The Queen is Dead, God Save England
I’ll try not to step on anyone’s toes here, because I have some very dear and close friends who are English and I am well aware that Queen Elizabeth was queen of the entire British Empire. But I speak for England.
As an11 year old, then Princess Elizabeth had watched as her father, King George VI, was crowned in an elaborate ceremony. No doubt, along with an immense sense of pride, she felt had pretty much a lifetime to live before any such load would fall on her slender shoulders. Yet a mere sixteen years later, in 1952, King George died quietly in his sleep and she became queen at the tender age of twenty-seven.
Timing, in the lives of both queens and commoners, is worryingly unpredictable.
I remember the pomp and circumstance of that event in the British Monarchy as a young man ten years her junior. Somehow I connect that grand event with my own far less grand circumstances of the moment, polishing my first car, a 1948 Chrysler convertible. Isn’t it amazing that two such diverse hearts can swell equally with pride under such varied circumstances 5,000 miles distant?
It has been said that the queen was crowned in a different country
And that’s true enough I guess, as the post-war British Empire was destined to become less empire and more British with every decade of her reign. Looking at America today I can absolutely attest to the fact that I was born in a different country. The circumstances of nations is worryingly unpredictable as well.
The British Empire at its peak was composed of the dominions, colonies, protectorates, mandates, and other territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom and its predecessor states. At its height it was the largest empire in the history of the world and, for over a century, its foremost global power.
The empire once held sway over 23% of the world population and 24% of the Earth's total land area. As a result, its constitutional, legal, linguistic, and cultural legacy is widespread, most evidently in America, Canada and Australia. At the peak of its power, it was described as "the empire upon which the sun never sets", as the sun always shone on at least one of its territories.
For the most part, that was the empire Queen Elizabeth III inherited and it became a far different empire during her time as monarch
America was the first to leave the British Empire (unless you count Rhode Island) and succeeded largely because of its two enormous protective oceans. But our founders were, for the most part, English landed gentry and that stamp remains on us to this day. Who was Carnegie, Rockefeller, Ford, Gates, Musk and Bezos, if not an American aristocracy?
England is in our blood and remains so, even after extensive immigration. Both my grandfathers were English. As Churchill was fond of saying of America linguistically, “two great nations separated by a common language.” Yes, some will say the period belongs outside the quotation mark and we are careless with commas.
But the queen watched the demise of world empire as Great Britain shrank and shrank and shrank to its current island home where it has drifted away from the European Union as well. That must have been painful beyond belief and yet she remained brave, determined and personally unchanged as the colonies slipped away beneath her feet.
The love for Elizabeth III may be partly a love born of what Great Britain was and no longer is
Which is not to say that love was not and is not highly personal as well. It always seemed to me she had a commoner’s heart. That’s a very American thing for me to say but she seemed to me to be more corgis and racehorses than limousines and ceremony.
Do we not always love most the loves we lost? And yet throughout the decades she was fiercely protective of protocol, which is why I chose to say “God save England,” rather than the normative “God save the King.” King Charles III is a bit later to the party than he might like, but he’s ‘secure in the saddle’ as we Americans might say.
It’s England that’s in trouble, socially and politically, as is my country but in other ways as well. The last petals of that remarkable flower that was once Great Britain are quivering on the stem. Scotland seems determined, sooner or later, to rejoin the European Union and Northern Ireland and Wales may well follow suit. King Charles will have to deal with that, but it’s a minor (if more intimate) loss than his mother reckoned with.
Great Britain may devolve simply to England, which is why I ask God to save it
Along with the rest of the world, I send my love to the memory of Queen Elizabeth III and my most sincere condolences to the British people. She shared the decades of her reign with mine, for which I will always remain grateful. And I wish her people—my people not so long ago—every success and happiness.
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