Elizabeth II — grace and dignity
Queen Elizabeth II (Photo: AFP)

It's probably difficult for most Jamaicans to properly fathom, but there are many among us old enough to remember joyously waving the Union Jack and singing the commanding songs of the British Empire.

That was before Jamaica's declaration of political Independence in 1962 when Queen Elizabeth II, who died yesterday at age 96 after 70 years as the British Monarch, was yet in the flush of youth.

Mr Clarence "Ben" Brodie, journalist extraordinaire and former president of the Press Association of Jamaica, remembers in sharp, vivid, colourful detail, the coronation of the young queen in 1953.

He recalls the headmaster at Rollington Elementary School, Mr H H Anglin Jones "a loyalist to the core" organising students and staff to mark the momentous occasion. Among the songs they delivered with gusto was Rule Britannia with its arrogant assertion of British imperial power:

"Rule Britannia, Britannia rule the waves, Britons never, never, shall be slaves..."

That coronation day was an awakening like no other for children like Mr Brodie and his classmate, former Public Defender Mr Earl Witter, not just regarding monarchical authority, but the "absolute power" of the British Empire.

Yet though those children would not have known it by the time of Queen Elizabeth II's coronation, huge cracks had opened up in the foundations of the empire on which the sun wasn't supposed to set.

An undeniable consequence of catastrophic World War Two was that the centre of global power had shifted irretrievably across the Atlantic to Britain's great ally, the United States of America.

It is to the eternal credit of the youthful queen steeped in the traditions of imperial power dating back hundreds of years that she embraced change, seemingly never inclined to kick against the pricks.

As titular head of the United Kingdom, as well as British Empire later to become The Commonwealth of Nations, and ceremonial Head of State for a number of countries, including Jamaica, Queen Elizabeth II earned great respect for her grace, dignity, and decorum.

If she was negatively affected as she symbolically oversaw the break-up of Empire, the world never knew by word or deed.

For those always in the public glare it's surely only human to err, to occasionally say the wrong thing at the wrong time. But for us looking on from a distance, it's as if Queen Elizabeth II never did slip, even at the height of personal and national crisis.

She mastered protocol and, in a real sense, was the ultimate diplomat, portraying always the best face of her country.

We are reminded by British media that, as part of her duties, The Queen held audiences with prime ministers on a weekly basis dating back to Mr Winston Churchill, who was born in 1874. Only this week she formally appointed Ms Liz Truss as Britain's new prime minister. The latter was born in 1975.

It's only a matter of time before Jamaica acts on its stated intention to initiate constitutional requirements, including a referendum, to move on from the British Monarch as our formal head of State.

We expect this will happen soon, with the new monarch, King Charles III, son of Queen Elizabeth II, on the British Throne.

This nation will take on Republican status, mindful always of the gracious, dignified example of Queen Elizabeth II.

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