The United Kingdom is a small island nation which has
had an outsized influence on much of civilization for
more than a thousand years, impacting forms of law and
government, language, literature and culture, first as a
conquerer and colonizer with an imperial reach across
the globe, and finally, at a dark hour in 1940, as brave
and gritty last-ditch defender of freedom and democracy
against a malevolent totalitarian threat.
For the past 70 years, the once global superpower has
settled into a more normal pattern for a nation its size,
still an influence in diplomacy and trade, but superseded
by much larger and powerful nations. Its one-time colony,
the United States of America, inherited its role as global
military and economic power, and vied first with Soviet
Russia, and now with mainland China, for global military,
economic and cultural influence and dominance.
Without political power any longer, the royal family of
Great Britain, has presided over the recent transition
under a single figure known popularly as the queen of
England — and named Elizabeth II.
Unlike many preceding European monarchs, ranging
from several English forbears to Empress Catherine
of Russia to Emperor Napoleon of France, she had no
outsized ambitions which precipitated conflict. She was
thus the ideal figure to accompany the natural transition
from supremacy to normalcy these past seven decades.
One story tells it best. Soon after becoming queen
after the death of her father, King George VI, she was
visiting her rural Scottish residence, and decided to drive
her car alone into the local hills without her security detail.
When she didn’t return after a few hours, there was a
frantic search made to find her - which they did on a
deserted road, under the car trying to fix it after it had
broken down. Before she had become queen, and during
World War II, she had served as an auto and truck
mechanic in the military — and now with the auto
breakdown on an isolated road, she simply rolled up her
sleeves and set about to fix the problem herself. There
no cell phones in those days, but she didn’t panic or feel
Many members of her royal family, including her children,
were often controversial or dysfunctional, but through it
all, Elizabeth II remained outwardly calm and solidly
traditional, and fulfilled her public duties tirelessly as she
had promised she would on taking the throne 70 years ago.
There will now be many words written about her in eulogy,
many ceremonies culminating in an elaborate state funeral
and interment. She has been succeeded by her eldest son,
King Charles III. Following a millennium of tradition, her
grandson and great-grandson now await their turns as
monarchs. As the oldest and one of very few monarchies
remaining in a politically changing world, it isn’t certain they
will become king, but the British royal family endures for
now — thanks in great part to its just departed queen.
Copyright (c) 2022 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.