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A World Without Elizabeth Windsor

I am not a subject of the United Kingdom. I am not an Anglophile. I am not even slightly obsessed with the British monarchy.

But I have always been a fan of Queen Elizabeth II.

I’m sure that for every point of admiration I have for her there will be others to condemn or counter them. Being a queen isn’t a popular job, coveted often…but not popular. Especially in the time that Elizabeth reigned, as the culture shifted around the monarchy, and it, in its own way, tried to evolve along with it.

Elizabeth’s view that she, as Queen, served her people and her kingdom and not the other way around, was a level of civic responsibility often missing among those that have stepped into the roles of civil servants…particularly here in America. She accepted and honored her duty, and expected no less from those privileged to be bestowed similar roles…particularly those who were simply birthed into them.

She was practical and efficient, self-sufficient and hands-on. She did not expect others to do for her what she could do for herself, and while she could have easily used her role to lift nary a finger, she was one to roll up her sleeves and get things done.

She was a globalist, and in the face of her shrinking empire, she still championed multi-culturalism and encouraged inclusion. In doing so she clashed with heads of state, even in her own, but she was not willing to sacrifice her sense of morality.

She was an icon. From her matched sets and signature pearls, to her practical shoes and perennial handbags, Lilabet set a standard of confidence in fashion - she knew what she liked and she wore it, regardless of the countless trends that came and went over her 96 years. Not to be forgotten, and just as much a part of her image, her beloved Corgis, whom she stopped breeding in the 90s so as to be sure she was able to care for them as long as possible and not leave the care of them to someone else.

Was she perfect? Of course not. Was she human? Very much so. Even though famous for her stiff upper lip, that stoicism served a purpose…both personally, and on behalf of a nation. The world shattered often, and through it all, she persevered, like a beacon of hope, in a way, through many a dark night.

I’ve always felt a bit sad though for her children, Charles, Andrew, Anne, and Edward. They, through no fault of their own, had to share their mother with the world. The absence of the deep bond between a mother and child is apparent among them all, and was an unfortunate byproduct of a woman fiercely dedicated to the role into which she was cast, mostly unprepared. I think some of the tension between Elizabeth and Diana was from this, as Diana managed to, at least to the public, be a more doting mother than Elizabeth ever could…though perhaps she wanted to be. But then again, Diana never had the mantle of Queen resting on her shoulders.

Diana did things that the Queen simply could not. She had a freedom that was beyond Elizabeth’s reach. Elizabeth was staunch in her commitment to her role as sovereign and the constraints that came along with it. It would not be beyond reason to consider this angle; the bird in the cage, though gilded, resentful of the one that can fly.

“Grief is the price we pay for love,” she said in a speech following the attacks on the United States on 9/11, in a message of condolences to the families who lost loved ones, and then again with the passing of her husband, Prince Philip. Indeed, Your Royal Highness, a high price, indeed.

What will the world be like without her? I’ve never lived in one, so this will be different for so many of us. Will any of her family step up in character and duty? Hopefully. In a practical sense, our lives will go on as usual, of course, but our global stories will be a bit dimmer for a while until another leader on the world stage steps into her shoes to shine steadfastly on.

Rest In Peace, Elizabeth. Your duty is done. May we all dig in a little harder, roll up our sleeves more often, and do for ourselves what we can to unburden others in your memory.

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