The noblest of them all

Lubna Abdel-Aziz , Tuesday 13 Sep 2022

Elizabeth ll

Everything that could have been said, every tear that could have been shed have splattered and streamed over the passing of the beloved British monarch Elizabeth ll.

Yet how can we miss such a momentous occasion to register our humble thoughts on the greatest monarch of the 20th century?

Before we say “God save the king” as the Brits do, let us, from our vantage point, spend a few moments paying tribute to a woman the likes of which we shall never see again.

She came upon the throne accidentally, as did her reluctant father. He accepted the duties of king from the rightful heir, Edward VIII, who abdicated after six months in favour of a life of pleasure beside his beloved divorcee, Mrs Simpson.
Elizabeth’s father, George VI, was never trained to be king, nor did he wish to, but little did he know that his older daughter Elizabeth would become the longest reigning monarch in history.

Like her father, she was unsure about this matter of “heir to the throne”. She often discussed it with her younger sister Margaret, who was more than willing to exchange places.

Margaret was prettier, more engaging, charmingly precocious and fun to be around, but the gods picked Elizabeth. As both lives unfolded before our eyes, we now know why.

Elizabeth was the rock the Brits leaned on at moments of trouble and the sweet grandma who joined in the festivities, with humour and humility.

As her son, King Charles III said in his final address to “darling mama”, she was always by his side in times of great pain and great joy.

That was her role as “mama” of the realm. She stood steadfast with her people to laugh and to weep.

They call her the leader of the nation, yet technically, she led nothing, no movement, no rebellion, no political decisions, no wars, no treaties or alliances; that was left to her parliament. It was her persona, strong and unwavering, standing at the helm through calm or stormy waters, accepting the inevitable changes with reserve and a stiff lip.

She was once young and attractive, a stunning bride, an impressive queen, often star-struck by celebrities, travelling across the kingdom, stoically bearing native dances and long speeches, with little time to spare for being with her young children. If this is leadership, so be it.

One would prefer to describe it as an ambassador of goodwill, keeping together the scarce remnants of the once great British Empire, “on whose dominions the sun never set”.

What were her great duties at home that kept her schedule so busy?

Being merely a figurehead and not a ruling monarch, she had to remain neutral in the political arena at home and abroad. She approved of new prime ministers chosen by the people, and there were many of them, 15 during her reign. The first was the inimitable Winston Churchill, the last was the present prime minister, received by the queen only two days before her death.

Now if that is not strength and a will of steel, what is?

Her other duties were attending charity events, their establishment, celebrations accomplishments, meeting with an endless number of people, engaging in small talk and chit chat. That would be wearing and boring.

If it were, Elizabeth showed none of that. Always friendly, ready to make a funny remark and especially ready to laugh at one. Her great wit and sense of humour got her through many an arduous day and endeared her to all.

She greeted heads of state as graciously as she did her simple subjects, with poise, kindness, and a smile. The majority of her subjects knew no other monarch but her. They tried, against the tide to honour tradition and values, as she did.

An iconic figure in every sense, she was no racist, but as the head of the Church of England, established by her ancestor Henry VIII, she adhered to its strict rules and regulations, as long and as hard as she could.

She never forgave her uncle David as he was known to the family. Edward VIII, as he was known to the world, nor did she allow her dear sister Margaret to marry her one love, Captain Peter Townsend, because of the church’s edict against divorce. That was then.

The winds of change are always blowing, and they came sweeping down, erasing the principles Elizabeth followed religiously. Divorce became a way of life, tarnishing the image of the Windsors, but for stoic Elizabeth, ready for the rescue.

Crisis after crisis, made her annus horribilis more than once.

Still in well-tailored monochromatic style, coat, dress, gloves, and hats with lots of frou-frou, ribbons, flowers or a bird’s nest on top, she appeared in public in shockingly bright colours which softened an aged look, and brightened a cheery smile.

A pin on her lapel and a strand of pearls finished the look of the world’s grandma.

No wonder everybody within the UK and without loved her.

Not a ruler, leader or lawmaker, not even elegantly stylish, according to fashion critics, despite the sumptuous costumes and tiaras, she remained an iconic figure, pleasant, cordial, simple, and beloved.

We wished she would go on forever. How did she die? Why?

She died of a broken heart. She missed her soul-mate, the love of her life.

It will be a happy reunion.

“I know I have the body of but a feeble woman, but I have the heart and the stomach of a king, and a king of England too.”

 Elizabeth I (1558-1603)

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