A Remarkable Reign | Daily News

A Remarkable Reign

The death at 96 of Queen Elizabeth II marks a watershed moment in the annals of the UK and indeed, the Commonwealth, some countries of which still considered her as the Head of State.

Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor was not even directly in line to the throne when she saw the light of day (by the then novel method of C-Section) on April 21, 1926. Her favourite uncle was the King (Edward VIII) and if everything went well, the Crown would have passed to his offspring.

But on December 10, 1936 King Edward abdicated over an affair with a commoner and the Crown was passed to Elizabeth’s father King George VI. Just 16 years later, with the sudden passing away of the King, the Crown was thrust on Elizabeth, who had by then been married for five years to Prince Philip Mountbatten of Greece and Denmark. At the time of her Coronation (on June 2, 1953), she had two children, Charles and Anne. Princes Andrew and Edward were born later.

The Queen, who first wore the Crown at just 26, held on to that for the next 70 years, becoming the longest-serving British monarch in the process (even worldwide, only King Louis XIV of France had ruled for a longer period). In fact, the Platinum (70th year) Jubilee of her reign was celebrated earlier this year.

The Queen has seen the arrival of 15 British Prime Ministers, including new British PM Liz Truss just three days ago. Truss is believed to be one of the last persons outside her family to have seen her before her demise. She also saw 14 US Presidents come and go and most recently welcomed President Joe Biden. She had also received the blessings of six Popes during her long reign.

She was an eyewitness to history and saw vast changes in the world, not just in the UK. By the time she came to the throne, countries such as India had already become independent. Sri Lanka too received Independence in 1948 but remained a Dominion with the Queen as Head of State until 1972, when the island became a Republic. The Queen had a special place in her heart for Sri Lanka, which she visited twice – 1954 and 1981. It was among the record 116 countries she had visited, more than any other world leader.

The Queen’s idea of forming a Commonwealth of States for the former colonies took hold with just seven countries initially. Today, membership has grown to 54 countries, though many have questioned its relevance in today’s unipolar world. There is a growing Republican movement in countries such as Australia which still retain dominion status and of course, even within the United Kingdom itself. Some analysts boldly predict that the British monarchy could end within the next 100 years, perhaps before or after Prince George (son of Prince William) ascends to the throne.

Indeed, the British monarchy has been rocked by many scandals and shocks over the decades. The year 1992 was an “annus horribilis” for the Queen, with three of her children getting divorced. The same year, there was a public outcry as it was revealed that public funds would be used for repairs to Windsor Castle after a fire. The Queen then volunteered to pay Income Tax.

The next bad moment for the Royalty came with the tragic death of Princess Diana in a Paris tunnel on August 31, 1997. Public anger was mounting against the Queen who remained at Balmoral, apparently for her indifference and not showing any signs of grief for a “People’s Princess” who had captured hearts around the world. Under severe pressure from the public and the media (The Sun famously asked in a headline “Where’s our Queen when we need her?”), she capitulated and delivered a remarkably emotional tribute to Diana.

But she was to weather many more storms at Buckingham Palace, as the sexual escapades of her son Andrew came to light and as Prince Harry, with his mixed-race wife Meghan Markle, practically broke away from the Royal Family and relocated to the US, allegedly over overt racism at the Royal Household. These two incidents have further eroded public confidence in the monarchy at a time when it is trying to be relevant.

Personally, the loss last year of her husband, Prince Philip (99) was a crushing blow to the Queen. The departure of this famous Royal Couple from our midst marks the end of an era but also the beginning of another – that of King Charles III (73). He will no doubt strive to make the monarchy more relevant and more appealing to the public, which is increasingly skeptical of the cost of maintaining a Royal Family.

The fact that the Queen breathed her last in Balmoral, Scotland will not be lost on Scottish nationalists who are calling for Independence. Indeed, the very Union of the four UK Nations is in doubt following Brexit, the NI Protocol and other issues. Premier Truss perhaps inadvertently summed up this feeling when she ended her Downing Street eulogy with the three words “God Save the King”.

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