The Malta Independent 26 November 2022, Saturday
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She is no more

Mark Said Sunday, 2 October 2022, 06:59 Last update: about 3 months ago

They called us the Queen Elizabeth II generation. Teenagers and 20-somethings, we were too young to have known or remembered any monarch but this woman on the British throne. And what a woman! No one would have wished it to happen. Yet it was bound to happen, sooner or later. Queen Elizabeth’s demise provoked a global unitary reaction that inevitably makes one look back on her achievements, charisma and vicissitudes that will forever enrich the annals of world history.

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Undeniably, there was genuine grief and bereavement all over the world. Not only, but world leaders, who are ideologically pitted against each other, were remarkably united in their outpouring of grief and sadness on the Queen’s passing away. Her more than 70 years of royal reign was constantly a source of inspiration and emulation for many. She was able to be a role model along the likes of other historical icons such as Martin Luther King Junior, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill and John Kennedy. She will go down in history as one full of memorable fashion moments and iconic feminist moves. There is so much to remember about her and there is still more to learn, too. She was well travelled as much as the late iconic Pope and Saint John Paul II. She visited over 100 countries, including Canada 22 times and France 13 times.

Sovereign, gracious and majestic in her public appearances, she was at other times as ordinary as each one of us can be. Given that she was more often associated with the Crown Jewels than a pair of marigolds, you might be surprised to find out that on many occasions, she actually washed her own dishes. While she led a life made up of privileges, she also had a life full of sacrifices, and even those who resented the former acknowledged the latter. Striking a balance between publicity and mystery was a defining characteristic of Elizabeth’s reign and it was the key to her success in maintaining the stability of the monarchy. No wonder she drew the admiration of millions around the world. During her televised coronation, the sight of the youthful sovereign soberly entering what was to be seven decades of service helped inspire what became a most enduring personal respect and affection for her among the populace she nominally headed.

She was not born to be a queen, but she was wont to pass away as queen. Having outlived everyone who officiated at her coronation, she herself became an institution, quite apart from the institution that she headed. She will be mourned even by those who think of themselves as having little time for the monarchy, simply because she has always been there, her stature hymned in the national anthem, her face thumbed on every stamp and coin in every British pocket.

She was infinitely familiar, and yet in so many ways unknown. Her manner of speaking was indelible, her accent one of such rarified antiquity that it surely dies with her yet will not. But for such a prominent public personage she leaves behind remarkably few memorable words, so careful was she with avoiding the off-the-cuff remark, and so sparing was she with her public voice. On many of her public occasions, before she bequeathed her reign, her words provided comfort in themselves, because they were delivered with an authority that was derived not from the mystique of monarchy but from experience. She was by then not just a queen but something more, a very old person who had lived a long time and seen a great deal, who commanded respect by the random chance of fortune but to whom respect was also granted because, having borne the weight of the crown for all those years, she had earned it.

She will be remembered as one of the world’s most recognizable faces. She also marked a first in British military history. Before taking the throne over from her father, then Princess Elizabeth volunteered as a truck driver and mechanic during World War II, making her the first female member of the Royal Family to serve in the military. She was also a model mother who knew how to make sacrifices in the best interests of the royal family, was entirely and lovingly devoted to her offspring and never neglected her maternal duties.

At the same time, her long, distinguished reign was marked by her strong sense of duty and determination to dedicate her life to her throne and her people. She became for many the one constant point in a rapidly changing world as British influence declined, society changed beyond recognition and the role of the monarchy itself came into question. That an aged, frail and old woman in London should command such respect and devotion around the world is truly amazing. Her charismatic presence, her vibrant personality and her energetic spirit were qualities that help us understand the incredible appeal that she held for the common people of whatever nationality, religion or ideological orientation. Her courage and charisma enhanced the effective role of the British monarchy in world affairs. In good times and bad, she never lost her capacity to smile and laugh, nor to inspire others with her warmth and kindness.

King Charles III has now succeeded her and we wish his majesty well. Yet for a long time to come, especially in the case of we Maltese, Queen Elizabeth II’s memory will remain ingrained in our hearts and many will find it very difficult to stop associating the playing of the English national anthem with her person. I dare add that Elizabeth was one of us, close to being a family member in most local households. She had a special affection and association with our little country and we relished those years when she was our Head of State. She definitely merited the quality of gracious as it used to be sung in the national anthem and her demeanour was as majestic as ever. Her image will remain indelible in our minds.

 

Dr Mark Said is an advocate

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