Queen Elizabeth accepted limitations, dedicated her life to being the Queen
Queen Elizabeth II’s death marks the end of an era not just for the people of Great Britain but also for the people of the Commonwealth and indeed the whole world bearing in mind the standards she stood for and the values she upheld. She broke the record for the longest reigning monarch and the oldest queen. She made 247 Commonwealth visits.
I particularly remember the 1997 visit to India which was by no means a wholesale success — but the queen bore all the criticism generated by this in silence.
I remember being given a holiday at my prep school on the day she married Phillip, Duke of Edinburgh back in the 1940s and I spent the day at the lordly house of a feudal Sir Westrow Hulse, who gave us a glass of sherry although this was not approved by our headmaster.
Then came the magnificent Coronation ceremony. I took that much more seriously spending the night on the pavement of London’s Trafalgar Square with my younger sister waiting to watch the Coronation procession pass by. I was particularly impressed by the pipes and drums of the Gurkhas and by the splendid figure of the Queen Sālote of Tonga.
I never thought that I would be over 80 when the woman about to be crowned would die. For royalists like me, she represented all that we believe a constitutional monarch should represent. She stood for dignity, honour, and for what mattered in the past and the future. The Queen treasured tradition but was not an obscurantist. She had a passion for nature and animals, especially horses and dogs.
She was a family person and dealt with the problems her children presented to her in a dignified manner. Whatever her views about her children’s marital difficulties, she continued to do her duties without commenting on the family problems. The unity of Great Britain, including Northern Ireland and Scotland, was vital for her. At the same time, she was head of the Church of England and as an Anglican took her global religious responsibilities very seriously. As the BBC has said, she “was at heart a very strong and unpretentious woman. No vain glory for her.”
The Queen is succeeded by her son Charles, who holds the record of the longest King in waiting. He has waited to take over the reins of office. Unlike the queen, he is not a notably patient man and has frequently spoken when he approves or indeed disapproves of events and ideas.
This has led him into public arguments which the Queen has scrupulously avoided. His divorce from the enormously popular Diana and marriage to Camilla involved him in ugly controversies with the press. But he has ridden through that and will now probably take over from the queen reasonably smoothly. But there will be opposition to him.
There are no political parties that are anti-royalist. But there are those who do not approve of monarchy and prefer Republicanism with the head of state chosen by politicians, as India does. The very recent celebrations of Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee demonstrated her popularity and the popularity of the monarchy.
However, there could be questions about the wealth of the monarchy and its cost to the nation. There is also the problem of Scottish nationalism. If, and it is a very big if, Scotland is to become independent, will Charles be able to reign over both countries or will he be reduced to just the King of England and Wales and possibly Northern Ireland?
One of the keys to Queen Elizabeth’s success has been her refusal to get directly involved in politics. She has met on a weekly basis Prime Ministers from Winston Churchill to Liz Truss, who she met only the day before she died. We know little or nothing about what she said to them but it is very difficult to believe that a woman of her strength would simply sit and listen to a record of political events. She would certainly want to, at least, make suggestions.
There is no record of her taking sides, however. The relationship between Charles and his Prime Ministers may not be quite so free of public controversy because of the man he is. But I believe that much as we will miss the queen, Charles will survive as King provided he remembers in all he does that he is the King of Great Britain and has to accept the limitations that impose on him just as Elizabeth dedicated her life to being the Queen..