The impossible has happened. An Alp has vanished. A planet has been knocked from its orbit. The Earth has stopped spinning … or so it seems.
I’m talking about the death of Queen Elizabeth II. Yes, she was old, age 96. Yes, she was flesh and bone. Yes, she had lived an amazing life. Yes, yes, yes. But still, it seemed she would always be around, like the white cliffs of Dover, Stonehenge or the River Thames — her heartbeat marking the minutes, the hours, the years, the decades, forever and ever.
I’ve never really been into “the royals.” I didn’t much care what they did or said. That goes for Charles, Diana, Camilla, Andrew, Fergie, Meghan, Harry, William, Kate and all the rest. In many ways, they seemed to me to be overly privileged, overly pampered, undeserving of all the expense and attention. I have a feeling that you could take a dozen babies from any day care, give them the same advantages, and they’d probably out-shine that bunch.
Queen Elizabeth was different. Born in 1926, she always enjoyed great privilege, too. While much of the British people knew only coal mines, mill work and miserable slums, she knew only tutors, servants, mansions, horses, limousines and adoring fans. Hail, Britannia!
But she also knew her share of hard knocks and real terror. Her father became king after his brother shocked the world by abandoning the throne to marry an American. The young Elizabeth knew the horrors of World War II, as the Nazis firebombed London and other English cities. Like everyone else, she lived through the threat of a German invasion, unimaginable bloodshed and searing loss. She became queen after her father died in 1952. She was only 25 and wore the crown for a record 70 years. She saw the British Empire crumble as colonies gained their independence.
Late in life, she was older than nearly all of her subjects. The vast majority had known only Elizabeth as their queen. How strange it must have been for them to talk about the new King Charles, and to hear “God save the king!” for the first time in seven decades.
Imagine, too, becoming queen for life, and having all of your family’s scandals, affairs and dumb remarks featured in newspapers, magazines and on TV almost daily. Imagine them being in the public eye constantly, followed around, spied upon, photographed and publicly judged. Imagine being called upon to attend an endless parade of banquets, receptions, funerals, ribbon-cuttings, dedications and cornerstone settings, plus religious, military and political events. Imagine being the face and symbol of a nation experiencing great change, yet one expecting you to maintain the traditions and rituals of a bygone age.
This is the life that Elizabeth II lived with grace, charm and an antique sense of duty. May she rest in peace. Surely, God saved the queen.