September 8th2022 will be a landmark date in history as the second Elizabethan age drew to a close.
As a professional tour guide for Black Taxi Tour London, I had been conducting a London Classic Tour in the heavy downpours of rain that had been so prevalent in the morning. As I was approaching Buckingham Palace, towards the end of the tour, one of my guests sitting in the back of my London taxi enquired was the Queen at home? My usual answer to this frequent question was: “If she knew you were coming, I’m sure she would have invited you in for tea”. However, I did comment that there was a lot of media presence, and so assumed some royal or political announcement was about to break. After all, a new prime minister had just been appointed by Her Majesty and Harry and Meghan had been in the headlines, I thought that they may unleash another bombshell.
It was much later in the afternoon that I discovered that Her Majesty’s health was causing the royal medical team concern in Balmoral Castle where she had been staying recently.
The sad announcement that Her Majesty had passed away was broadcast at around 6.30 p.m. It prompted a feeling of deep loss usually associated with the passing of a close family member or a dear friend, of which she was neither, but had always been constant in our lives.
It was at this point on Her Majesty’s death that the crown had seamlessly transferred to her son and heir, Charles, now to be known as Charles III.
I sat with my wife listening to the sombre news filtering through; we both wiped away a tear of sadness as we realised that we were the generation that grew up during her glorious 70-year reign.
We will remember the joy and leadership that Her Majesty brought to so many people in her role as monarch and to identify with her as young mother raising a family in full view of public scrutiny.
Her coronation in 1953 was the first to be televised, and this was to be the first of many groundbreaking events that would make her a global sovereign. We watched, observed, and were fascinated as the media allowed us access to ceremonies that had previously been off limits to the public. In 1957 we saw her first televised Christmas address from the library of her Sandringham Home in Norfolk. In 1958, another first, the State Opening of Parliament, an event steeped in tradition. This was a duty that Her Majesty performed every time during her reign, except on three occasions.
As one nation, we celebrated jubilees and other important milestones of her reign. The Silver Jubilee in 1977 to mark the 25th anniversary of her reign was marked throughout the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth, with street parties and church services culminating with Her Majesty lighting a beacon at Windsor which started a chain of beacons across the country.
The next day, Her Majesty, with Prince Phillip at her side, as he always was during her reign, were guests of honour at Guildhall. She declared, ‘My Lord Mayor, when I was twenty-one, I pledged my life to the service of our people, and I asked for Gods’ help to makegood that vow. Although that vow was made in my salad days, when I was green in judgement, I do not retract one word of it.’
Who can forget that amazing opening ceremony at The London Olympic Games in 2012 where she appeared to jump out of a helicopter with James Bond in tow? Or the most recent celebration, The Platinum Jubilee, where she took tea with Paddington Bear and shared the secrets of her handbag.
In modern day parlance, she hit the ground running. Her Majesty’s first prime minister, the first of fifteen, Sir Winston Churchill, whom we are told thought that the young Queen may not be up to the task at hand. As it turned out they had a very warm relationship and their weekly meetings could go on for hours, probably chatting about their shared love of horses and racing.
Throughout the following decades of her reign, we had the opportunity to share her personal joy in family life with the birth of her children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. She travelled the world and welcomed presidents, monarchs, and heads of state to Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle. She opened hospitals, schools, and planted trees; unveiled plaques, cut ribbons, and laid wreaths with great dignity, aplomb and in some cases humour, her warm smile was never far from her lips. She was welcomed by communities and religions throughout the world as a leader and a genuine interest to learn about other cultures and traditions.
We have also seen how she dealt with her own personal family traumas and troubles, like any other family. Is this why we have such a great affinity and affection for her in our hearts? We can identify with her as a woman, a powerful woman that treated her subjects with the same core values and wisdom that has ensured a continuing line of succession through her eldest son Charles.
As we enter the period of mourning of the passing of Her Majesty, we were privileged to witness the Dedication and Proclamation of King Charles III at St James’s Place, another first for televised events. The Proclamation was then read with all the pomp and circumstance of such a historic event on the steps of The Royal Exchange in the City of London. It will be followed by proclamations throughout the realm.
So far, the main focus of Her Majesty’s passing has seen Scotland’s citizens paying their respects as the cortege has moved from Balmoral to Edinburgh Cathedral. The next leg of the journey will see the coffin being flown down to London and being driven to Buckingham Palace for one night in preparation for a full State Funeral on September 19th, 2022.The last one was in honour of Sir Winston Churchill in 1965.
The coffin will lay in state on a catafalque, in Westminster Hall, part of the original Westminster Palace that dates back to the 11th century. There will be a four-day vigil from the military and close family members, and the public will be allowed to file pass to pay their final respect before the funeral service in Westminster Abbey. After the service, the cortege will drive Her Majesty through the streets of London to St George’s Chapel, Windsor to her final resting place.
In the words of Paddington bear, “Thank you Ma’am, for everything.”
By David Burnetts