Queen Elizabeth II
Photo Credit: www.history.com
History just changed. England’s Queen Elizabeth has died at the venerable age of 96. She has been the Queen of England my entire life. It’s hard to imagine England or the world without her. Prince Charles will become the King of England but he is old enough that he will not possibly reign as long as his mother has and it is likely that there will not ever be another monarch to reign over so much history as Elizabeth II.
Elizabeth became Queen in 1952. She reigned for 70 years. Her death feels like so much more than the death of a head of state but truly feels like the death of history. There is an African proverb, when an old man dies, a library is burned. The death of Elizabeth feels like the burning of a hundred libraries. The succession of world leaders she knew in nation after nation, the crises she experienced and witnessed, the knowledge of world affairs and the secrets she held - all this history in one woman’s head is unfathomable and it has me rather awestruck. I am awestruck at my own sadness over her death, at my own sudden awareness of the magnitude of her life and the impact of a steady hand, albeit a rather titular hand, on our collective consciousness.
It seems there was always some sort of Jubilee in England celebrating another mark of Elizabeth’s longevity. I remember being in England in 1977 during the celebration of her Silver Jubilee during which her image was festooned on souvenir teacups and banners, scarves and tea towels. At the time, I found this both silly and charming. But then moving on to a Golden Jubilee, then a Diamond Jubilee and finally a Platinum Jubilee and the celebrations became momentous and not at all silly. So many old people are dismissed as no longer of merit but Elizabeth II’s age added to her merit. Not only that, I love that the British Throne was held by a woman for all of these years. She was a treasure of history.
Without Elizabeth II, it is a new era in England and in the world, and that is unsettling even way over here in America. It’s not often that we feel the weight of history shift so dramatically. Her death leaves the world without its maternal guiding hand and losing a parent always raises the question, even if it’s only a quiet little bit of a question, will we survive without her?