Friday, September 8, 2023

Queen Elizabeth II, one year on

Today we remember the one and only Queen Elizabeth II on the first anniversary of her death.

I remember waking up a year ago to the news that she was under medical supervision at Balmoral. I posted the 1662 BCP prayer for the Sovereign. Actually she had probably already passed away by then, and being frequently online I saw the news a few hours later as soon as The Royal Family page posted it. Stunned and shaken, I didn’t cry yet, though I would later.

Queen Elizabeth II had seemed eternal. An institution in her own right who had been on the throne since my parents were little children. Old enough to remember the difficult 1990s, I saw her grow more radiant and joyous as she aged, as if the fairytale lustre of the young Queen had somehow been magnified in a different way. There was something so comforting about images of the Queen. While not “ruling” as her ancestors did, she was a benign authority figure not only for her official subjects in 15 countries, but also for those of us in other countries who looked to her as the sentimental focus of our earthly allegiance, a far more satisfactory head of state than any president could ever be.

One paradox of Queen Elizabeth II was that she was simultaneously both timeless and of her time, a living link to a very different past yet surprisingly adaptable, letting her delightful mischievous sense of humour show more as she aged as seen in the 2012 Olympics and 2022 Jubilee videos.

Occasionally tabloids would claim that the Queen was “furious” over some real or alleged “violation of protocol.” But that wasn’t who she was at all. To the contrary her grandson Prince William said in an interview that she loved it when something went wrong at official occasions so that she and Prince Philip could laugh about it later.

While she had access to grand palaces suitable for the performance of her duties, her private tastes were simple, less grand than many celebrities. She kept leftover cereal in Tupperware, put on a sweater rather than turning up the heat, and was never happier than when in the countryside with her dogs and horses. Now she is in a different and better countryside where there is no more duty, only joy.

We miss her. I miss her. But the Monarchy to which she devoted her life continues under the different but equally dutiful stewardship of her son and successor King Charles, who I have long admired in his own right. The best way to honour her memory is to support him as he serves what are now his realms and to emulate her devotion to duty in our own lives, whatever our duties may be, in my case to the Symphony.

Unlike so many people, I never got to meet her, though at least I saw her in person a few times. But I like to think she knew how many millions of people loved her, even if it was surprising for her in her humility, and she knows even more fully now. Remember the Queen. God Save the King. 🇬🇧