I was saddened to read of the death of Great Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II. A young woman when she ascended the throne in 1952, she reigned for 70 years, presiding over her country from the dawn of the Cold War, in the aftermath of World War II, to the internet age. Her astonishing longevity was historic and is best reflected (for Americans, at least) in the realization that Harry Truman was President when Queen Elizabeth took the throne–one of 14 Presidents who served during her reign. As Queen, she worked with countless British Prime Ministers, including notable historical figures like Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher. And along the way, the Beatles wrote and performed a catchy little song about her. Obviously, Elizabeth was a monarch who left her mark.
I’m no fan of the British royal family, and I don’t understand why some Americans are fixated on their weddings, christenings, dalliances, and disputes. Nevertheless, I admired Queen Elizabeth. She did her job diligently, with class and attention to her duties as queen. I always thought her stiff-upper-lip, do-your-duty, get-the-job-done attitude aptly reflected the character of her country. She accepted her role and honored it with her efforts, her discretion, and her innate understanding of what it meant to be queen.
You never had to worry about Queen Elizabeth writing a tell-all book, engaging in public shenanigans, or doing anything remotely disreputable–but unfortunately for her, you couldn’t say the same thing about her family. In addition to her royal duties, she had to deal with an often fractious clan and tried to keep some of its members from embarrassing themselves and the country. It had to create more than its share of heartache and personal pain for her, but I’m quite sure that many Britons applauded her efforts in that regard.
Monarchies are an anachronism in this day and age, and it must have been difficult and exhausting to keep that anachronism afloat during ever-changing, turbulent times. Elizabeth II was a steady hand at the helm and piloted the institution well. It will be interesting to see whether King Charles, who ascends the throne at the ripe age of 73, will exhibit the same kind of tact and sensitivity.