Thank you, ma’am — we’ll miss you

We pay tribute to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, who died on Thursday 8 September, aged 96.

Today, for the majority of us, the world seems an almost unrecognisable place. Most of us haven’t experienced a Great Britain or a Commonwealth that isn’t under the unwavering leadership of Elizabeth II. It feels as if the nation has lost a crucial family member — its beloved, respected grandmother — and mourns accordingly.

That The Queen seemed serenely unchangeable over her long reign is all the more remarkable when one considers the events that occurred during her lifetime. She was born into a world still shaken after the First World War and that, within weeks of her birth, was then plunged into extreme poverty following the Wall Street Crash. Although she was born into a household of wealth and privilege, her parents instilled in her a strong sense of frugality and the importance of leading the nation by example, traits from which she never wavered and has passed on through the generations.

[READ MORE: Tributes to The Queen]

Although her early childhood was idyllic, the family was sorely tested by the abdication of her uncle, Edward VIII, followed by another devastating global conflict. Princess Elizabeth was able to rejoice anonymously amid the throngs filling the Mall on VE Day and her wedding was a ray of hope in the post-Second World War gloom. Such was the people’s affection for her that they tried to help provide her wedding dress by donating their own clothing ration coupons. Sadly, it wasn’t long after this happy day when her father’s precarious health failed and she took the throne.

Her own long reign has seen many changes and upheavals throughout society, which she matched with changes in how the Royal Family and Buckingham Palace work. It’s hard to believe that the now-familiar royal walkabouts are a comparatively recent phenomenon, but they brought The Queen much closer to her people, who responded with overwhelming affection.

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Queen Elizabeth II smiles during a 1979 visit to Bahrain. (Photo by © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

National and international leaders came and went, but The Queen remained and her long years of experience made her a respected statesman, her advice and opinion carrying the weight of years, all delivered with a gentle hand. In an era when it seems everyone wishes to be famous for nothing, The Queen never sought to court popular opinion by appealing to the lowest common denominator.

Paying tribute to her on the eve of her Diamond Jubilee in 2012, her grandson The Duke of Cambridge emphasised her lack of interest in celebrity: ‘That’s not what monarchy’s about. It’s about setting examples. It’s about doing one’s duty, as she would say. It’s about using your position for the good. It’s about serving the country.’ These were things she did without hesitation or limit.

[READ MORE: Images from the day Her Majesty died]

The Commonwealth and its success were particularly dear to her heart, knowing as she did how important it is for the nations to come together, but without wishing to bind them. In 2011, President Mohamed Nasheed of the Maldives declared how the organisation regarded Her Majesty: ‘In our minds, she’s not necessarily just English. She doesn’t have a nationality… She’s the first [British] monarch to have engaged the world, not as an Imperial ruler, but someone who is out there to look after us in a sense.’

She guided her own family in the same manner, allowing them to find their own style and make their own mistakes, but being an invaluable source of support and knowledge.

Queen Elizabeth II watches her horse ‘Sign Manual’ run in and win the Dreweatts Handicap Stakes as she attends the Dubai Duty Free Raceday at Newbury Racecourse on April 19, 2013 in Newbury, England. (Photo by Max Mumby/Indigo/Getty Images)

Speaking in 2011, Prince William summed up his grandmother’s reign. ‘She’s so dedicated and really determined to finish everything she started. She’ll want to hand over knowing she’s done everything she possibly could to help and that she’s got no regrets and no unfinished business; that she’s done everything she can for the country and that she’s not let anyone down — she minds an awful lot about that.’ No one can doubt that she has succeeded in those aims and exceeded them day in, day out for decades.

It’s an example we should all try to follow. As Baroness Scotland, Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, has put it: ‘The baton will go on and we won’t let you down.’

For now, we are sure you will join us in saying thank you, ma’am — we’ll miss you.

Country Life will be publishing a 32-page tribute to Her Majesty The Queen in the September 14 issue, and a special one-off edition commemorating her life