by Yuan Yi Zhu
Friday, 9
September 2022
Reaction
07:30

Queen Elizabeth II: a beautiful anachronism

She knew it was her sworn duty to carry on
by Yuan Yi Zhu
Credit: Getty

The death of a ruling sovereign is a strange thing, at once a private tragedy and public spectacle. In more unsettled times, Parliament would be dissolved and all officers of the Crown dismissed, marking the advent of a new political order. As monarchical power ebbed, so did the political implications of a demise of the crown; yet the democratic form of monarchy merely increased the intensity with which the event is felt. As the Queen’s forebears gave up their last state prerogatives, they gained a new place in their subjects’ consciousness; and private and public grief became one.

The Queen, we were told, was “comfortable and resting”, that most deadly of postures, the whitest of lies from the Royal Household, perhaps the last bastion of euphemism in an age notable for its bluntness. We all knew what it meant; yet a superstitious reticence stopped many from saying it out loud. But then the event would occur, the recent evasions would be forgotten, and the mourning would begin.

It is almost impossible to say anything about The Queen’s reign which has not been said before. Hopes of a second Elizabethan age which accompanied her accession, it is often said, have not been borne out; but they have been, just not in the manner people expected. Her subjects have gained a degree of prosperity which would have delighted their ancestors who witnessed her Coronation; yet there is also a widespread sense that the civic unity of her peoples has decayed at the same time, along with their sense of national purpose.

But little of this was her own doing: we asked her to give her imprimatur, to lend her name to the choices we made. Whatever decline might have occurred under her reign, we do not begrudge her for that reason. The image that will endure of her, even more than that of the beautiful young Queen, is that of the grandmother, familiar and intimate rather than heroic. And that is all right.

Because her reign has been so long, she inevitably became an anachronism, but in the best sense of the world, embodying the last remnants of public virtues which have long since disappeared almost everywhere else. She could have retired decades ago with little public comment; yet she chose to carry on because of an oath she took. What a fantastically antiquated notion in an age of employment laws, to believe that you held office from God. But she truly believed it was her sworn duty to carry on, and we were all secretly glad she did.

When George II passed away in the middle of the Seven Years’ War, Horace Walpole envied him for dying “in perfect tranquillity at home… without a pang, before any reverse of fortune, or any distasted peace, nay, but two days before a shipload of bad news”. We do not know what news the next shipload will bring, but we will have to face it without her reassuring presence, telling us that “in the end all will be well”. We hope our new king will be equal to the task. May God preserve him.

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Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
27 days ago

It’s a shock, even though she was 96 and we knew it would happen. It’s like losing a much loved grandparent.
She was the foundation for the U.K. recovering post-empire and postwar. A fantastic achievement.

Aaron James
Aaron James
27 days ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

I do not think losing a loved Grandparent is what it is like for me. I have been a subject of the Queen all my life and understood the ‘Queen and Country’ of my older days. She is not like a Grandparent, she was the Queen, and there will never be another, She is beyond family, she was Monarch, there is no one she can be compared to.

I have great hope for Charles. I feel he has matured well, and I believe he understands his duty to his core, and will be faithful to it.

J Bryant
J Bryant
27 days ago

I admired the Queen. Whatever one’s opinion of the role of monarchy in the modern world, I believe she did the job as well as it could be done. I’m very sad to see her pass. Something reassuring has been lost to the world. Like the author of this article, I hope Charles is up to the job.

Carol Jones
Carol Jones
26 days ago
Reply to  J Bryant

Well said. My concern about Charles is his long entrenched works with the WEF and Mr “One world govt” Schwab. He is the test of whether the British Monarchy will survive. May he not believe the “power” (sic) of the Crown as assumed by the One World types.

Barakuda Barakuda
Barakuda Barakuda
25 days ago
Reply to  Carol Jones

In full transparency, Charles is what I would call a “Genocidal Globalist,” who follows Precept Ten of the Georgia Guidestones, which is very seldom discussed, stating “Be not a Cancer upon the Earth; Leave Room for Nature.”

Nicholas Rynn
Nicholas Rynn
27 days ago

A thoughtful and caring article, for which I thank you.

Adam Bartlett
Adam Bartlett
27 days ago

Thank you for such a fitting tribute at the start of our mourning, for that “gleaming figure whom Providence had brought to us.” The Queen is dead. Long live the King!

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
26 days ago

The Queen was certainly a connection to a generation and a set of values which are now all but lost…but why are the values always written of as being irretrievable? We cannot bring a generation back to life, but it is entirely our choice to recommit to and revive the values they lived by. We are not incapable of it, we can decide.
In the meantime, I am confident that both Charles and William, in their own ways, will embody these values and uphold the institution to the best of their abilities.

Last edited 26 days ago by Katharine Eyre
Carol Jones
Carol Jones
26 days ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

What makes you so sure about either?

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
27 days ago

Nice

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
26 days ago

Now we need to get Markle married off to Sit Lewis Hamilton? Job done….

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
26 days ago

God bless The King and the passing of Our Queen Elizabeth.

A little reminder to the woke: Britain accepted and enjoyed Royalty who came from a racial minority, Germany. A little lesson to Africa and certain Asian nations.

Rob Britton
Rob Britton
26 days ago

God save the king

Susan 0
Susan 0
27 days ago

Am I the only one who finds the Queen’s death rather sudden? To go from looking as she did on Tuesday to being dead within two days seems a bit unbelievable. Why aren’t we being told what was wrong with her, what she died of? “Mobility issues” and “age” aren’t really answers. Of course respect for privacy is important but surely we should be given some explanation of our Queen’s demise? I sincerely hope there is nothing sinister in all this.

Carol Jones
Carol Jones
26 days ago
Reply to  Susan 0

Its always good to question. Agreed!

Brett H
Brett H
25 days ago
Reply to  Carol Jones

It’s a ridiculous question.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
26 days ago
Reply to  Susan 0

Perhaps just so utterly shocked to discover that Truss was not a new servant, but Prime Minister?

Brett H
Brett H
25 days ago
Reply to  Susan 0

What, you think she went from robust health to a sudden death?

Barakuda Barakuda
Barakuda Barakuda
25 days ago
Reply to  Susan 0

Did the COVID injection KILL the Queen? How many COVID injections did she receive & when was the last one? Did the queen get boosters? The injection may have killed her! I say what many whisper….

Brett H
Brett H
25 days ago

I think 96 years of living might have had something to do with it.

Dr. G Marzanna
Dr. G Marzanna
25 days ago

To be honest I think it was rather unfair that she carried on to the age of 96 I think that she deserved a bit of a retirement and it might have been nice if she & Philip would have been able to spend say a decade together in retirement without having to constantly do their duty I’m not sure if the choice was 100-percent hers if it was, fair enough, but it seems strangely cruel

Chris Bredge
Chris Bredge
19 days ago
Reply to  Dr. G Marzanna

I believe that was both of their choices so who are we to judge?

Walter Schwager
Walter Schwager
26 days ago

As a republican I view the British monarchy as an antediluvian institution, supporting an antiquated, invasive structure of class and cultural warfare, belying the meritocratic foundations of a modern democratic society. I mourn the Queen but I reject the monarchy.

polidori redux
polidori redux
26 days ago

I can see all that. But then I look on as elected presidents and their first ladies swan around, clearly enjoying the trappings of near monarchy without accepting the responsibilties and limitations that go with that role. I have decided that we do better sticking with the genuine article rather than genuflecting to politicians.

Last edited 26 days ago by polidori redux
Brett H
Brett H
24 days ago

“the meritocratic foundations of a modern democratic society”
Youre kidding, right?

polidori redux
polidori redux
27 days ago

I am burying my Queen. I would appreciate it if others would mind their own bloody business.

Nirmal Sandhu
Nirmal Sandhu
27 days ago
Reply to  polidori redux

Where is your spade?

Brett H
Brett H
27 days ago
Reply to  polidori redux

What’s the problem?

polidori redux
polidori redux
26 days ago
Reply to  Brett H

It is none of your business. Okay?

Brett H
Brett H
25 days ago
Reply to  polidori redux

So why draw attention to yourself?

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
27 days ago

I’m not sure there’s any need to rush an article out so quickly after the Queen had passed, within the hour.
This author did the same earlier this week following the PM’s first statement outside No.10.
There is such a thing as decorum – yes, even in 2022 and both Unherd and this author need to learn what it means.

Nirmal Sandhu
Nirmal Sandhu
27 days ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

I really don’t see what the issue is with expressing an opinion..

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
27 days ago
Reply to  Nirmal Sandhu

Considered opinions are always welcome, rushed ones – not so. As i said, this author is developing a habit of rushing out articles and might just want to reconsider the wisdom of such haste.

Carol Jones
Carol Jones
26 days ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Sorry you determine the “timing” ? Seriously?

Arkadian X
Arkadian X
27 days ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

Unlike the article on Liz Truss, I have quite liked this one. Perhaps he wrote it some time ago…

Aaron James
Aaron James
27 days ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

”I’m not sure there’s any need to rush an article out so quickly after the Queen had passed, within the hour.”

They do it out of respect. To put it off for tomorrow is disrespectful.

Brett H
Brett H
27 days ago
Reply to  Steve Murray

There’s nothing wrong with the content of this article enough to bring up decorum. Your comment is unnecessary.