EDITORIAL: A Life of Service

Screen capture from GB Newsday live feed

I got the news over lunch at work, directly from the BBC website, that Queen Elizabeth II passed away. It is truly the end of an era.

I had known from the very first reports this morning, that this was possible, of course. However, it seems almost unreal to me that, a mere two days earlier, she was standing in Balmoral castle in Scotland, welcoming her fifteenth U.K. prime minister.

The BBC reported:

Queen Elizabeth II’s tenure as head of state spanned post-war austerity, the transition from empire to Commonwealth, the end of the Cold War and the U.K.’s entry into – and withdrawal from – the European Union.

Her reign spanned 15 prime ministers starting with Winston Churchill, born in 1874, and including Liz Truss, born 101 years later in 1975, and appointed by the Queen earlier this week.

She held weekly audiences with her prime minister throughout her reign.

She made a famous promise in 1947 that her life would be spent in service to her nation and the Commonwealth, and she kept that vow until her dying day. She was not born to be queen; it was the unexpected abdication of her uncle David that jerked her family into the limelight, and she never really spent another day out of the spotlight. She served with honour and dignity, and never publicly complained.

“There is a motto which has been borne by many of my ancestors—a noble motto, ‘I serve'” (image from The Globe and Mail website)
“…I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.” (image from The Globe and Mail website)

The Globe and Mail (which dubs itself “Canada’s national newspaper”) reports on her tireless work ethic:

Throughout her reign, the Queen spent an average of three hours a day “doing the boxes,” which meant reading the official documents sent to her by various government and state offices. She also met weekly with the British prime minister when Parliament was sitting. She knew better than anybody the progress of public affairs and how individual prime ministers had responded to particular situations and crises.

“Anyone who imagines that [these meetings] are a mere formality or confined to social niceties is quite wrong; they are quietly businesslike and Her Majesty brings to bear a formidable grasp of current issues and breadth of experience,” former prime minister Margaret Thatcher wrote in her memoirs. Those views were echoed by the late Canadian prime minister Pierre Trudeau, who wrote in his memoirs that he “was always impressed not only by the grace she displayed in public at all times, but the wisdom she showed in private conversation.”

Queen Elizabeth II’s life is a model of service and attention to duty. We shall not see her like again, I fear.

The Queen is dead—long live the King!