the country was which, as recent events perhaps conclude, has been a difficult transition for many.
The reassurance provided to the average Briton was also passed on to every Head of Government who served under her. She saw no fewer than fifteen Prime Ministers in her tenure – the most recent, Liz Truss, was appointed at Balmoral only three days ago. The first of them was Sir Winston Churchill and, bearing in mind he was born well into the Victorian age, Her Majesty manages to connect modern day Britain with a past so often adored by its public. In fact a remarkable 101 years separate the first and last leaders she interacted with. And, whilst offering her invaluable counsel to each Prime Minister, never did she utter a word in public of her own views. She was one who did just get on with the job; something which, in today’s age, seems more and more difficult to find. Her uncontroversial nature – bar a rough period in the 1990s – is what has made her so special in the minds of Britons.
Yet it is not only Britons with whom she connected. There is no doubt that she is the most recognisable figure across the globe, her status spreading far beyond even the Commonwealth. She met every single President of the United States, bar Lyndon Johnson, from Harry Truman in 1951 (a year before she became Queen) to the current Joe Biden. Biden’s statement on her passing paid tribute to her role in maintaining the Special Relationship between the US and UK.
She has no doubt been a sticking point for the relationship within our own nation, as well. Leaders across the country have paid their tributes, and flowers will be laid across the Royal residencies. As different parts of the country have been almost constantly at odds with each other, the Queen was one thing which united all. That is a feat to which no political leader could hope to achieve.
Her remarkable time on the throne will not be easy to replicate. King Charles III will not be as dominant a figure as Her Majesty was. But, in the common knowledge that Elizabeth was the longest serving monarch of this country, it is often forgotten that Charles is also the longest serving heir apparent. He has been brought up to conduct this job and, 73 years after his birth, will now undertake it. That is a work experience portfolio like no other. Some of the things he has been more outspoken on – the climate, for example – is now a commonly recognised challenge. Others, though, such as his thoughts on the government’s Rwanda deportation policy, have put him at odds with those at Number 10.
The death of Queen Elizabeth II marks the end of the Second Elizabethan Age, a period where Britain has undergone an incredible amount of change. In so much change, her motherly figure was the only constant. She gave reassurance to a nation so often at odds with itself, unable to come to terms with the vast progress (or, to some, decline) going on around it. Sadly, the safety and continuity she provided to Britons has now gone. But her legacy, and her impact on millions, will never be forgotten.