Queen Elizabeth II: An era ends as ‘Cool Britannia’ enters uncertain times

Special to WorldTribune.com

By John J. Metzler

The Queen has died; the page of history has turned. The passing of Queen Elizabeth II, Britain’s longest serving monarch, has shocked and saddened much of the world despite the sovereign’s declining health and her 96 years of age. Just months after having joyfully celebrated her platinum Jubilee commemorating 70 years on the British throne, she has passed.

The daughter of King George VI, Britain’s wartime King, Princess Elizabeth assumed the throne in 1952 after the untimely passing of her Father. Though coming of age during WWII, she possessed what the British called the indomitable “Blitz Spirit,” the young Queen in a sense bridged two historical and social periods; the War and post-war austerity period and that of a very different modernizing post-colonial Britain. What some described as Cool Britannia.

Just before her reign, while visiting Capetown South Africa, Princess Elizabeth stated somberly, “I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.”

Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Queen Elizabeth II attending the Commonwealth Economic Conference at Buckingham Palace in 1952.

As a Constitutional Monarch, she appointed fifteen prime ministers starting with Winston Churchill and ending with Liz Truss.  Just days earlier at Scotland’s Balmoral Castle, she accepted the ceremonial transfer of power to the new Conservative Prime Minister Liz Truss.

Two days after stepping down as prime minister, Boris Johnson wrote, “This is our country’s saddest day…wave after wave of grief is rolling across the world.”

Two days into her new role, Liz Truss said the Queen had been “the rock on which modern Britain was built.”  She added, “Britain is the great country it is today because of her.”

Extraordinarily during the course of three days, the United Kingdom had two Prime Ministers, saw the passing of the Queen, and the elevation of the new King Charles III.

Elizabeth’s life encapsulated duty, faith and grace with an amazing wit, while at the same time being the devoted mother to four children, the oldest being Charles, now 73 years old who has become King.  While family problems often befuddled Queen Elizabeth and her loving husband Prince Phillip who died last year, the monarch remained steadfast in her service to the nation.

The Crown series on Netflix has done an admirable job in presenting her storied and sometimes tumultuous reign.

During three visits to the USA, she helped nurture the Anglo/American “special relationship.”

While visiting New York in 2010, she established a garden to particularly honor the British and Commonwealth victims of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on America.

Over the years she met thirteen American presidents starting with Harry Truman and going to Joe Biden, thus witnessing an amazing swath of history.

Indeed, the Queen was the last global leader from the WWII generation to have served during that time in the military Auxiliary Services.

Her official BBC Obit read in part, “The long reign of Queen Elizabeth II was marked by her strong sense of duty and her determination to dedicate her life to her throne and to her people.”

The crown now passes to Prince Charles, who has become King Charles III.

As sovereign, King Charles becomes head of the Commonwealth, an association of 56 independent countries and 2.4 billion people.  For 14 of these countries, including the United Kingdom as well as Australia, Canada, the King is head of state.

But she has reigned for an age; something like 90 percent of the people living in the world were born during her reign.

“The relationship between the country and the Queen is something quite extraordinary, something far beyond the realms or understanding of politics.”

Elizabeth II offered stability in the midst of a changing country now facing uncertainty. Not surprisingly, millions of people lined up in gratitude and grief to see her lying-in-state and to watch her state funeral.

The royal family embodies the role of tradition, not in a stodgy and static way, but one of underscoring historic continuity, honor and selfless service to the nation.

As Fraser Nelson wrote in the Spectator, “The relationship between the country and the Queen is something quite extraordinary, something far beyond the realms or understanding of politics.”

The groundswell of popular sympathy, support and solidarity by the British people for this magisterial queen was unparalleled.

Continuity now sees that the crown changes to her son Charles who has become King.

But I’m writing with near certainty that never again will anyone reading these words witness a British monarch with such a long and glorious reign.

The United Kingdom faces serious economic headwinds not least of all from the Ukraine war and the ensuing European energy shortages.  The new king and prime minister enter the stage during very uncertain times.

A legend has passed.

John J. Metzler is a United Nations correspondent covering diplomatic and defense issues. He is the author of Divided Dynamism the Diplomacy of Separated Nations: Germany, Korea, China (2014). [See pre-2011 Archives]