Queen Elizabeth II has died at the age of 96, after 70 years on the throne.
To say she was a remarkable woman wouldn’t begin to do her justice. The Queen was unquestionably one of the greatest figures of the 20th century. In a century dominated by larger-than-life leaders like Pope John Paul II and Winston Churchill, she stood among the best of them. And in the 21st century, when our leaders seem so small, she towered above them like a giant among ants.
The Queen was undeniably the most respected woman in the world, and her long reign witnessed radical social and cultural changes. Most of those changes, if we are honest, were for the worse. Perhaps one of the worst was the weakening of the sense of duty. But even before her accession to the throne, Princess Elizabeth made clear that she willingly and gladly accepted the immense duty thrust upon her by the accident of her birth (and the abdication of King Edward VIII that put her father on the throne). During a radio address on her 21st birthday she proclaimed,
Orthodox. Faithful. Free.
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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.
What’s amazing is how consistently she kept that youthful promise. Whereas many 21-year-olds today can barely commit to show up at a minimum-wage job, Elizabeth made an enormous and life-long commitment and she stuck with it every single day of her life.
No matter if one is a monarchist or a republican, one cannot deny that she gave her long life to the service of the Commonwealth over which she reigned. Her commitment to duty stood in stark contrast to the world that surrounded her—a world that decided that things like duty and service and commitment didn’t matter anymore. What really matters is putting yourself first and making yourself happy above all else. But not Queen Elizabeth. She put duty and service to others above all.
It’s well-known that scandals surrounded the Royal Family during her reign. From Princess Margaret to Meghan Markle, self-centered royals made the headlines time and time again. But, if anything, these scandals only highlighted how much the Queen stood apart. While some members of the Royal Family reflected the surrounding culture’s degeneration, the Queen steadfastly reflected those timeless values we all should aspire to.
Although she was a monarch in a democratic age, Queen Elizabeth was universally revered and in one sense she transcended the monarchy. But in another sense, that’s the very purpose of monarchy—to transcend the petty political battles we too often find ourselves in. Even Americans, who long ago rejected the monarchy as a form of government, looked to Queen Elizabeth as a consistent model in an inconsistent world. After all, there was only one “The Queen.”
The loss to the world from the Queen’s passing is incalculable. Even if one does not support the institution of monarchy, we all should realize that figures like Queen Elizabeth are good for the world. She was an example of selfless service for a greater good, of putting duty above personal desires, and of a quiet dignity in the midst of turmoil. These are characteristics that should be exalted in a healthy culture, but are sadly dismissed in our diseased world.
Today we celebrate the Nativity of the Blessed Mother while we mourn the loss of Queen Elizabeth II. This is fitting, for in so many ways this earthly Queen was a motherly figure to the world, setting an example for all to follow. Let us now pray that the Blessed Mother might intercede for the Queen and bring her to the Heavenly Kingdom.
We don’t know the future for the British Monarchy and Royal Family, and it’s quite possible that anti-monarchy sentiments will rise after the mourning for the Queen subsides. But for now, let us appreciate her witness and be thankful that it was with us for so long.