Queen Elizabeth II
April 21, 1926 – September 8, 2022
Along with countless others, I have found myself taken aback by how much I have felt at the strength of my response on hearing the news of the death of Queen Elizabeth II.
This is partly down to the significance of the ending of the second Elizabethan era. There was a comfort to be derived from constancy. The future seems less secure in so many different ways. The last day has also been an opportunity to reflect on how much my Queen had directly influenced how I think and act.
I set eyes on the Queen four times, three were very transitory as part of a large crowd celebrating significant milestone events. However, in 1985 as a graduating cadet at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, at a ceremony called ‘Passing Out’, I had the chance to interact a little more directly. My first recollection was how small she was. As she inspected the ranks of officer cadets who stood rigidly to attention, she stopped directly in front of me to ask, “What university are you from?” No one was quite sure who she was speaking to, so a whole range of answers – Edinburgh, Oxford, Bristol – were blurted out from the ranks. The confusion seemed to amuse her greatly. The senior officer scowled menacingly in the background.
Later in proceedings I was privileged to be selected to sit opposite the Queen at the formal luncheon that followed. Despite hours of rehearsal to respond to any questions with “Ma’am” – to rhyme with spam, at the end of lunch, Second Lieutenant 519146 Turner breaking all protocol said, “It was lovely to meet you Your Highness.” Once again breach of protocol seemed to amuse the Queen but caused obvious distress amongst the entourage of senior officials.
So, what is it that the Queen has meant to me?
- Constancy in an era of extraordinary change.
- If politicians have the unenviable task of commissioning policies that can divide, the Queen had an innate empathy that allowed her to unite the many disparate people that she met. Diversity and unity are two sides of the same coin.
- I have always been hugely supportive of female emancipation. For me, the Queen has been the strongest leader and international role model bar none. I have been fortunate to have been surrounded by strong female leaders. She ruled, no question.
- In a world increasingly demanding of instant gratification and short-term gains, the Queen represented a philosophy of ‘hold steady, hold the course.’
- Service and self-sacrifice are sometimes unfashionable concepts. Today we hear a lot about ‘me’ and ‘now’. The Queen made a promise, kept a promise, and delivered on it; the embodiment of the principle of servant leadership.
- In later years as a diminutive and ailing senior, her charisma seemed to grow. It really is not about size and power. In many ways she was the antidote to profile-hungry celebrity.
- Today we are sometimes encouraged by our advisors to give more and more information, much of it irrelevant and unnecessary. ‘Never complain…never explain’ is a concept not in vogue but certainly served her well.
- As a great grandmother, grandmother and mother, on a family level the Queen was a redoubtable matriarch. Crises come and crises go, but strong foundations allowed her to weather many a storm.
So, I will certainly mourn her passing. She has been the backdrop to my entire life and I extend my condolences to her family.
Although there will no doubt be much discussion as to the future, it is interesting to note that by historical standards this succession of sovereignty looks set to be much calmer than many others. I hope so.
I will probably shed a tear at the state funeral, very un-British, but I will be forever thankful that my six decades have been influenced by a lady whom I have admired and respected. As the fever of life is over, may flights of angels sing her to her rest.
God save the King.