Friday, September 9, 2022


I was at work yesterday morning when rumors began to swirl that the Queen's death was imminent. We all knew she was in ill health and had been for days, and after all she was 96 years old, so it wasn't a surprise. Our dark humor kicked in almost immediately. A co-worker wondered how much time off we'd get -- we did some Googling and surprisingly the answer wasn't all that clear-cut, since a nearly two-week period of national mourning was planned.

I didn't expect it to happen as quickly as it did, though. When we heard in the afternoon that the family was gathering at Balmoral I realized how serious this was, and even then, she seemed to die so rapidly. It's remarkable that just a couple of days ago she was greeting the new prime minister.

But Elizabeth took her duty seriously, as we've seen over and over throughout her life. Being a living symbol can't be easy, because it doesn't leave much room to be a person, certainly not in the public sphere. But she approached her role with steadfastness and grace.

Last night Dave and I watched the BBC as the news developed. We saw Liz Truss' speech in front of 10 Downing Street, in which she let it be known that the new monarch would be known as King Charles III. Then I took Olga for a walk on the high street to see if I saw any evidence of the news.

Dave and I have talked about this moment for years. Almost since we got here, we've known it was likely that we'd be here for Elizabeth's death. We got a glimmer of what it might be like when Prince Philip died last year.

So I wasn't sure what to expect. Would there be signs? Black bunting? People crying? Would shops or restaurants close?

Well, last night at least, it remained pretty much business as usual, from what I could tell. People were in the pubs and restaurants, and no one seemed tearful or upset. I suppose, just like us, everyone knew it was coming. There will no doubt be more physical evidence of mourning in the coming days.

I did get an e-mail from Kew Gardens saying it would close today "as a mark of respect," and the royal palaces are also unsurprisingly closed. I'm sure there will be other closures, but we'll be back at school as usual. I would wear black except I don't have any black clothes. I'll go with something muted.

It's very strange to think of the world without Queen Elizabeth. She's been such a constant for all of us -- Queen for longer than many of us have been alive, the only British monarch we've ever known. I never saw her during my time here in England, which isn't unusual. The Royals are not that easy to see. I did see her more than 30 years ago in Tampa, which I've written about a couple of times before. And I went to see her Jubilee flotilla back in 2012, which made for an interesting day out, but I didn't even glimpse the Queen herself.

Jubilees had come to seem a fairly frequent occurrence, but we won't have any more for a while. Possibly a long, long while.

I'm not necessarily a monarchist or even a huge fan of the royal family, though I do respect and appreciate the Queen. I think many, many people feel the same way. It will be interesting to see how the country and the monarchy change now. Charles has talked in the past of a desire to make changes, and I often heard people speculate that the role of royalty in British society would shift after her death. Here we are, at that point.

I did and do feel some sadness, but also resignation at the inevitability of this event. It's kind of the same way I approach the ill health of my mother. I'll be sorry to see her go, but given her age and infirmity it would hardly be a shock. Life ends for us all, and the only constant is change.


River said...

I am also sad and spent most of this morning crying and the afternoon trying not to cry. I liked Queen Elizabeth so very much.

Sabine said...

In terms of family and losing a mother and granny and so on, very sad. But I am waiting for someone to come up with a list of achievements of Elizabeth II, a world leader in a way, in view of world peace and other stuff relating to our planet as whole and so on? Other than her life of steadfast duty-to-the-crown (what does that mean?).
Sorry, don't mean to be harsh, but I was introduced to all things British via my Irish family.

Moving with Mitchell said...

Like you, I'm not a monarchist or a huge fan of the royal family, but I have always admired Queen Elizabeth II.

Yorkshire Pudding said...

I think The Queen would have wanted you and your colleagues (American: co-workers) to work longer hours than usual with no time off - even for her funeral. She would have also wanted you to donate half your wages to The Corgi Rescue Fund. Now that's what I call dark humour.

Val said...

Perhaps no jubilees in the near future but we have a coronation to look forward to. I remember the last one and it was something to remember!

Anonymous said...

I cannot explain it beyond being an Australian over the age of 50 for you to really understand what her death means to us. She was Queen of Australia, Canada and New Zealand. It was inevitable but still a surprise that mobility issues caused her death.

Pixie said...

The Queen was a woman who took her role seriously, working her entire life for the public and living her entire life in the public eye. She always reminded me of my mum, they were only eighteen months apart in age and mum loved her. I don't think we'll see the likes of her again.

Ms. Moon said...

The check-out lady at Publix told me. How odd. I knew she was probably on her death bed but she surely did not spend a great deal of time on it, did she?
Good luck to Charles. He's certainly been King-in-Waiting a very long time.

Marty said...

So interesting to hear your reflections as an American experiencing this first-hand. A different perspective from the official news reports, I guess a "Yank-on-the-street" view. It brought me back there.

gz said...

Reading between the lines, it has been on the cards for a while.
Moving to Windsor to be near Philip...then moving home to Balmoral.
Plans were made twenty years or more ago...called Operation Tower ensure that all goes smoothly.

An honourable person..not always able to show her point of view or feelings...but the brooch she chose to wear spoke volumes.

Ellen D. said...

I admired her and I think she was a wonderful monarch. She had dignity, grace, humor. In this day of self-centered celebrities, she always seemed so calm and consistent. I wish her son the best as the new King.

Ed said...

I certainly admire how classy she was but won't shed a tear. But like you, I'm curious to see the transition to King Charles III. I would have guessed it would have been business as usual with him but heard the reports yesterday that he was thinking about shrinking the royal involvement. So that will be interesting to play out. I guess I would be more interested in the next transition to William who is younger than me. Just looking at Charles, I can't help but think that won't be too far off, perhaps less than a decade.

ellen abbott said...

Personally I've never understood the American fascination with the British monarch and the doings of the royal family. I think of Queen Elizabeth in the same way I think of any of the other monarchs around the world. Don't really care what they're doing. though if Charles is going to make changes, that might be interesting.

NewRobin13 said...

Interestingly, I thought of you and Dave when I read the news of the Queen's death. I wondered what it might be like to be there in England during such a time. Now you have a new King. We will all be watching to see how things change. Farewell to the Queen, may she rest in peace.

Linda Sue said...

The tenor will change, and pretty sure no body wants Charles and Camilla plates, tea cups, solar powered wavers...merchandising the king will not be easy. There will be a slump in the shops. Plans to turn Buckingham into offices, the royals moving to more modest out of the way palaces- living more simply has been on the burner. Queen Elizabeth was the glue -globally appealing in all ways. I reckon that they should just hand over the crown to Kate- skip the lineage- she would be good for business.

Red said...

Queen Elizabeth had a great reign and we benefited from it.

Bob said...

A fabulously long life and reign, both good and bad, but she was the steady.

Kelly said...

It's certainly the end of an era. We'll be counting on your to be our "man on the street" as everything unfolds over the coming days and weeks (and months...since who knows how quickly they'll put together the coronation).

Sharon said...

I watched a lot of the tribute broadcasts last night. It will be interesting to see how events roll out over the next few weeks. You will have to keep us informed of the little details you encounter. I'm glad that I got to see her once on one of my trips to London. My friend David and I waited outside of Parliament to see her leave after giving one of her annual addresses.

Margaret said...

I admired her very much and her death will create a huge upheaval in the monarchy. She represented stability, grace and class. Charles is more polarizing. When doctors said they were "concerned about her health" I wasn't too worried but when the family started rushing to Scotland, well, apparently "concerned" was very much understatement. I'm sure there was much going on with her health that we weren't privy to.

Allison said...

It's been interesting reading the various viewpoints about Queen Elizabeth, particularly from some of the former colonies who were treated badly. Apparently there was not a lot of love lost there.

jenny_o said...

I'm not in favour of monarchies; however, I did admire and respect the queen for her dedication to the role which she was never intended to fill in the normal course of things. To willingly assume, at such a young age, that monumental, life-long position was an indication of her character and strength. It's not all walkabouts and gold dishes. There's a lot of hard work and diplomacy and loss of privacy involved. I don't feel overly sad; I felt sadder for her when she lost her husband. She had a long life compared to many people.

Catalyst said...

"..the only constant is change." I forget the first time I heard that but it was many, many years ago and it has stayed with me ever since. As has been stated in the media and by many others on line, even if you are not a Monarchist or a Royalist or an anglophile (like me) the passing of Elizabeth seems like some kind of defining moment in everyone's lives. She was a great figure of respect in England, in the Commonwealth, and throughout the world. Coincidentally, we just watched the last 3 episodes of "The Crown" last night though I see Season 5 is coming. R.I.P. her majesty.

Steve Reed said...

River: It's a bit of a shock after having her as monarch for so long!

Sabine: Of course everyone will have their own opinions about this, but I think her demeanor, her kindness and dignity, helped set some cultural standards for how we should behave and treat each other. In other words, her achievements were more about her presence than any specific action. She actually treated Ireland quite well and helped thaw that relationship significantly, and she presided over the dismantling of the colonial system.

Mitchell: She took her duty seriously. Imagine if Margaret had been queen!

YP: My impression of corgis is that they very seldom need rescuing.

Val: That IS true!

Andrew: She was queen of more countries than just those. She was head of state for many countries in the Commonwealth, and of course when she came to the throne there was still an empire. I don't think we know precisely what caused her death.

Pixie: She reminds me of my grandmother, though she was younger than my grandmother was. Perhaps this is the secret of Elizabeth's success, that we all find in her some element of women we admire in our own lives.

Ms Moon: It's actually good that she didn't linger. She's probably been far sicker for far longer than any of us knew and just kept plugging away.

Marty: It's interesting to be here now, seeing it all first-hand, though I'm not sure I feel it the way many Brits do.

GZ: Yes, the famous brooch! I would think she'd have wanted to be at Windsor given a choice, but who knows. She stuck to her summer routine.

Ellen D: Yes, like you, I appreciated her dignity and grace. In our flashy, trashy media culture, it's rare.

Ed: I think Charles does have some plans to modernize the royal family, and it will be interesting to see what he does and what that entails.

Ellen: I think it's her longevity more than anything that has allowed people to form a sort of "bond" with her. After all, what other world leaders from our childhoods have been in power so long? What other public figures have persisted on the international stage?

Robin: It is a very interesting time to be here!

Linda Sue: Actually, I think you're wrong on the merchandising. I think people will come to appreciate Charles and Camilla. The British public has warmed to them significantly since their marriage. As for plans for the royals to live more simply, that's not a bad thing.

Red: Indeed we did, even in countries that were not under her reign.

Bob: Steadiness was her middle name!

Kelly: I'll keep you posted on events as I see them!

Sharon: So great that you got to see her! I remember reading somewhere than there are many, many more people around the world who have seen Elizabeth than there are here in the UK. She's just not very accessible here.

Margaret: Yeah, that's what I thought, too -- when the family went to her side I realized how serious this was.

Allison: The Empire, and the Queen, definitely have their detractors in some former colonies, and who can blame them?

Jenny-O: Yeah, there is no doubt a LOT of hard work that goes into that job. Just to wake every day and have an official schedule of events would be exhausting. So much talk, talk, talk. (Which is why she seldom spoke, I suppose!)

Catalyst: I am SO looking forward to the final seasons of The Crown!

Steve Reed said...

Sabine: I should clarify to say she treated Ireland quite well in recent decades. Obviously in the early and middle years of her reign the relationship between Britain and Ireland was much more fraught.

Anonymous said...

Yes she was. Papua New Guinea to our immediate north, Falkland Islands and a number of Caribbean islands.

Jeanie said...

This is a beautiful post, Steve. It kind of grabbed me by the gut -- first (that morning even) I heard the family was gathering. Then I went out for a few hours and came back to find she had died. I suspect (if appearances are to be believed) that it is the way we'd all like to go -- working or being with people till the end, and then a fast one. I hope it was painless and peaceful.