Farewell Our Dear Queen
There have already been thousands if not hundreds of thousands of words spoken and written about the life and death of our very dear Queen, Elizabeth...
I had already written my blog for this week, but it felt wrong not to add some of my own words to acknowledge the passing of a woman who has rightly been described as renowned and revered throughout the world. Her loss feels intensely personal just as though a much loved family member has died, whilst simultaneously being a loss which has been greeted with an outpouring of sadness across the globe.
My earliest and most vivid memory as a five year old was watching the pomp and circumstance of her coronation, which means that many in our generation, uniquely, were there to bear witness to her accession to the throne.
Because I was a very young child I had no understanding of the heavy weight, not just of the crown placed on her head on that day, but also of the burden of her duty to serve. Before her father died in 1952, this young woman had enjoyed five brief years of (relatively) normal married life during which she gave birth to two children. Then, long before she must have hoped it would happen, she became Queen and from that moment her life was not her own. I have tried but utterly failed to imagine what that must have been like. What we do know is that for seventy years she accepted her role as our Head of State with grace, dignity and stoicism. In our age of celebrity these qualities are rarely seen in public figures, and are even viewed by some as both old-fashioned and outdated.
All this talk of duty and honour makes the Queen sound rather dull, dour and boring. But she clearly had a great sense of humour and of the ridiculous. When we hosted the world at the Olympics in London in 2012, the Queen was shown walking the corridors of Buckingham Palace apparently summoned to open the Games by James Bond before seeming to arrive via a parachute from a helicopter. You can see the film which was shown at the ceremony here . Apparently no-one, not even her closest family, had any idea that she was going to make her appearance in that way. The second was during the Platinum Jubilee celebrations in June this year. This time the Queen was filmed with another iconic character, Paddington Bear. The film of Her Majesty apparently taking tea with Paddington is delightful and the whole thing is full of mischief and fun, watch it here.
Amongst the hundreds of thousands of photographs of her reign, two have recently snagged in my brain. The first is the one of her sitting alone in a pew in St George’s Chapel, Windsor at the funeral for her husband, Prince Philip. Covid regulations meant that she had to sit entirely alone. She looks small, diminished and frozen in grief. It is a deeply sad image of a woman (rather than a Queen) who has lost the husband who had been her mainstay for more than seventy years.
And there was a final official image from Tuesday this week, just 48 hours before she died. This one shows her wearing a kilt, hair and makeup immaculate as always, and smiling the sweetest smile as she asks Liz Truss to form a new government. I find this photograph enormously poignant and strangely consoling. Yes, the Queen looks tiny, frail and anything but robust, but her eyes are bright and she looks happy rather than sad and ill. Dutiful to the end, she had just completed her final act as our Head of State.
So farewell Dear Queen Elizabeth. May you Rest In Peace. I suspect that you may have been ready to leave the stage that you have occupied in such a graceful and dignified way for seventy years. I am so glad that you were able to celebrate your Platinum Jubilee which gave all of us an opportunity to acknowledge our enormous debt of gratitude to you. So, in the words of Paddington Bear: “Thank you for everything, Ma’am”. You will be sorely missed.