The Queen

Most people I know had been dreading the day coming. We weren’t ‘surprised’ at how sad we felt, more confused by the realisation of how much love we felt for someone we had never met.

We were also a little worried about what it might bring next. Would support for the monarchy wane? 

I think it’s been a time of reflection for most. As a dual British and Australian citizen, it’s been a time of deep soul-searching, for me. How I feel as a Briton is a little different to how I feel as an Australian. Up until this point, these two roles have always merged as one; but the Queen’s death has revealed two people inside me.

As a Briton, I’ve always assumed the monarchy was a good thing. Certainly, better than any alternative and an institution that brings many positives. I’ve not, in all honesty, thought much about it, beyond that. 

Up until now, as an Australian, I’d thought about it through British-born eyes. If it’s an overall ‘good’, it follows that it presumably brings good for Australia, too. The same argument about the alternatives, also applies.

But this week has made me think much more about the monarchy. And made me appreciate it a thousand times more.

I’ve realised that it’s all about magic. Like Father Christmas and religion: all slightly funny concepts, but concepts that bring much comfort and joy. We don’t fully understand them, we might not even believe in them, but they are all unifying, value-based, magical forces, nonetheless.

In a mostly logical world, moments of magic are food for the soul. An escape from the mundane; a grounding reminder of history and our own small place in the world; a beautiful capsule of love and positivity.

I haven’t always been enamoured by Her Majesty, the Queen. Earlier in my life, I implored her to smile more, to be more human, more normal, less frumpy and stuck in past ways. I don’t think I’m alone in this: it seems she was very popular as a beautiful, youthful Queen, lost some of her magic in her middle years, but then grew into everyone’s favourite Grannie later on.

And it’s her longevity of duty that perhaps is most remarkable. That for over 70 years, she pretty much didn’t put a foot wrong. That for all that time, she kept her views to herself – uniting, to some extent, the entire world – and just day after day after day, worked on the papers in her red boxes and went out to greet and cheer the world. It’s said she has shaken hands with more people than anyone else and yet surely hers was the loneliest job in the world.

As our new King Charles referred to, on Friday, the significance of the role, being above politics and commercial interest, is what makes it so entirely unique and invaluable. Perhaps more so than ever in today’s vocal world of social media, where everyone has an opinion or something to sell.

Personally, I’m someone who generally embraces change; someone excited by new openings, new learnings, new opportunities. Whilst feeling the immense sadness of the loss of an incredible woman, I was simultaneously excited to hear King Charles’s words: what he would articulate of his role and what he would bring to this new age. 

At first, I felt ever so slightly flat that he didn’t mention anything new in his first speech.

But of course, he was spot on. The monarchy is about continuity, about stability. Slowly, slowly evolving with the times, whilst retaining the history and tradition that makes it what it is. More than ever, this week, what we needed from him was a message of life going on. Of him being there for us, just as his ‘dear Mama’ had been, all these years. A reassuring constant, a presence, a rock; there in our lives every day no matter what else was going on; on every coin, every postage stamp, every formal occasion.

It’s incredible to hear the heartfelt messages coming in from across the world. What sound like genuine, rather than purely diplomatic, words of kindness and loss. From Putin to Macron, it seems the Queen deeply touched every person she met.

A Labour MP made the comment that everyone could find a story about the Queen that ‘leads to your bias’. For her, it was a story of the Queen asking to meet senior female judges at the opening of a new court building. Jess Phillips felt that the Queen and she shared a connection as feminists.

And perhaps that was one of the most magical qualities about our magical Queen. That everyone felt a connection to her. She was broad in her interests and curiosity and never failed to make anyone feel less than the most important person in the room. And whilst holding this breadth, she managed never to alienate anyone by discounting any of society or any differing view.

And it’s true to say that I have been thinking this week of the Queen at the Chelsea Flower Show each year. I’ve been thinking of how she loves long, peaceful walks in the countryside. Whether it’s a love of dogs, or of racing, or whatever it is, everyone can find a bit of themselves in this mystical figure. She has that special mix of the familiar and the extraordinary, which brings a bit of each to ourselves.

So, as we look ahead to the era of King Charles, I feel nothing but positivity towards him personally, and the great institution for which he stands. Like Father Christmas and religion, there is a reason such things were developed, have evolved and have stood the test of time.

And I no longer feel protective towards the system across the world. The British Royal Family is a very British thing. It is British history taking it back all those years. If other countries wish to share the monarchy – believe it brings something for them too – that’s great. It’s heart-warming for very special things to be shared and to benefit as many as possible. And it’s a particularly lovely connection for me between my two homelands. But if some countries want to go their own way, well, that’s OK too.

The very best thing, this week, has been the unifying feeling of all coming together – across the world, across political parties, across people from all walks of life. In a seemingly increasingly divided world, a shared acknowledgement of respect and love for a truly special lady. As an individual, she rose above clashing viewpoints and perspectives. In her death, perhaps even more so, than in life.

They say you only know what you have, once it is gone. 

We have lost our dear Queenie, but we have gained a King. A King who is clearly committed to continuing the dedication and duty of his predecessor, in order to ensure that our rock and our moments of magic live on. 

Long live the King.

I never met the Queen, but I was lucky enough to meet her very handsome husband in 1998

9 thoughts on “The Queen

  1. Adriana says:

    I agree with what you say Janna – she was indeed an amazing person. We too are saddened by the loss of such a stalwart figure who has been there for the entire lives of almost all of us. In Australia we have voted, in the past, to stay with this British institution and retain the Queen and now King Charles 111 as our monarch. Nobody has come up with a better alternative to the Westminster system of government (yet) for us and many Australians agree. Some don’t too of course and maybe in the future we will decide to stand alone ( I suspect we will) and formulate an Australia system that has fond ties still with Britain. I hope though it will be like the Canadian model and not in the ‘Presidential’ style. I could just imagine who we might end up with and as you say this system has worked well for Britain and us alike. I too was positively captured by the words of King Charles 111, but then I have always had a soft spot for him – why wouldn’t I what with his love of gardens and plants and the environment, and his tireless work for so many good causes throughout the world including here in Australia. I always felt a connection.

    Our Queen will be sadly missed.

    • jannaschreier says:

      It is heartwarming how people have embraced the new king. I keep thinking, ‘cometh the hour, cometh the man’. He and the Queen Consort must be absolutely exhausted though – I do hope they have some rest next week. I have long been hoping someone does come up with an alternative to the Westminster system, for the UK as well as Australia! I think the change is due as it seems to incentivise an increasing number of unenviable behaviours. But we are very lucky in comparison with many countries’ systems.

  2. romigp says:

    As an American I also loved the Queen. She was always so dependable, a lovely, calm presence so dedicated to her country and the position she held. It IS like Christmas and religion. Something you can count on in a chaotic world. I did at one time judge her family members as their actions seemed so contrary to her steadfastness. But then it seemed she was a wife and mother extraordinaire and I’m sure she had her moments with each of them, hidden from the public. But Mothers bring the world together for me. I just hope a King can do the same, even though he had a much more human side than his dear Mama! I will miss her greatly, but I also dearly hope “Long Live the King”!

    • jannaschreier says:

      ‘A lovely, calm presence’ really sums up the essence of the Queen for me – beautiful words. And I was just talking to Adriana (above) about how middle-aged women keep the world ticking over – looking after the young and the old and everyone in between. Yet we seem to have such a dowdy, boring image – how have we let that happen?! And I also agree, one of the first things that struck me after the king’s first speech, was how he wasn’t a queen – it’s a very different role: he can never be our Grannie. As you say, he is very human, so I’m sure he’ll shape the role accordingly – it’s nice to have their personality shine through. I read that the Queen only really showed hers after her mother died.

  3. Heyjude says:

    What a wonderful thoughtful post. And beautiful Queen floral images too. I’m not a Royalist as such and would like to see the Royal family streamlined, but cannot but admire the work that Queen Elizabeth did and what an extraordinary diplomat she was for our country. All the pomp and ceremony may seem archaic in this modern world, but it is what brings millions of tourists to our shores each year. I too wish our new King well in his tasks ahead, I am sure he will be much more in tune with the people as his love of nature and awareness of the affects of climate change have shown. As for me, I now have a new Duke of Cornwall to ‘reign’ over the Duchy!

    • jannaschreier says:

      Thanks so much! All the floral images were taken at Chelsea – as the Royal Patron of the RHS, she was always very fondly featured each year. I guess if you live in the vicinity of the Duchy of Cornwall, it is a slightly different relationship to the royal family, to living elsewhere in the UK. I’m sure William will be just as interested in the environment though. We shall watch and see!

  4. Suzanne says:

    Janna, you have managed to concretise my thoughts so beautifully and succinctly that you’ve brought tears to my eyes. Like you we’re royalists although we went through a brief period in our 20s when we thought it was irreverent. I said to one of the daughters only last night that humans seem to have the need to look up to/idolise someone and so many of those figures are inappropriate. As you have said, the monarchy provides necessary stability and consistency without all the modern hype. They’re not perfect. After all they are human. But if ever there was a model for resolving family (and more) problems our Queen provided it. I like Charles. I think he is a gentle sole with compassion and the ability to communicate with our modern world. I hope we don’t go down the republican pathway.
    Thank you for this Janna.
    Ps. I have been away (Kalbarri) which for me means off internet so saw your last post on Friday. It was a delightful read. I want to comment if ok. XX

    • jannaschreier says:

      It’s interesting what you say about idolising. I suppose the driver for it changes as we age – for younger people it’s often part of developing their identity, whereas as we get older it’s more about a deep respect for the values of that person. It’s interesting that King Charles seems to have the highest following in younger Australians: his love for the environment has really struck a chord. Maybe he has bridged the identity and values aspirations for this group – all credit to him if that’s so!

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