(Picture taken from The Royal Family instagram)
Isn’t it ironic that just when society was up in arms over the issue of aging women and their grey hair, the most iconic head of grey hair ever, Queen Elizabeth, died this past week at the age of 96?
In January 2022, I wrote a post about the tenuousness versus the necessity of royalty (“The Future of Monarchies – Monkey and Human”). In short, criticism included the fictional nature of monarchy, the financial cost, the lack of diversity, and the ability to over-rule government (we can't forget, either, the controversial side of royalty such as the history of colonialism) while some praises were for the contribution of the monarchy to society, the involvement in the community and the constitution, their ‘centrist’ approach, consistency, and support for a society’s identity. Regardless of where your beliefs lie and regardless of the more controversial parts of history, it is hard not to acknowledge that the passing of Queen Elizabeth is, literally and figuratively, the end of an epic story.
For many of us ‘boomers’, the passing of Queen Elizabeth marks the end of something deeper than just her reign as monarch.
Elizabeth became Queen on 6 February 1952 at the young age of 25. I don’t know many people that age who could, or would want to, rise to the challenge. Reigning for 70 years, the Queen has been eye witness to many world-changing events. ABC News (Meredith Deliso, abcnews.go.com) points out that she experienced the first commercial jet service, the Apollo II moon landing, the end of the Vietnam war, the fall of the Berlin Wall, apartheid dismantlement, the 9/11 attacks, and the COVID-19 pandemic. Newsweek (James Crawford-Smith, www.newsweek.com) adds to this list the assassination of JFK and man's first walk on the moon. Those are just the major events. I would add that there have been so many societal changes during her 70 year reign: technology, race relations, conception options, sexual identity, wars, changing regimes, women's progress, Brexit . . . add to this the issues of a personal family nature – the addition of Princess Diana to the family, marriage breakups, the death of Princess Diana, sexual misconduct allegations, an inter-race marriage, her husband’s death - and the Queen has lived a life, indeed. And she ‘rolled with it’.
Throughout all the changes, whether it was world-defining, society evolving, or 'normal' family issues, the Queen has stood steadfast. Again, whether you agree with the concept of monarchy or not, and again not forgetting some of the more sordid history, you might agree that if there has to be a Queen, Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor was a good choice. The words to describe her contribution might include: consistency, longevity, calmness, honesty, and humour. Who can forget her calming voice in crisis or her “anus horribilis” statement when her family was crumbling? And we can’t forget her ability to work right to the end. (I am quite sure she lived just long enough to see Boris Johnson exit the house two days prior to her death.) I can’t imagine what she would have thought of the “quiet quitting” fad of today. I can’t recall any major missteps or meddling in affairs or criticisms of her behaviour.
We boomers can appreciate this because we are of age to have lived through identical times, and we recognize the grace and wisdom it takes to ‘keep your head about you’ when the world (the larger world or our own little space) is unravelling. We also understand that decisions are made for what seems right for the times, and those decisions might be wrong today, and we just might have to take a big leap back on some issues as society evolves.
Despite being Canadian, my sister and I were most aware of the British royalty. Our mother arrived in Canada from Britain in 1953. Tucked in her blue trunk with all her worldly belongings were cookie tins and coffee cups adorned with royalty – and with Queen Elizabeth. And mom never lost her infatuation with the British royals – or with the British tabloids. Although we lived a million miles away on the Canadian prairies, British royalty was normal for us.
So, at 96 years of age, the fairest grey hair of them all has died. Yes, she was a figure head who was born into an imperfect institution that has it's ghosts, but she played her role as well as possible. When the world seems to be so harsh and judgemental and angry and non-sensical and narcissistic, she remained decent, wise, and calm. We’ll never see the likes of Queen Elizabeth again.