Her Majesty Elizabeth II, by the grace of God the Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and her other kingdoms and possessions, head of the Commonwealth, defender of the faith, died at the age of 97.
Elizabeth II has come a long and interesting life. Back on September 9, 2015, Elizabeth II broke the record set by her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria to become the longest-reigning of all British monarchs. Since 2017, she has become the oldest current head of state in the world.
Since her accession to the throne in 1952, she has seen fifteen British prime ministers leading the government of the United Kingdom (from Sir Winston Churchill to Liz Truss). During her reign, 14 American presidents from Truman to Trump visited the White House. But what can I say: when the daughter of King George VI ascended the throne, Stalin was sitting in the Kremlin.
When Elizabeth II came to the throne, the British colonial empire was already beginning the path to an imminent decline – its pearl, India, had gained independence by that time. But there were still enough colonies, protectorates and dependent territories, overshadowed by the Union Jack. By the end of the queen’s life, only crumbs remained of her past greatness – although Elizabeth II formally remained the head of such states as Australia, Canada, New Zealand.
The seventy-year reign of Elizabeth II contained a mind-boggling number of historical events – from the transformation of the British Empire, over which the sun once never set, into miserable fragments of its former colonial greatness, to the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2022 energy crisis. From the rise of television (her coronation was the first to be televised in Britain) to the power of the internet. From the Beatles and the Rolling Stones to the Falklands War and the Northern Ireland Conflict. From Britain’s entry into a single European home to Brexit…
And if you remember the times when Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Maria, “Lilibet”, as her family called her, had not yet become queen, then we can say without any exaggeration: she was history itself. And then, when in childhood I “zigged” with my little sister on a movie camera, and when I put on a uniform, I went to serve in the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Corps during the Second World War.
As trite as it sounds, the death of Elizabeth II is truly the end of an era. Which, perhaps, will someday also be called “Elizabethian” (although this designation refers to completely different centuries and to a different queen).
It seemed that it has always been – and will always be, becoming not only a part of the world history of the 20th and 21st centuries, but also an integral part of mass culture and social life. She has become something more than the sovereign of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. Her face – like the crowned EIIR monogram – was replicated on millions of postage stamps, flaunted on banknotes and coins. Portraits of palace painters and rowdy pop artists (from Andy Warhol to Banksy) have immortalized Elizabeth II, as have the once-shocking Sex Pistols songs and the Crown TV series that have become punk rock classics.
She was loved, but she was not the people’s queen. Unlike her parent, the Queen Mother lived to be 101 years old.
It is unlikely that Elizabeth II could be called a good queen. Unflappable under any circumstances – yes. Keep Calm and Carry On – this British slogan from the Second World War – perhaps best captures the essence of Her Majesty: “Keep calm and continue to act”). There is a photograph taken in the second half of the 1940s. On it, the then princess walks past girls in military uniform, one of whom has fainted. The future queen, as if nothing had happened, walks by with a confident step.
In a sense, Elizabeth II was the “essence” of the monarchy. In fact, who offhand will name the names of some Scandinavian crowned rulers now reigning. But, say, the Danish monarchy is considered the most ancient in Europe. But who cares about “Danes and various other Swedes”?
Everyone knows the head of the British monarchy, although she – unlike Victoria – was not the “grandmother of Europe.” And it’s not just about the “weight” of the crown of the United Kingdom. The personal factor plays an important role. Elizabeth II was not just a queen, but “the very Queen”, The Queen.
And with all this – behind the mask of equanimity developed over the years – she was a person of flesh and blood, with her sores, joys and hardships.
Adversity in recent years around Queen Elizabeth II has become more and more – as the Queen has become weaker and weaker. The demarche arranged by her grandson Harry and Meghan Markle with the departure from the royal house could not but leave scars on the heart of Her Majesty. As well as the pedophile odor scandal around her son Prince Andrew. The biggest blow was the death of the Queen’s husband, Prince Philip. Now they’ll be buried next to each other…
And yet, despite the scandals, the blows of fate and senile infirmity, she remained the bond that did not allow the crackling United Kingdom to crumble. Will it be possible to maintain the unity of the monarchy, will the Scots, Welsh, and British run away to their own apartments? Will the Commonwealth, uniting the former British possessions, fall apart? And will the monarchy in Britain survive after Elizabeth II as such? The questions, despite their seeming speculation, are by no means idle.