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The Queen Is Dead, Long Live the King

"She was an exemplar of universal appeal. The words duty, selflessness, diplomacy and Christian virtue come instantly to mind."

It is with deep sadness that we all learned of the death of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II.

In the coming days and weeks, the world will reflect on the tremendous contribution she made to the life of the United Kingdom, her fifteen Commonwealth Realms with Australia pre-eminent, and the wider Commonwealth of Nations of fifty-six countries.

Elizabeth II’s brand of magic reached far beyond these 2.5 billion people of whom she was the much beloved Head.

She was an exemplar of universal appeal. The words duty, selflessness, diplomacy and Christian virtue come instantly to mind.

For 70 years, the longest reign of any monarch since William I in 1066, Her Majesty performed her constitutional duties with aplomb and consistency.

Politicians often describe the grind of constituency meetings, the endless round of facility openings and community group visits. The best MPs might manage this for their 20-year careers, if they make it that far. In contrast to Elizabeth II, most don’t bother.

Now imagine doing this for 70 years consistently: A breakfast for the Royal Navy and Royal Marines Children’s Fund, a morning plaque unveiling at a new hospital in Bristol, a luncheon for the Institution of Civil Engineers, an afternoon visit to a street-kids shelter, and a dinner for the Welsh Rugby Union. Imagine doing this Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday … each day with a different community group or constitutional ceremony … for 70 years. She was a patron of more than 600 charities. It was a gruelling contribution which, we when privately reflect upon it ourselves, not one of us could do.

Her last official duty was performed with joy and excitement at the age of 96 and two days before her death: the appointment of yet another prime minister.

To be active and dutiful, even at such a venerable age and with such cheerfulness, speak volumes.

She personified selflessness and stability in a world of flux and flamboyance.

Since her 6 February 1952 ascension to the Throne, her UK Prime Ministers have included Churchill, Eden, Macmillan, Douglas-Home, Wilson, Heath, Wilson a second time, Callaghan, Thatcher, Major, Blair, Brown, Cameron, May, Johnson and Truss, sixteen in all. One head of state for stability. Sixteen prime ministers fighting in the political trenches, she was above it all.

And she’s had seventeen Australian Prime Ministers, from Menzies, Holt, McEwan, Gorton, McMahon, Whitlam, Fraser, Hawke, Keating, Howard, Rudd, Gillard, Rudd a second time, Abbott, Turnbull, Morrison and Albanese.

It’s impossible to describe her contribution to our loyal American readers. There is no direct translation and words get in the way. Click here for an American Guide On The Death Of Queen Elizabeth II.

The grief is profound. The loss is enormous.

Steadfast.

Dignified.

Unifying.

Her Majesty was the Head of the Church of England, a constitutional position. Yet in her private, personal life, who could identify a better exemplar of Christianity in action? Kindness, genuine empathy and, dare it be said, in her private family life, Philip was the head. True.

The world respected her figurative and diplomatic leadership. It directly encompassed 32% of the global population. That respect extended far beyond.

She was calmness in many a storm, steadfast in her values but welcoming to all.

In the history of British monarchs since Henry VIII, there have been only 20 successions. Each succession is automatic on the death of the incumbent. There is no messy handover of power, no intrigue or politics. There is safety and stability in this tradition.

It is the long-held custom to mark a succession with two short sentences pregnant with historical lesson and constitutional immediacy.

So, therefore, with deep affection and respect for Her Majesty, with gratitude, with reverence and optimism for our future, we say those time-honoured words of renewal and continuity:

“The Queen is dead. Long live the King.”