The Death of Queen Elizabeth II

On the occasion of the Queen’s 21st birthday, she stated:

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. 

Seventy five years later that promise has now been fulfilled and the Queen has passed from this earthly world. Her extraordinary reign serves as an outstanding example of dedicated service and courage. In terms of its longevity, it is unique within the history of our sovereign nation and for many of us who have grown up within the United Kingdom or Commonwealth of Nations,  it is difficult to envisage what the future will look like without her comforting presence.  

Her Late Majesty’s legacy is one of hope and even during the most difficult of times, she reminded us that light overcomes darkness. This was never more apparent than during the worst days of the pandemic when she reminded us of our infinite potential to prevail over adversity.  She evoked the spirit of the Blitz and her words were imbued with a wisdom that was born from experience. The Queen belonged to a generation that had known great hardship and experienced great loss. Yesterday evening, the Archbishop of Canterbury reflected that, 

Through times of war and hardship, through seasons of upheaval and change, and through moments of joy and celebration, we have been sustained by Her Late Majesty’s faith in what and who we are called to be.  

Her conviction that we are called upon to serve others has inspired Rossallians from one generation to another. It is a simple truth that is reflected in the selfless sacrifice of so many of those who have passed through this place. It is a truth that endures through the trials and tribulations of our own lives and provides us with sustenance through the most difficult of times.  Queen Elizabeth II transcended the constitutional limitations of her position. In 1957, she reflected upon her role and observed:

In the old days the monarch led his soldiers on the battlefield and his leadership at all times was close and personal.

Today things are very different. I cannot lead you into battle. I do not give you laws or administer justice but I can do something else. I can give you my heart and my devotion to these old islands to all the peoples of our brotherhood of nations. 

As we look back on her life, it is clear that the reverence and love which she has inspired was a reflection of who she was as a person rather than an expression of the authority which her position bestowed. 

There is a collective sense of loss for the light has gone out in all of our lives and the mother of our nation has departed. We will not see the likes of her again in our lifetime.  On a personal level, many of us will see this as a sad reminder of the relentless march of time. Nothing is forever but yet the Queen’s reign seemed eternal – an enduring presence in an ever changing world.  As a nation we mourn the loss of a much loved figure. Yesterday was a day that many of us had dreaded because it marked the end of something which is simply irreplaceable. We knew the day was coming but it seemed impossible to imagine until it finally arrived. 

I have here in my hand a souvenir of the Queen’s coronation. Published upon the occasion of her coronation it states,

In November, 1948, the Princess presented the British people with a future king, a king our children may serve.

That moment has now come and at a time of sadness we also need to look to the future with optimism. Many of you have experienced the insurmountable grief of losing family members and you know well that the absence left by the love that we lose creates a void that is impossible to fill. If you believe that we are one people, one nation, then there is a sense that, collectively, we must walk together into a brave new world.  

Our ability to survive loss and to thrive once again is one of the defining features of what makes us human. As the Elizabethan Age draws to a close, we must look to the future with resolute optimism and with a commitment to embracing the spirit of hope, courage and resilience that defined the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. May she rest in peace and rise in Glory.