Today we dedicate our blog to a tribute to Queen Elizabeth II. Her life and influence over decades and her recent passing have touched all of the Word Wenches — we admired her not only from the perspective of writers whose historical novels have so often included some facet of British royalty—but as women and global citizens who have long respected Her Majesty for many reasons, personal and cultural, some of which we touch on below.
We will never see her like again. As Mary Jo mentions below, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was the world’s queen in the truest sense.
Queen Elizabeth was extraordinary. When she declared “that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service” she meant it and proved this over and over again during her 70 year reign. From celebrating the Silver Jubilee in the 1970s when I was at school to all the lovely community events we shared earlier this year for the Platinum Jubilee, she was present in our lives as a symbol of stability and reassurance in constantly changing times.
I particularly remember feeling comforted when the Queen spoke during the pandemic and was so moved when I saw her sitting alone during Prince Philip’s funeral. Those of us who had lost family during those years could identify completely with her. Then there were the fun things – her love of animals, especially her dogs, was something I shared and understood. The twinkle in her eye when she displayed her quick sense of humour was warming and reminded me of my own grandmother. And the video with Daniel Craig for the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics – none of us could believe that it was the real Queen! Our jaws hit the floor. We were blown away.
The Queen was special. She had the strongest sense of duty I have ever seen anyone display and she served the country for decades with dignity, resilience, wisdom and probably more courage than we will ever know.
Christina here –
As I am such a huge fan of history, I've always been fascinated by all the traditions monarchy brings, and nowhere more so than here in the UK. From the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace, to the State Opening of Parliament and Trooping of the Colour, the British seem to excel at these sorts of extravaganzas. And at the centre of them was always the Queen – serene and gracious.
Having grown up abroad, she didn't figure hugely in my life until I came to live in the UK. But once here, I couldn't fail to notice what an amazing woman she was – as Nicola said, she was incredibly special. She always behaved with the utmost dignity, performed her role with patience and kindness, and with a ready smile that seemed completely genuine. Her keen interest in everything shone through, and in later years I personally loved her sense of humour. The Olympics video and, more recently, the one for her Jubilee where she took tea with Paddington Bear were wonderful! I'm sure the whole country will miss her steady hand at the helm – it's the end of an era.
I'm not a monarchist in general — I think Australia should be a republic — but like most people I have huge admiration for Queen Elizabeth and the amazing job she has done — for her entire lifetime. I can't imagine living the life the royals are born into — living in a public fishbowl and under the scrutiny of the world from the time they are born. They don't get to choose, and those of them who perform their endless duties with grace and dignity have my admiration. The queen was a superlative example of this, but one of the things that made me like, as well as admire her, was her sense of humour.
For instance, this story: When at her country home, Balmoral, she liked to go for long rambling walks, dressed in a tweed skirt, a headscarf and sensible walking shoes, and accompanied by a single security officer. One time she came across some friendly American tourists who asked her if she was a local. "Yes, my house is over there," she said, gesturing vaguely.
"We're told that local people often see the queen, going for walks around here," the tourists said. "Have you ever seen the queen?"
"No," said the queen, perfectly straight-faced. She indicated her security officer. "But this gentleman has. Often."
Hail and Farewell
Mary Jo here. When I saw the image of the double rainbow that was seen over Buckingham Palace a few minutes after Queen Elizabeth died, my first thought was, "She's with Philip now."
I guess that proves what an incurable romance writer I am, but their seventy-three years of marriage are certainly noteworthy, as was his unwavering support of his wife and queen. More about that below.
I'm American, not British, so she was not my queen, but she was always there, a model of graciousness and dignity. Like the sky, she covered everyone: she was the world's queen. I never thought much about her, other than the fact that she was there in Britain and could always be counted on to be gracious, appropriate, and insanely patient with her endless duties, many of which must have been paralyzingly boring. But she was never less than regal and kind.
In recent days, I've come to think that she was a graceful off ramp from the British Empire to these very different times. One thing that made WWII a "world war" was the Empire because tens of thousands of soldiers from all over the globe fought beside the Allies against the Axis powers.
Winston Churchill was dedicated to the Empire, and one of his greatest quotes said 'if the Empire lasts a thousand years, men will say this was her finest hour.' The West prevailed in that devastating war, but the Empire began to come apart as nations declared for independence, and Elizabeth helped that transition by being her gracious self.
My English writer friend Jenny Haddon wrote a wonderful memorial tribute to the Queen, and my favorite part was how she went to South Africa to support the new President Nelson Mandela when the rest of the world just wanted to give advice. (Jenny's post is well worth reading for other reasons as well.)
As most of you must know, she had a lovely sense of humor, as in this little promo film for the London Olympics in 2012, which shows her and James Bond going to the opening of the Games. If you haven't seen this, do take a look–it's hilarious: The Queen and James Bond.
And who could not love this other clip of the Queen and another British icon, Paddington Bear?
She left an epic lifetime of wonderful moments, but I'm returning to her very long marriage to Philip because I'm a romance writer. It's a great love story. They met when Elizabeth was 13 and apparently she never looked at anyone else. They were both extraordinary people, and surely his support helped her become the extraordinary and much loved woman she was. According to his Wikipedia entry, they both hated when the media chattered about how they must be drifting apart. I knew that he was a prince of both Denmark and Greece and even that he was born in Greece, but hadn't realized that it was on the island of Corfu, which I visited several months ago, nor did I know that he was born on a dining room table, which sounds very uncomfortable for his mother!
I suspect that the only ones the Queen could talk freely to were her beloved horses, corgis, and husband. I like to think that they're all together now on the other side of the rainbow.
Well done, thou good and faithful servant.
And Susan –
I have watched and admired The Queen since I was a child and believed that England had a fairytale queen on the throne; at least that’s how I saw the Queen and her family (being obsessed with princesses, princes, and palaces, thanks to Disney). As I grew up and older, I realized and appreciated how remarkably and seamlessly, how patiently and graciously this great lady lived, transcending the lows and celebrating the highs in life with grace and humility. She became a model of all we could be as women, mothers, human beings–unfailingly kind and caring, smart and considerate, with keen intelligence, gentle wit, and that sparkling, genuine smile. She aged gracefully and naturally, never pushing against her evolution, always naturally beautiful, elegant, radiant. (I have heard that she was even called the Rainbow Queen for her bright and lovely outfits.)
Even when there were conflicts, her position elevated her above the trouble, allowing her to soothe, comfort, be a beacon for others. But she wasn’t afraid of the trenches either; she did not seem to take herself too seriously, never seemed haughty or unapproachable. As one British mourner said of her this week, when she smiled at the crowd, it was as if she was smiling at you.
She cared deeply, with an uncommon sense of dedication and loyalty. She worked constantly to improve and help where she could, using her position and the strength and calm of her character to push toward change. She quietly moved society forward through kindness, integrity, and respect. If people didn't always realize what she was getting done over the years, they are learning more about it now. Elizabeth II modeled for all of us how to navigate life with grace, humility, kindness, sincerity, and heart. She was an unforgettable and legendary Queen, and I am very grateful to have lived in her era.
Thank you, Ma'am, for everything.
Left, The Queen while visiting Maryland (my State) in 2007 (Wiki commons).
Here’s a video of the Queen’s balcony appearance during her Jubilee – an incredible event that fully demonstrated her nation’s great love and respect for her.
If you are interested in viewing the beautiful, stirring moments of the Queen’s State Funeral today, here is the BBC guide to the day’s events.
We’d love to hear your own tributes to The Queen in the comments!