There are some half a dozen European queens, but when Americans say "The Queen" there is never any doubt who is meant - Elizabeth II, Queen of the United Kingdom, Head of the Commonwealth, and Defender of the Faith, who excelled in each of those roles, dead today at age 96, after an historic reign of 70 years.
The Queen died peacefully at Balmoral this afternoon.The King and the Queen Consort will remain at Balmoral this evening and will return to London tomorrow.
With those two laconic sentences came the announcement which the world knew had to come sooner or later, but which nonetheless marks the end of an era. The tributes quickly followed. President Biden spoke on behalf of the United States. "Queen Elizabeth II was a stateswoman of unmatched dignity and constancy who deepened the bedrock Alliance between the United Kingdom and the United States. She helped make our relationship special." (The President's full statement can be found at: https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2022/09/08/statement-of-president-joe-biden-and-first-lady-jill-biden-on-the-death-of-queen-elizabeth-ii/.)
Referencing the Queen's constant Christian faith and commitment, Vincent Cardinal Nichols, the Archbishop of Westminster, said: ““The wisdom, stability and service which she consistently embodied, often in circumstances of extreme difficulty, are a shining legacy and testament to her faith. Our prayer is that she is now received into the merciful presence of God, there to be reunited with her beloved Prince Philip,”
When someone is as old as the Queen was, death can hardly be called unexpected, although given that she was photographed just two days ago with her 15th Prime Minister, her sudden end came as something of a surprise. The Queen died at her beloved Scottish family home, Balmoral Castle, where the new King and Queen and other members of the royal family have swiftly assembled.
A modern monarch's main purpose is, so to speak, to be - to be there all the time, as the embodiment of the nation in good times and in bad, in peace and in war, in prosperity and in distress, presiding above the political circus. Politicians come and go, but the nation abides. Elizabeth II fulfilled that role with barely a misstep for over 70 years. Her first Prime Minister was Winston Churchill. What a long and amazing history of political, social, and cultural change is reflected in that reference - in that line of Prime Ministers from Churchill to Truss! Through it all, Queen Elizabeth remained a steady presence, personifying the permanence of the nation and its constitution, a living link with centuries past, a stabilizing force for the present, and a projection of her community's hope as a national family facing a common future. As someone who could vividly remember World War II, she brought to the throne a commitment and devotion to duty, so desperately needed in our precarious present.
The distinctive combination of her personal dedication and strength of character with the symbolic significance of her majestic office made her a model for leadership at every level of society and a woman admired all over the world.
As the Anglicans say, may she rest in peace and rise in glory. And may God bless King Charles III, as he steps into the enormous vacancy her death has left in the world.
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