God save the Queen
For the majority of all humans alive on planet Earth for the entirety of their lives Elizabeth II has been queen.
Harry Truman was president when 25-year old Elizabeth learned of the death of her father, George VI. Since that moment in 1952, Elizabeth has asked 15 prime ministers to form a government in her name. She has seen 14 U.S. presidencies and six Roman Catholic papacies.
Prior to Elizabeth’s 16th birthday, she had little thought of ever being queen. But for the much frowned upon desire of her uncle, King Edward VIII, to marry a divorced American commoner named Wallis Simpson, and his resulting abdication of the throne less than a year after his ascent, Elizabeth’s father would never have been king. Consequently, Elizabeth would never have been queen.
The world would have been the poorer.
Kings, queens, premieres, prime ministers and presidents are all human. They bring with them to their offices all of the sinfulness, foibles and imperfections that are an inescapable part of being human.
The latter part of the 20th century and all the 21st century have served to numb us to the excesses of the leadership and ruling classes. We have come to all but expect the philandering, self-dealing and outright corruption that too often overshadows what good our leaders might be doing while holding office.
Which is what makes the reign of Queen Elizabeth so remarkable.
For seven decades Elizabeth executed the duties of her office with uncommon grace and dignity. For seven decades, the people of the United Kingdom never had to worry about financial impropriety or improper self-dealing. For most of the past 20 years, Elizabeth has managed to actually reduce the cost to the British people for maintaining and protecting the royal household. There are many anecdotes of Her Majesty walking through Buckingham Palace personally turning off lights.
I have lost count of the number of times I have visited London. Every time I’m there I am reminded of just how much we inherited from England that is good. From English common law that informs our present-day legal system to our table manners to the very language that we speak (which is, perhaps, our greatest inheritance), absent our English heritage, it is doubtful that the United States would have ever become the wealthiest, most powerful nation on Earth. And it equally doubtful that in the absence of that inheritance, such a nation would have been so restrained in the use of that power and so magnanimous in its stewardship of that wealth.
For those reasons and more, every time I am in the U.K. I say to myself, “There must always be an England.”
For my entire life there has been Queen Elizabeth. The enormity of her title and the length of her reign imposed upon her an enormous burden – a burden that she bore with enormous good grace.
I pray that she is at last unburdened and enjoying the restful peace that she deserves.
God save the Queen.