Shortly after his mother passed away on Sept. 8, King Charles said: “Queen Elizabeth”s was a life well-lived; a promise with destiny kept...”
Indeed. Not born heir to the throne, she found herself with a crown on her head at age 25. Her father, King George VI — who was once the “spare” not the “heir,” and only became so when his brother King Edward VIII abdicated — died at age 56 in 1952. Queen Elizabeth died at 96.
And at age 21, knowing she would one day wear the crown, she said, “I declare before you 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.”
Her life was long. I believe it is more difficult to keep a promise when the winds of change and challenges have been hissing at it for a very long time. Seventy years, to be exact. But Elizabeth, as many have described her, was steadfast. As steadfast as a ship moored to a sturdy and steady anchor. She held on. And when buffeted by turbulent waters, Elizabeth adjusted her sails to the winds, especially since her “annus horribilis” in 1992.
No wonder Britons and non-Britons poured out into the streets to bid their Queen a “grateful goodbye” last Sept. 19. According to various online sources, over four billion people tuned in to their TV screens to watch her majestic funeral — a reflection of what she stood for in life and a reflection, to my mind, of the stability that tradition bestows on society. The presence of golden-haired, shy Prince George and his seemingly strong-willed younger sister Princess Charlotte was heartwarming as it was purposeful. They are second and third in line to the throne, respectively. The visual changing of the guard has begun.
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That night in the Philippines, a legion were also glued to their screens as the Queen’s cortege, her casket followed on foot by her children and grandchildren, made its way from Westminster Abbey, where she was married and crowned, to Buckingham Palace, to the Wellington Arch.
Though the weather listens to no director, this time, it behaved, as if upon the Queen’s command.
“Tonight, I am British,” a young Filipino wife and mother told her husband when he asked her why she was keeping vigil in front of the TV screen to watch the Queen’s funeral even as midnight approached. Everyone, from decorated soldiers to members of her family, walked in cadence, as if their heartbeats were attuned. There were no missteps. In terms of pageantry alone, it seemed like the opening ceremony of the Olympics — well choreographed, well curated, a vision. Except that there was grief visible in the eyes of those who marched, and flowers instead of fireworks. But it was better than a Cecil B. DeMille epic because there were no take-twos. Though the weather listens to no director, this time, it behaved, as if upon the Queen’s command.
Her casket was said to have been borne by her soldiers, some of whom were reportedly pulled out from Iraq for the funeral. Draped in the bright colors of the royal standard, it had an arrangements of flowers especially picked by King Charles from the gardens of Buckingham Palace, Clarence House, and Highgrove, including blooms that were replanted from her wedding bouquet in 1947. Atop it was a card from King Charles that read, “In loving and devoted memory, Charles R.” Charles Rex (king). In silent mourning were also the late Queen’s beloved corgis.
Though Princes William and Harry publicly held back their tears when they walked behind the casket of their mother, Princess Diana, 25 years ago, George and Charlotte showed their sadness at losing their “Gan-Gan.” Charlotte, especially, was seen wiping away her tears.
I was especially touched by the words of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, during the funeral service at Westminster Abbey, which was attended by crowned heads as well as heads of state. He recalled that during the Queen’s broadcast to the nation when the world stood at a standstill during the height of COVID, she had said, “We will meet again.”
And indeed, millions of Britons, with faces no longer covered by masks, lined up on the streets meet their Queen again, showering her path with lowers, petals gently landing on the hearse bearing her remains.
Indeed as the Archbishop said as he ended his speech, “We shall meet again.”
When I think of it, it is almost divine, and certainly an act of grace from the Almighty, that Elizabeth willed herself to celebrate her Platinum Jubilee just three months before her death and appoint the next Prime Minister just two days before her passing. Having done her duty to her virtual last breath, she must thought it time to keep her promise to her Prince, her one true love, who went ahead of her last year. It was date with destiny kept. *