The last great Queen

Quite clearly, the British monarchy will never be the same – and we may well end up remembering Elizabeth and the last great Queen.
Queen Elizabeth II
Queen Elizabeth IIAP

NEW DELHI: The sense of grief and loss over Queen Elizabeth’s death, in Britain and some other parts of the world, owes to a variety of factors.

The most obvious one was the fact that she was the United Kingdom’s longest serving monarch, Queen to many generations of people since she was crowned in 1952.

Queen Elizabeth II
Queen Elizabeth's coffin leaves Balmoral Castle

As Queen, she always retained a sense of propriety and dignity, navigating the vast changes in the economic and cultural landscape of her country, and indeed the world, and maintaining an admirable balance between the modern and the traditional.

She was always pragmatic enough to understand that her position as well as that of her family rested on constitutional foundations.

Ruling at a time when republican values are enshrined and when royalty evokes memories of a controversial imperial past was never going to be easy.

But Queen Elizabeth, with her smiling visage and her wry humour, managed to inject a sense of vitality into a conservative institution that risks being ossified and is set in its not-so-transparent ways.

Queen Elizabeth II
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At the same time, she managed to keep her composure and ipso facto a certain distance as the controversies swirled around her family. Her husband’s indiscretions with the tongue was a trifling issue compared to the estrangement of Princess Diana and her eventual tragic death in a car accident in France.

More recently, the palace was rocked over alleged sexual transgressions of Prince Andrew and was placed under considerable scrutiny after Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle left Britain for America amidst a welter of allegations.

As a constitutional monarch, she wielded no power. But she did provide Britons with what arguably many nationalities need or indeed crave for – a sense of identity.

Queen Elizabeth II
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Somewhere, at the back of their minds, she seemed like a permanent presence in their lives. Her successor and son, Prince Charles, will find it difficult to fill her shoes.

It is doubtful whether he or anyone that succeeds him will earn the same degree of affection and respect that Queen Elizabeth did.

As for Prince Charles, he will come to the throne at the age of 73, as a figure that the British public is already familiar with. His troubled marriage to Princess Diana was at least partly a result of his continuing relationship with Camilla Parker Bowles, now Duchess of Cornwall and his wife.

The Duchess will be Queen Consort (and not Queen), the kind of fastidious distinction that is made when it comes to royalty and titles in Britain.

As King, he would do well to remember that the royalty in Britain doesn’t command the same following, even in the Commonwealth, as it did before.

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Earlier this year, Barbados de-recognised the Queen as Head of State. And in Australia, the old debate about the relevance of having a British Queen or King as the symbolic ruler of a country many thousands of miles of way continues to flare up every now and then.

Quite clearly, the British monarchy will never be the same – and we may well end up remembering Elizabeth and the last great Queen.

Queen Elizabeth II
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