DAILY MAIL COMMENT: Elizabeth II was a role model to her people

DAILY MAIL COMMENT: The most momentous chapter in our island story has come to an end. Elizabeth II was more than a sovereign. She was a role model and friend to her people

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So passes the figurehead, matriarch and defining symbol of Britain’s greatest generation.

Through war and peace, blitz and reconstruction, strife and social change, the Queen has been a constant presence. A source of strength, continuity and reassurance.

With her death, a light which helped guide this nation through 70 momentous years has faded out.

At Balmoral yesterday, surrounded by her close family, she slipped peacefully away. And though she was 96, her death still comes as a huge emotional jolt.

Just three days ago, she was saying farewell to her 14th prime minister and welcoming her 15th into office, clearly frailer than she once was but smiling and chatting animatedly.

Through war and peace, blitz and reconstruction, strife and social change, the Queen has been a constant presence. A source of strength, continuity and reassurance 

Today she is gone and her subjects and countless friends across the globe join her family in their mourning.

From Europe to the US, across the Commonwealth and beyond, tributes and good wishes pour in, demonstrating that she truly was, in Mail royal expert Robert Hardman’s phrase, Queen of the World.

In this country, Elizabeth II was more than simply a sovereign. Loved and admired in equal measure, she was both role model and friend to her people. She felt their sorrows, she shared in their joys. Millions of subjects will feel her loss as keenly as if she were close family. And the most momentous chapter of our island story comes to a close.

The sheer longevity of the Queen’s reign is remarkable in itself – the longest of any British monarch. Indeed no-one under 75 can really remember anyone else on the throne.

She witnessed the Great Depression as a child, served in the struggle against Nazism and came to the throne during the Korean War.

At the start of her reign the British Empire still comprised more than 70 countries and territories.

Food was still rationed and national service compulsory. Computers were the size of houses, independent television didn’t exist and mobile phones were the stuff of science fiction.

The sheer longevity of the Queen’s reign is remarkable in itself – the longest of any British monarch. Indeed no-one under 75 can really remember anyone else on the throne

The Queen presided over some of the most seismic changes this country has ever known. And through it all she has been the embodiment of duty and public service.

At Buckingham Palace, she hosted heroes and tyrants from Nelson Mandela to Romania’s Nicolae Ceausescu – all received with the same unfailing good grace.

Her personal life was not always easy. The family suffered multiple shocks during her reign, some of them apparently existential and none of them her fault. But every time she managed to steady the listing ship.

In all her endeavours, she was blessed in her choice of life partner. Prince Philip, ‘her strength and stay’, stood resolutely by her at all times. Confidant, adviser, husband and comforter, he was her anchor through the storms of life.

His death last year was a grievous loss which clearly affected Her Majesty profoundly. She was never quite the same afterwards.

With the Queen’s death, the Royal Family reaches a watershed. So universally respected was she that republicans had little option but to hold their fire. They will soon be out of their foxholes and in these days of howling social media, speculation about the future of the monarchy will inevitably be turbocharged.

There will be the usual stale arguments about whether a modern democracy should be headed by someone who is there only by accident of birth, while class warriors will point at their privilege and their palaces.

The Queen presided over some of the most seismic changes this country has ever known. And through it all she has been the embodiment of duty and public service. People are pictured above paying their respects outside Buckingham Palace

But we have heard it all before and the family has come a long way since the death of Diana, Princess of Wales – the last time it seemed to be in mortal danger. It has modernised and slimmed down and despite the best efforts of Andrew, Harry and Meghan to drag it into the gutter, the important members are doing an excellent job.

After a distinctly rocky period following Diana’s death, Prince Charles has grown into his role of king-in-waiting and proved to be right on many important issues of the day – not least the environment.

Camilla, once less than popular, has become the perfect consort. Her calm demeanour, easy charm and formidable charity work have won over the doubters and she will make a good queen.

In the next generation, the monarchy has some serious star quality. Kate has been a revelation, looking and acting every inch the princess and bringing her naturally shy husband out of his shell. Clearly besotted with each other and their three children, one feels that when the time comes the monarchy will be safe in their hands.

The rift between William and his brother is a tragedy but it is all of Harry and Meghan’s making. They want the privileges and trappings of royal life without any of the obligations. But even America is becoming sick of their preposterous witterings and relentless attention seeking. They do not pose any lasting threat.

We must also applaud the part of Princess Anne in upholding the Queen’s dedication to duty. Invariably the most hardworking royal, she has been a true credit to her parents and her country.

Britain has been ruled by a constitutional monarchy since 1688. While other nations have succumbed to revolution and political extremism, Britain has been a beacon of democratic stability.

The role of the sovereign in government may be largely symbolic but it is of crucial importance.

Our head of state is above the fray of petty politics yet ensures the smooth transfer of power between governments.

An elected president would inevitably have a political bias and agenda. Consider the Queen and then think of some alternatives – President Blair or, God forbid, President Corbyn. One of the Queen’s greatest legacies is that she shaped and cherished the Commonwealth. From the acrimony and tumult that marked the end of empire, a brotherhood of nations emerged.

Even countries which were never British colonies have joined, showing its appeal as a mutually supportive commercial and political union.

It is here the new king will need to emulate his mother’s seemingly effortless diplomacy if the organisation is to survive in its present form.

Although he becomes head of state in 14 Commonwealth countries including Canada, Jamaica, Australia and New Zealand, there is rising republican sentiment in most. While his mother was alive it was muted. Now she’s gone it will certainly be louder.

But that is for the future. For now he and the rest of the family, though bereaved, will no doubt be reflecting on her remarkable life and the new Elizabethan age she ushered in.

It’s hard to believe she’s really gone, such has been her unique and lasting place in our national life.

Not born to be queen but propelled into the role of heir presumptive after the abdication of her uncle, Edward VIII, and sovereign at just 25 on the untimely death of her father, she evolved into the consummate monarch.

In her first major speech, delivered in Cape Town on her 21st birthday, the then Princess Elizabeth made this pledge to her people: ‘I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.’

It is a promise she kept faithfully to the end. As always, she was as good as her word.

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