They don’t make them like that any more. The Queen has passed away peacefully surrounded by her family after celebrating 70 years on the throne of the UK.
Born in April 1926, Elizabeth Mary Alexandra became Queen Elizabeth II on 6th February 1952, serving as the longest reigning monarch in the history of the United Kingdom and its constituent nations. During this time, for over seven decades, she dedicated her life to her job as Head of State of the UK and fourteen other sovereign nations (Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Bahamas, Belize, Canada, Grenada, Jamaica, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu).
In a flawless display of professionalism, she embodied the rights of women, and as she grew older, she embodied dignity for the elderly as an active member of society still at the age of 96. On the world stage, she has been a central and ever-present figure in the Commonwealth of Nations (54 states, 2.4 billion people), cementing this community with common values and more importantly, she has been a fundamental figure in holding the United Kingdom together, a country with enormous diversity among its constituent parts.
She has performed her role (I use the expression “has” because even deceased, her influence carries on) for over seven decades, providing stability, respect, leadership, being a continuing cultural reference, and showing a human touch, which is a gift. Those who met her, and they were many, remember her as an easy interlocutor, listening with interest, commenting with interest, showing and feeling interest in those around her and leaving with them with a firm impression that she wanted to be with them and to hear their stories, talk about their problems and give them hope.
A simple, fun-loving person, there are many stories underlining this little-known facet of her character – barbecuing sausages outside in the countryside, cracking jokes about getting old, taking a photograph of American tourists who asked her to take one of them with a Scottish Highlander, and then allowing the tourists to take a photo with her, without them realising she was the Queen and without telling them who she was. They found out when they got home and showed the photographs to their friends.
Details of The Queen’s life are readily available on the Internet but the message I want to convey here is that she was a hands-on monarch who cared sincerely for the nations and peoples of whom she was Head of State. She had a tremendous social preoccupation, something she spoke about regularly with her 15 Prime Ministers, starting with Churchill and was very concerned about the well-being of the most needy.
The social work she performed over the years, along with the other members of the Royal Family, is unmeasurable: she was patron of over 600 charities in the UK and Commonwealth, providing them with a voice and with support.
Most people do not become public figures and those that do find it difficult to maintain a positive image for more than a few years. Despite working tirelessly for over seven decades, The Queen has an unblemished public image, never failing in her duties as Head of State and as secular Head of the Anglican Church, one of the fastest-growing in the world.
The fact that we can simply say The Queen, and everyone knows who we are talking about, is a fitting epitaph for this remarkable lady. They don’t make them like that any more! Queen Elizabeth II, The Queen, a worldwide treasure and an example for all of us to follow.
Timothy Bancroft-Hinchey can be reached at [email protected]