“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.”
So spoke the young Princess Elizabeth on her 21st birthday.
Seventy-five years later, we can reflect that her life was long and her service devoted. And now that bastion of Britain & her Commonwealth has passed on. It is not without sadness that many now come to terms with the end of this second Elizabethan age.
Few who have worn a crown have worn it with such grace and fortitude; only one other in history has worn it for so long—the Sun King, King Louis XIV, reigned seventy-two years, ascending the throne at just four years old.
Elizabeth, who became Queen when Winston Churchill was still Prime Minister of Britain, was stalwart, unwavering in times of crisis, and a credit at all times to her country. No matter the era or issue, Her Majesty always managed to remind us that cooler heads prevail, and that no matter how bleak things may seem, there is always hope around the corner.
She showed the world how to lead quietly and justly. Her faith, which she so often spoke of, was integral to how she led. She was quick to listen and slow to anger, giving ear to the plights of no less than fifteen different Prime Ministers during her seventy years on the throne.
Both as a young woman and later in life, she spent a great deal of time in Canada, her most remarkable visit being in 1982 when the country’s Constitution was repatriated with much pomp and ceremony.
It seems in one way that she has seen us through it all. She was the first royal woman to have served full time in the armed forces when, as a princess, she volunteered with the women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service during WWII. She was Queen during both the Suez and Falkland Islands crises, as well as throughout several tumultuous economic periods. Most recently, she stood resolute as the first global pandemic in a hundred years gripped the world.
Through it all, one thing remained. Queen Elizabeth the Second still reigned. Most of us know no other monarch; her constant presence was a thing to take for granted. For many, until September the eighth, it was hard to imagine a world without her.
As of today, Canada has a king for the first time since the Second World War. King Charles III has had a lifetime to watch and learn from his mother on how to lead with humility and dignity.
Canada’s newest citizens have already sworn oaths of allegiance to His Majesty the King, and many traditions which have long been defined by their relation to the crown will soon be marked by the King’s name.
The world will mourn the loss of one of its greatest ever leaders. An historic figure if ever there was one.
Long she reigned over us. Now long live the King.
“May children of our children say, ‘She wrought her people lasting good.’” Lord Tennyson
Danny Randell writes about history and the vintage lifestyle for Alberta Prime Times