The news this week has been rightly dominated by the death of Queen Elizabeth. She, as you all know, had reigned for an astounding 70+ years as the Queen of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth realms. In that time she was a symbol of selfless governance to some, something less so to others who questioned why there need be a monarchy at all.
America has always had a love/hate/indifference relationship with the British Monarchy. We tell ourselves that we, after all, fought a war to get out from under the thumb of a monarch and set up a system of government that (so far at least) has kept us a democracy. After the death in harness of FDR it was made law that no matter how popular a president is, two terms and you’re out. Yet we are endlessly fascinated and invested in the Monarchy: the nation was just as enthralled as anyone in the Empire when the King said “No Thanks” to the crown to wed his American divorcee Wallis Simpson, paving the way for Elizabeth’s long reign. We stayed up until all hours of the morning to watch Charles wed Diana, and mourned her death with if not equal fervor to her countrymen, close. Even today, President Biden could hold a press conference letting us finally know that yes, aliens were discovered in Area 51, have been living on Earth for the past years and are here now in the forms of Chris Carter and Ryan Murphy producing some of our favorite TV shows, but Oprah interviewing Megan and Harry is the show that will get the prime-time slot. Not to mention the ratings.
What we forget is how modern and even “feminist” the Queen was. She grew up in London during the war and when Buckingham Palace was bombed she was quoted as being “glad” because “Now we can look the East End in the eye.” (EDIT- thank you ScentSpirit for pointing out that it was actually the first Queen Elizabeth (Elizabeth II’s mother) who said that. My bad.) She became a mechanic in the Army, and was known to drive her own vehicles and diagnose, if not fix, breakdowns, if “The Queen” is to be believed. She made the choice to live her life in a way that put duty and country first, ahead of family and their (and her) needs and wants. Whether it was right for her, her family, or her country is, I suppose, open to debate. But it was her decision to make and made it she did. In this day of thirst-trap celebs, “real” housewives, and Tik-Tok tacky “influencers” I think that legacy should be noted.
I’m wearing Penhaligon Castille, just because.
God Save the King.