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.