A year on from the death of Queen Elizabeth II, we remember the late monarch.
‘My heart has been with you all,’ wrote Elizabeth II last summer, in her message of thanks in the aftermath of her Platinum Jubilee celebrations. On September 8, a year ago today, reaction to the news of the Queen’s death made clear that, in this country and across the globe, the hearts of many, many people had also been with her.
The crowds who massed at palace gates, silently, often tearfully reverent, those who lined roadsides and motorway embankments, streets and pavements from Balmoral to the heart of the capital, as Britain’s longest-reigning monarch made her final journey from her Aberdeenshire fastness to lie in state in Westminster Hall for thousands upon thousands to say goodbye, surprised no one.
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‘I know her loss will be deeply felt … by countless people around the world,’ wrote The King in a heartfelt statement issued on the evening of his mother’s death — and so it came to pass. As dusk fell over London, a photograph of the Queen covered billboards above an unusually hushed Piccadilly Circus; lights went out on the Eiffel Tower; and, as far away as South America, President Jair Bolsonaro declared three days of national mourning in Brazil.
“Her death prompted outpourings of gratitude, which, 12 months on, remain fresh and keenly felt”
In their acknowledgement that nowhere in the world did any head of state, politician or public figure rival Her Majesty’s moral authority or the deep wells of affection and respect she commanded among old and young, plaudits were unanimous.
For eight decades, this servant-queen, whose first public engagements had been undertaken as a teenager, had embraced duty as a joyful vocation. As Country Life noted in 2011, longevity and apparent imperturbability had made her ‘seem part of the unchanging foundation of the universe’. Former prime minister Boris Johnson articulated widely held views when he acclaimed the Queen as ‘Elizabeth the Great… in many ways the finest monarch in our history’.
Her legacy, none doubted, would be her model of service to others. ‘Those who have seemed to me to be the most happy, contented and fulfilled,’ the Queen suggested in 2008, ‘have always been the people who have lived the most outgoing and unselfish lives.’ It was her own way and her death prompted outpourings of gratitude, which, 12 months on, remain fresh and keenly felt.
The past year has witnessed the successful beginning of a new reign. The coronation of Charles III and Queen Camilla in May united both nation and Commonwealth, and support for the monarchy in the third Carolean age is strong.
That The King shares his mother’s devotion to duty and Christian faith is clear. His example keeps her memory bright and the affection still felt by millions for Elizabeth the Great inspires new sovereign and subjects alike.
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