She was the longest reigning queen in British history. Her long life was in service. This is how Elizabeth II saw it herself. Already a princess, on her 21st birthday in 1947, she addressed her future subjects across the Commonwealth.
“I pledge before you all that all my life, long or short, I will serve you and the great imperial family of which we are all a part.” Elizabeth took the short life motto speech during a trip to Cape Town for the radio on. She used the media and modern communication. Her coronation in 1953 was the first to be televised. A world event.
“Never before has such an extraordinary promise been kept so precisely. In times when customs and politics are constantly changing, Her Majesty has remained steadfast, a rock for our nation and sometimes also for the whole world”, praised the then British Prime Minister David Cameron on the 60th anniversary of the throne in 2013.
The “Queen of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, her other possessions and territories, Head of the Commonwealth and Defender of the Faith” (the correct title) was popular in many parts of the world, especially in Germany. A kind of substitute monarch, the German nobility researcher Monika Wienfort told DW.
“The fascination stems from the spectacular in the everyday,” says the historian. “Actually, these nobles do very ordinary things. They marry, have children and die. But they do it in a representative way. When else do you see a carriage?”
Prince Charles, the Queen’s eldest son, once described his family, the Windsors, as a “soap opera”. The Queen has endured all drama, divorce, scandal. Only in 1997 did it falter when the British found it too cold. It was only after much hesitation that Elizabeth publicly mourned the loss of her former daughter-in-law, Princess Diana.
After the accidental death in the Paris car tunnel, the Queen only went in front of the television camera after public criticism at Buckingham Palace: “We all tried in our own way to deal with it. It is not easy to express the loss because after the initial shock there is a mixture of many emotions: disbelief, anger and concern for those who are staying behind.” She spoke as the queen and grandmother in a jet black suit with a pearl necklace. The people were reconciled.
The Queen has kept thousands of appointments, completed hundreds of trips abroad and has always smiled, never making any political statements. But she always knew what was going on, as former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher attested to her. “She has excellent knowledge of current developments and an outstanding wealth of experience. Their advice and recommendations are always very accurate. As Prime Minister, I have benefited immensely from both.”
The Queen has seen 15 different heads of government during her reign – from Winston Churchill to Liz Truss. The reception of the new Prime Minister on September 6, 2022 was the last public appearance of the weakening Queen. With a fresh perm, in a skirt with a Scottish pattern and a gray cardigan leaning on a stick, the monarch smiled and was photographed for the last time. She had retired to Balmoral Castle in Scotland. According to palace insiders, she also wanted to die here. The relatively rustic Balmoral in the middle of the rough Scottish nature, in which extensive hikes and horseback rides were undertaken, was Elizabeth’s favorite place throughout her life.
Every week, the Queen has received her Premiers for confidential talks. And not only the prime ministers, but also judges, trade unionists, entrepreneurs and ordinary people were invited to the palace. “For me, an audience means I can meet people without anyone else listening. That gives you a very broad picture of what’s really going on in government or in the civil service. Many are just normal people, but I can meet anyone I want to meet.” This is how the Queen described her working style to the BBC in an interview.
“I didn’t have an apprenticeship, my father died much too early. I had to take over very suddenly and do the best possible job.” She took her job as queen seriously. Discipline was her guiding principle. Her passion was country life. horses. your dogs. Over 30 Corgies accompanied the Queen. She hasn’t gotten a new dog since 2012. She didn’t want any of the dogs to survive her. “She is always happy and smiling when it comes to horses. Then she can relax. She can spot an injured horse from 100 feet away,” recalled her former publicist, Dickie Arbiter.
The small, white-haired woman, who was always dressed in striking, sometimes garish colors, made an impression. Even another charismatic figure, former US President Barack Obama, attested to her after his last visit to Windsor Castle: “The Queen has always been a source of inspiration for me and for many people around the world. She is an amazing person and a real gem not only for Britain but for the whole world.”
Most recently, the Queen was overtaken by several strokes of fate: her grandson Prince Harry and his wife Meghan got out of the Windsor circus with a lot of media fanfare and have been marketing themselves as misunderstood royal children ever since. Meghan, daughter of a black mother and a white father, accused the Windsor family of racism in a TV interview that received worldwide attention in March 2021.
The case of Prince Andrew was even more serious: The Queen’s second eldest son was sued in connection with the abuse scandal involving US multimillionaire Jeffrey Epstein in a New York court. The plaintiff accused the prince of having repeatedly sexually abused her as a minor more than 20 years ago. Andrew denied this.
Above all, Prince Philip, to whom Elizabeth had been married for more than 73 years, died in April 2021, almost a hundred years old. “He was quite simply my support and my strength all these years,” she once said of him.
But shortly after the funeral, the queen resumed her duties as head of state – but recently she had to repeatedly cancel appointments for health reasons.
Her eldest son, Prince Charles (born 1948), has long awaited to succeed her. He didn’t resent her, but almost affectionately called her “Your Majesty and Mommy” at the 60th anniversary of the throne. Charles tried to be casual, which his mother didn’t like.
“Your Majesty, I’m told millions of people dream of having tea with you one day.” The Queen didn’t flinch, although the audience laughed heartily. Only when Charles cheered her three times and the people sang her anthem was the mother of the nation satisfied: “God save the Queen.”
Author: Bernd Riegert
The original of this post “Queen: Service is over” comes from Deutsche Welle.