Remembrances and tributes are pouring in from all over the world and King Charles III has ascended the throne.
“The Queen died peacefully at Balmoral this afternoon,” announced the Royal Family on September 8, 2022, in a statement posted to Twitter at 1:30 PM. “The King and The Queen Consort will remain at Balmoral this evening and will return to London tomorrow.”
Queen Elizabeth II was born on the 26th of April in 1926. Her death at the age of 96 represents much more than the passing of a Royal monarch; her passing marks the end of an era- the end, perhaps, of the great Golden Age of British Royalty and the Aristocracy.
Known for her regal grace, gentle wit, and commitment to duty, Queen Elizabeth II presided over an era of great social change and upheaval. World War I was her inheritance; World War II the bitter fruits of that dread conflict.
She navigated a rapidly changing post-war landscape with great intentionality and foresight. She presided over an age of unprecedented globalization and technological advancements; and did so while maintaining a steadfast foundation of legacy and tradition. Her commitment to service set the standard to which all elected officials and public servants should aspire.
As the world mourns the passing of a beloved ruler of one of the last surviving Royal houses, the outpouring of grief has been monumental.
“Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was more than a monarch,” wrote United States President Joe Biden in a statement. “She defined an era.”
“In a world of constant change, she was a steadying presence and a source of comfort and pride for generations of Britons, including many who have never known their country without her,” President Biden said of the late Queen. “An enduring admiration for Queen Elizabeth II united people across the Commonwealth.”
“The seven decades of her history-making reign bore witness to an age of unprecedented human advancement and the forward march of human dignity,” Mr. Biden wrote.
“She was the first British monarch to whom people all around the world could feel a personal and immediate connection — whether they heard her on the radio as a young princess speaking to the children of the United Kingdom, or gathered around their televisions for her coronation, or watched her final Christmas speech or her Platinum Jubilee on their phones,” President Biden added. “And she, in turn, dedicated her whole life to their service.”
“Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II embodied the British nation’s continuity and unity for over 70 years,” tweeted French President Emmanuel Macron at the news. “I remember her as a friend of France, a kind-hearted queen who has left a lasting impression on her country and her century.”
“She witnessed war and reconciliation in Europe and beyond, and deep transformations of our planet and societies,” said President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen. “She was a beacon of continuity throughout these changes, never ceasing to display a calmness and dedication that gave strength to many. May she rest in peace.”
Not even Vladimir Putin had an unkind word to say about the late Queen: “I wish you courage and fortitude in the face of this grave and irreparable loss,” Putin told a news outlet. “I ask you to pass the words of sincere sympathy and support to the royal family members and the whole nation of Great Britain.”
“I speak to you today with feelings of profound sorry,” began King Charles III in first address to the nation after ascending the throne at his mother’s passing.
“Throughout her life, Her Majesty the Queen- my beloved mother- was an inspiration and example to me and to all my family, and we owe her the most heartfelt debt any family can owe to their mother; for her love, affection, guidance, understanding, and example,” King Charles III told the people of Great Britain and the world.
“Queen Elizabeth’s was a life well-lived,” the King continued. “A promise with a destiny kept and she is mourned most deeply in her passing. That promise of lifelong service I renew to you all today.”
Not everyone is mourning Queen Elizabeth’s passing, of course. There has been much more than the usual outpouring of vituperation and hatred, as at the passing of many historically-significant figures who managed to survive into the present day.
Before characterizing someone’s recently departed grandmother as a murderer and a colonizer, it might be worth reexamining the dangers of delegating a human being as a scapegoat.
Queen Elizabeth, whatever her personal qualities, is not responsible for the cumulative actions of British royals over the past 1,000 years. She cannot be a stand-in; receiving punishment for their crimes to thereby absolve them.
Not in life, and certainly not in death, can Queen Elizabeth II be reduced to a mere cipher, an aphorism; short-hand for a manifest destiny which translated, at various historical points, into conquest, subjugation, and exploitation.
Burning the late Queen in effigy- on Twitter- wouldn’t do any good, and it might do tremendous harm.
The term of her actual reign, apart from her historical inheritance of colonialism, was in fact marked by progressivism, growing egalitarianism, and prosperity.
The two world wars, and the time which elapsed between them, upended the power of the monarchy and aristocracy in Great Britain; but it didn’t have to be that way.
Somewhere around the time members of the working, feudal classes found themselves shoulder to shoulder in the trenches with blue bloods of the highest order; right around the time British authorities ran into serious problems conscripting soldiers for the war effort- the poor were too unhealthy, overworked and uneducated to be of any use to the military; just as women were finding themselves thrust into the workforce to take the place of men fighting in the war, the British monarchy lost a good bit of its power.
Without a fight.
Without a civil war; no guillotine, no rivers of blood running through the streets of London as loyal Royalists pitted themselves against the dreaded proletariat usurpers of the throne.
No entire Royal family beheaded by revolutionaries or executed by Bolsheviks; no brother fighting brother to preserve the union.
Instead, Queen Elizabeth II was a monarch who saw the writing on the wall and had enough foresight to read it. Because of this, she was able to preserve what Britons loved most about their Royal Family while accommodating the need to share absolute power, absolutely, with the people.
Robert Walpole is considered by historians to be the first Prime Minister of Great Britain. He served strictly at the behest of King George I, and governed accordingly- in the King’s name, on his behalf.
The newest Prime Minister of Great Britain, Liz Truss, enjoys quite a bit more power and authority; the same is true of the British Parliament and House of Commons. As the power of the British monarchy has waned, the power of the British people and their democratically-elected leaders has waxed.
In 2011, Queen Elizabeth II lost her power to dissolve Parliament when the Fixed-term Parliaments Act was passed.
The recently ascended King Charles III, for all his wealth and influence, has virtually no power over the workings of the British government any longer. He still technically has Royal Assent, which means for a bill to be formally passed and become law, the reigning royal monarch must agree to it.
No monarch has used this veto power since 1708.
The new King’s other official duties include opening and closing Parliament sessions, advising the government, and a weekly meeting with the current Prime Minister.
What happened under the auspices of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II was a major shift in the power and purpose of the Royal monarchy. Under her leadership, the institution of the British monarchy quietly reinvented itself as a humanitarian nonprofit on a mission to serve the citizens of the United Kingdom and alleviate world poverty.
The Queen understood the soft-power of the British monarchy; cultural influence. She used that influence to serve the nation she loved so faithfully and so well.
Rather than governors, or rulers, the British monarchy under Queen Elizabeth II truly became what royal rulers were always meant to be: Servants of the people they rule.
(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)