The death of Queen Elizabeth II has dominated our news services for the several days. As the longest reigning British Monarch, the Queen has been a mainstay in our lives.
At this time, we can reflect on the Queen’s remarkable life, commitment to public service and apolitical leadership.
On her 21st birthday, as a young Princess, she Elizabeth promised to live with “unwavering faith, a high courage and a quiet heart.”
Driven by her values and devotion to purpose, Princess Elizabeth believed that we could build a commonwealth to be “more free, more prosperous, more happy and a more powerful influence for good in the world.” To accomplish this, she believed that we “must give nothing less than the whole of ourselves. There is a motto which has been borne by many of my ancestors – a noble motto, ‘I serve.’”
She became Queen through the death of her father, King George VI, in 1952 when she was only 25 years old. We now witness Prince Charles becoming King Charles III while he publicly mourns the death of his mother. The young Queen Elizabeth was also in deep mourning as she ascended to the throne.
Her duty to her people and to the role she embodied meant that as a person, an individual, she was not well-understood. Yet paradoxically, she was arguably the most famous person in the world. The Queen’s face was emblazoned on postage stamps, posters and our currency. She was known, yet unknown.
What we did know was that she faced the world with admirable stoicism, leading and advising through wars, social upheaval, terrorism, national disasters and a global pandemic. For 70 years, she kept the quiet counsel of countless Prime Ministers and Presidents without creating political storms.
All the while, her faith, courage and quietness remained steadfast. When the world was in turmoil, many turned to hear the voice of the Queen. In a rare broadcast in 2020, the then 93-year-old made only her fifth special televised broadcast. It came at a time when we were filled with anxiousness regarding the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many were separated from family and friends, the health system was overwhelmed and businesses were unable to function.
I remember how I felt hearing her words of hope, strength and comfort.
“Together we are tackling this disease, and I want to reassure you that if we remain united and resolute, then we will overcome it. While we have faced challenges before, this one is different. This time we join with all nations across the globe in a common endeavour, using the great advances of science and our instinctive compassion to heal. We will succeed – and that success will belong to every one of us. We should take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better days will return: we will be with our friends again; we will be with our families again; we will meet again.”
The Queen spoke to the world. Her words transcended the countries of the Commonwealth and touched many. Her resonance with people was due to her decades of values-driven service to others and her faith, courage and “quiet heart.” Her quiet heart, quietly comforted.
Whether Australia remains a constitutional monarchy will be a debate for another time. What we can reflect on now, is how we heed her lessons of humble leadership, hope and perseverance. May she rest in peace.