September 12, 2022

Queen Elizabeth II: a Morality of Substance.

 

Last week, the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth, and indeed the world lost an icon.

In general, I’m not a fan of the monarchy, or of pomp and ceremony, or of glorifying the privileged—but these last few days have made me think.

Queen Elizabeth II has been the Queen for the whole of my life. Growing up in Australia, I sang “God Save the Queen” as my national anthem; in fact, I still think of it as my national anthem. “Advance Australia Fair” doesn’t have quite the same gravitas. Thinking about it, “God Save the Queen” is all about respect and well-wishing, while “Advance Australia Fair,” in contrast, seems more self-serving.

In 1977, I moved to London, arriving just in time for the Queen’s Silver Jubilee. With a youthful disregard for events of historical importance, I made little of it. Later, as I matured, I became more appreciative of witnessing history in the making. I was glued to my television the day Margaret Thatcher left Downing Street. When Princess Diana died, I, along with the rest of Britain, cried at the heartbreaking sight of the two young princes following their mother’s coffin. 

My emotion then should have prepared me for the impact the Queen’s death would have upon me, but it didn’t. This is different. The Queen holds a place in my consciousness that I was unaware of until now. I haven’t shed a tear, I’m still not necessarily a fan of monarchy, but she stood for values and standards that matter. She was steadfast in her commitment to her faith, her beliefs, and her vow to be of service.

In today’s confusing and sometimes chaotic world, this was no mean feat. Our celebrity culture, our often corrupt and self-serving politicians, and the sometimes disappointing behaviour of younger generations of the Royal Family, make her dignity and devotion to both her family and her people all the more remarkable.

In this era of instant news, social media, and disregard for privacy, she never gave an interview, never cast blame or aspersions, never appeared to be anything other than impartial. As her children and grandchildren publicly struggled with the vicissitudes of life, her love for them was unwavering, even when she could not condone their behaviour.

In her 1992 Christmas speech, when she spoke of her annus horribilis, the Queen left her listeners in no doubt of the pain the year’s events had caused her, but this was no plea for sympathy or public understanding. Spoken with a true British upper lip, it was simply a fact—it stirred our hearts precisely because that was not her intent.

The Queen’s faith was profoundly important to her and was the guiding principle of her life. Her commitment to service, her devotion to family, her legendary kindness, her concern for the welfare of people all over the world, and her refusal to speak ill of anyone can be seen as the Christian values that she lived by. But they aren’t just Christian values, they are universal values that can be shared by all humanity, regardless of faith, race, or creed. 

Sadly, they are values that I fear we are losing in today’s tumultuous reality. So as I reflect on her life, and of what we have lost with her passing, I realise she was that very rare thing, a thoroughly good human being for whom I had the most profound respect. In her 70-year reign, she moved with the times but never lost sight of her core values. She was the embodiment of a life well-lived, and her lived expression of her faith was a true example of a religious belief that made the world a better place.

Morality is perhaps an old-fashioned word. In 2022, it seems to be something to be picked up and put down at will. A convenience. But the Queen’s morality was different. Unshakeable. A morality of substance. I may not share her faith, but her morality and values spoke directly to my soul.

Her passing marks the end of an era, and without her, the world will be the poorer.

RIP your Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II.

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