A Life Of Purposeful Duty And Poise
Taken just two days before her passing, as she welcomed in her 15th British prime minister, it is now a very poignant image, depicting a frail but determined and dutiful woman who lived life with purpose until the very end.
It shows Queen Elizabeth II standing with the aid of a stick in a grand room in Balmoral Castle, the place where it’s claimed she felt the most comfortable and ‘at home’.
If you ignore the grandeur of the surroundings, she could be anyone’s granny, but she was also the most remarkable monarch this country, and indeed, the world has ever and may ever know.
No-one seeing that photo would have predicted the devastating news that was to follow just two days later. She smiled as she always did and was, according to the people who met her that day, in exceptionally good spirits. And that, for me perfectly sums up Queen Elizabeth II. She was constant, dedicated, and a perfect representation of what it is to live life with purpose.
On her 21st birthday she famously told the world that whether her life “be long or short” it would be devoted to the service of her people and the Commonwealth. And as the Archbishop of Canterbury said so beautiful in his sermon at her funeral, “rarely has such a promise been so well kept.”
At just twenty-five, she became Queen, following the death of her father, a role she wasn’t born to do. And yet, she took on this duty and dedicated her life to it; serving with courage, devotion, and poise.
The Queen met thirteen of the last fourteen American presidents, and just a week ago asked her fifteenth British prime minister to form a government. The birth of her first prime minister (Sir Winston Churchill) and her last, Liz Truss happened one-hundred-and-one years apart. Mount Everest had not been conquered until the year after her accession and it has since been summitted four thousand times. Around eighty-six percent of the British population were born under her reign and her longevity is surpassed by just one monarch, Louis XIV of France.
But Queen Elizabeth II’s reign will be remembered for far more than longevity. She was not just a figurehead, but a guiding light, “the invisible glue” that held the Commonwealth together. Australia’s former prime minister, Bob Hawke, spoke of her commitment to her role, “you could talk to her about any of the fifty-one countries and have an intelligent conversation with her about the economics, the politics. She immersed herself in it, even to the point of getting communiques toughened up.”
David McDowell, a New Zealander who was special assistant to the Commonwealth secretary general Arnold Smith was in awe of her commitment to her role. “She had a compendious knowledge, particularly of the Commonwealth leaders. She knew them all and she was fascinated.” Indeed, Prince Philip described her as the Commonwealth’s psychotherapist.
Of course, The Queen believed her purpose also lay closer to home, leading her people through good times and bad. Throughout her reign, she was instrumental in keeping the union of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland together and I believe, she even choreographed the days following her passing to show what Scotland meant to her – and indeed, what she meant to it. The past ten days could have been a London-centric affair but instead, even in death, she has brought her nations closer together and allowed them to grieve as one.
The outpouring of grief shown here in London, across the UK and the world is testament to a life well lived; a purpose well served. Queen Elizabeth could have been a “do-as-you-are-told Queen,” but she was so much more than that. She realised that if a job was worth doing, it was worth doing well and that she did.
Few of us truly know her, despite feeling like we do, but those that were honoured to live and work in her presence say she had immense joy in the work she was doing, a magnificent spirit, and the ability to keep her finger on our national pulse, moving us forward through so many changing and challenging times.
We can learn so many lessons from the incredible life of Queen Elizabeth II but the one I hold in my heart is this… you get out of life what you put in. Every day is a welcome gift and should be lived as so. After all, as the Queen herself once said, “We are just passing through. Our purpose is to grow, to learn, and to love, and then we return home.”
Rest in peace, Ma’am and thank you for a life of purpose, passion, and pride in your country, your people and all that you did.
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