At the age of 10, Princess Elizabeth’s entire life and the future of the monarchy changed dramatically.
King Edward VIII, madly in love with twice-divorced American Wallis Simpson, shocked the world with his decision to abdicate instead of accepting that they could not marry.
At this point, Elizabeth’s father, the Duke of York, very reluctantly became King George VI, and his eldest daughter became the unexpected new heir to the throne.
Of course, most members of the royal family don’t “choose” a job (unless they marry family members), they are born into it. But the landscape from the outer wings of the line of succession to the highest post is barely recognizable as the same view.
The bottom line is that here is a queen who was not only unwittingly born for this role, but also unwittingly involved in a work with full dedication and duty, on which she worked until two days before her death.
This week in the United Kingdom, where the streets are deeply saturated with reverent mourning, her 70 years of loyalty to her subjects was reflected on the faces of millions of Britons of all ages and from all walks of life.
And in their tribute to the queen, the same words and phrases are heard over and over again. Here is an example:
“She was so consistent – she provided confidence in her demeanor,” Tonya, 41, told news.com.au outside Buckingham Palace.
“She was the best part of our country, she meant everything – she was consistent,” said Mike, 49, from Bristol, in the southwest of England.
“She was always there, she was consistent. She has always been a constant presence in my life,” explained Ian, 68, from north London.
“She was warm, loving and always present,” said 39-year-old Haley from Essex.
“She was always here, she was dignified, so constant,” said Ian, 53, from Somerset.
“She’s seen a lot of change and has always been there, we won’t see another like her,” said Jill, 50, from Romford, east London.
“She never let us down,” added George, 39, from Newcastle, in the northeast of England.
“Constant”. “Consistent”. “Stable”. The words were repeated over and over.
This was a queen who witnessed tremendous social change in her seven decades on the throne, and her final years were marked by extremely tumultuous circumstances, including the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit.
Prior to that, she was head of state in the post-war economy, the transition from empire to the Commonwealth, and the end of the Cold War.
Never abandoning her position as the stable, dedicated head of state on whom the public had come to rely, she even reformed the monarchy for a less respectful period after the 1960s, introducing walks and proposing a more “accessible” style of royalty. .
She was a constant in an ever-changing world, and after her death, it became clear that this is now her legacy.
So what’s next?
Sure, the newly minted King Charles III had a very rough start in his quest for “stability” (Wales’ War still stings), but to be fair, he’s dedicated the last 20+ years to turning things around.
Prince William has a reputation for being calm and responsible, and you’d be hard-pressed to find his criticism in the crowds on the streets of London.
His brother? The truth is, we rarely know what to expect from Prince Harry on a day-to-day basis – and it’s this inconsistency that often makes him fall out of favor with the public that once adored him.
His decision to remove himself and wife Meghan Markle from the royal family in favor of living as “private citizens” to protect their mental health is admired, and he receives full praise for putting his family’s well-being above all else.
End of story? Not really.
And here we are, less than two years later, eagerly (or, in Palace’s case, anxiously) waiting for the release of his candid memoir and documentary about the couple on Netflix.
We have every reason to expect big announcements and royal headaches to follow – Oprah’s infamous early 2021 interview in which he and Meghan laid bare all the grievances they had with his family and threw open the doors (literally) to their new one. presumably a private Montecito mansion.
And he couldn’t make it clear that he and Meghan aren’t interested in being involved with the royal family and that they’re better off without them now.
Again, this is entirely his prerogative, and most of them may be due to family dysfunction.
But that makes Meghan’s comment about her outing with Harry, Prince William and Kate Middleton on Saturday at Windsor as they greeted the mourners even more confusing.
“Thank you for being here, it means so much to the family, we appreciate it, thank you,” she told a member of the public who expressed condolences on the Queen’s death.
It seems innocuous enough, but on closer inspection, it doesn’t fit at all with the pair’s extremely public severing of ties with Harry’s family.
Are they in “family” and part of “we” after all, or not?
The gates of Buckingham Palace may look gleaming from the outside, but inside lives a family of people who have spent their lives performing public duties and subjecting them to extreme scrutiny – a role that is not to be envied.
But in a world where there is suffering, pain, loss and chaos that we cannot control, we look to those who can lend a firm hand to guide us through difficulties.
This is, in fact, the real goal of the royal family.
The Queen, who never accepted her role, did so with an unwavering grace and consistency that we will never see again in a public figure.
And those who have been able to personally learn from her should begin to put these lessons into practice.