She was our queen
LONDON, United Kingdom (AFP) — From left: Prince Harry, Duke of Sussex; his wife Meghan, Duchess of Sussex; Prince William, Prince of Wales; and his wife Catherine, Princess of Wales, look at floral tributes laid by the public on the Long Walk at Windsor Castle on September 10, 2022 before meeting well-wishers. (Photo: AFP)

We are broken as a country and as a nation. The glue, the fabric, the weft, and weave have been torn asunder.

One person above all others united not just the UK and the people she served around the world but to a greater extent than we will ever comprehend, the world itself. She met and spoke with almost all of the global leaders since World War II and embodied the peace and aspiration that followed. We lived our little lives in the shadow of this giant, our second mother. Our poor country is bereft. We were nothing if not Elizabethans, and honoured to be so.

As jubilee flags and bunting fluttered in the summer sunshine as they did in previous jubilees, we reflected on a life dedicated to our service.

The period leading up to the jubilee had not been easy for our queen. Her husband Prince Philip had died and she was forced to sit alone at his funeral on a day when government officials partied; Barbados had rejected her as its queen; her grandson Prince Harry had left the firm and appeared with his wife Meghan on TV in an infamous Oprah Winfrey interview; she had caught the novel coronavirus; and two royal visits to the Caribbean had been marred by republican demonstrations and demands for apologies and reparation for slavery.

Queen Elizabeth II (Photo: ANDY BUCHANAN)

Meanwhile, for the enduring business of the Crown and Commonwealth, it was business as usual. On May 19 The Queen's Baton Relay reached St Vincent and the Grenadines as the conclusion of its journey to all 72 Commonwealth nations and territories, bringing cultures and communities together in the lead-up to the Birmingham 2022 Commonwealth Games, set to take place from July 28 to August 8. It is that togetherness and common purpose which The Queen has represented and sought to promote since before her coronation.

The Queen made plain that the countries of the Caribbean held a special place in her heart, visiting personally in 1953, 1966, 1975, 1977, 1983, 1985, 1994, 2002, and 2009. She took her responsibilities as queen of overseas realms and as head of the Commonwealth very seriously.

The world is very different from 1952, and in spite of its advances, it is torn by divisions and injustice, the solving of which have been constant themes of Queen Elizabeth II's speeches, from her accession onwards. These expressions of her core beliefs, based on deep faith, include the unity of people, expressed as family, peace, freedom, justice, common purpose, and an emphasis on youth and building for the future.

These days, however, duty has been replaced by accountability, an inculcation of honour with an assumption of amorality and a culture of modern blame confused with an assumed legacy of ancient guilt.

It is understandable, though unforgivable, that there are some people in Britain who regarded The Queen as theirs alone, plus some outside who also thought this was so. For The Queen, however, nowhere that and no one who had her as queen had any more of her service or affection than any other. Similarly, the Commonwealth did not belong to The Queen but The Queen most certainly belonged to the Commonwealth.

ROYAL THEMES

On her 21st birthday she promised to dedicate her life to the service of her people, the dominions, and the Commonwealth: "If we all go forward together with an unwavering faith, a high courage, and a quiet heart, we shall be able to make of this ancient Commonwealth, which we all love so dearly, an even grander thing — more free, more prosperous, more happy, and a more powerful influence for good in the world — than it has been in the greatest days of our forefathers."

Following the death of King George VI, The Queen spoke to Parliament of her determination to follow her father's example of devotion to the service of his people throughout the world: "I pray that with the blessing of Almighty God I may ever justify your trust, and that aided by your counsel and sustained by the strength of the affection of my peoples, I may uphold the ideals that my father set before me of peace, freedom, and the happiness of the great family of which I am now the head."

In 1952 she compared the Commonwealth to a family, "a force which I believe can be of immeasurable benefit to all humanity", and described it as an "entirely new conception" built on friendship, loyalty, and the desire for freedom and peace. "To that new conception of an equal partnership of nations and races I shall give myself, heart and soul, every day of my life," she pledged.

Later, at the time of her coronation, she spoke of the vast regions and varied peoples "to whom I owe my duty" and the living strength and majesty of the Commonwealth and empire of societies old and new, "of lands and races different in history and origins, but all, by God's will, united in spirit and in aim".

She also spoke of living principles to be cherished and practised; parliamentary institutions which she praised for their free speech and respect for the rights of minorities; and the inspiration of a broad tolerance in thought and expression. "All this we conceive to be a precious part of our way of life and outlook," she said.

She always referred to the past as the foundation and context of a living present and a future that we must all be active in building for the benefit of all people. She is the template for us in her tireless devotion to duty.

She has not only worked hard but has also put duty to her people and the Commonwealth above any personal consideration. In 1961, after being cautioned not to visit Ghana where there was civil unrest, she said: "How silly I should look if I was scared to visit Ghana and then [Soviet leader Nikita] Khrushchev went and had a good reception." Elizabeth also told her prime minister, "I am not a film star. I am the head of the Commonwealth and I am paid to face any risks that may be involved. Nor do I say this lightly. Do not forget that I have three children."

Her Christmas speech of 1975 is particularly relevant today. She referred to great impersonal forces beyond our control, of brutal and senseless violence, and, above all, "the whole fabric of our lives" threatened by inflation, the "frightening sickness" of the world today as then.

For some, Queen Elizabeth II was a remote figure of wealth and privilege, for others, a lady who would have loved to have just raised horses on a quiet farm a long way from celebrity and power. Still, for others, she was the cornerstone of constitutions and defender of our democracy and freedom. But above all else, she was, for certain, someone who gave her life for her people around the world and for those high principles to which the rest of us refer from a distance. She was the embodiment of the best of us and if we do not recognise that and cherish her service, maybe we never deserved it.

God bless our late queen, and God save The King!

Dr Frank Millard is a historian and journalist. Send comments to the Jamaica Observer or frank.millard@gmail.com

PULL QUOTE

One person above all others united not just the UK and the people she served around the world but to a greater extent than we will ever comprehend, the world itself. She met and spoke with almost all of the global leaders since World War II and embodied the peace and aspiration that followed. We lived our little lives in the shadow of this giant, our second mother. Our poor country is bereft. We were nothing if not Elizabethans, and honoured to be so.

BY FRANK MILLARD

Now you can read the Jamaica Observer ePaper anytime, anywhere. The Jamaica Observer ePaper is available to you at home or at work, and is the same edition as the printed copy available at https://bit.ly/epaper-login

HOUSE RULES

  1. We welcome reader comments on the top stories of the day. Some comments may be republished on the website or in the newspaper; email addresses will not be published.
  2. Please understand that comments are moderated and it is not always possible to publish all that have been submitted. We will, however, try to publish comments that are representative of all received.
  3. We ask that comments are civil and free of libellous or hateful material. Also please stick to the topic under discussion.
  4. Please do not write in block capitals since this makes your comment hard to read.
  5. Please don't use the comments to advertise. However, our advertising department can be more than accommodating if emailed: advertising@jamaicaobserver.com.
  6. If readers wish to report offensive comments, suggest a correction or share a story then please email: community@jamaicaobserver.com.
  7. Lastly, read our Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy