The United Kingdom has lost its beloved Queen. Her global admirers have lost an icon. And – maybe – the world has lurched into a new and uncertain era.
I am a patriotic American. But I am more deeply saddened and impacted by the news of the passing of Queen Elizabeth II than I could ever have anticipated.
That is for one simple reason: Queen Elizabeth transcended national loyalty.
She did not rule over the United Kingdom as her forebears did. But she did lead. And she did it with magnificent grace, and inspirational poise, and truly great courage.
It is remarkable that Elizabeth began her reign at age 27 years old. She ruled for seven decades. She saw her nation through wars, political unrest, global catastrophes, deeply personal family tragedies, a global pandemic and so much more – and she did all of this selflessly, keeping a stiff upper lip as is the British custom.
What makes her passing so forceful to Americans is the real connection she made between our nations. She nurtured and maintained our Special Relationship, because she knew instinctively that – despite our history of conflict – the United States has no more trusted ally than the United Kingdom.
Our shared language, ideals and legal and political practices have forged an intractable bond between two countries more alike than any other in the world.
Queen Elizabeth was a constant through our tumultuous modern history. She met every sitting U.S. president since Harry Truman, save LBJ.
She was there in so many iconic images – dancing with President Gerald Ford, riding on horseback with President Ronald Reagan, dining with President Barack Obama and welcoming President Donald Trump to Buckingham Palace.
After the September 11th attacks, Queen Elizabeth broke a 600-year-old royal tradition and requested that the ‘Star-Spangled Banner’ be played during the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace.
It was the first time that has ever happened outside of a foreign state visit.
And who can forget the Queen’s meeting with First Lady Michelle Obama – when she broke protocol and dropped formalities to embrace the First Lady – while grinning ear to ear.
Beyond the careful fostering of this relationship, she achieved something more: as not only one of the most famous and powerful people on the planet, but as a woman – a fact of profound significance that must never be underappreciated or overlooked.
I truly wonder if my own country will ever elect a female president. Yet, while the role is so different, Queen Elizabeth was a global force for 70 years.
The longest reigning monarch in British history was also the ultimate feminist, and her reign encompassed all that modern feminism should strive to teach.
She showed that a woman can do anything and everything that a man can do and better.
Nor did she use her gender as an excuse for claiming victimhood, as so many incredibly privileged modern women do today.
And considering all of the controversy and vitriol heaped on the Royal Family in recent months and years, she came out unscathed.
She always commanded respect and reverence, and when necessary showed deep and moving emotion – think back to when she bowed her head to Princess Diana’s passing coffin, and the world held its breath.
Lastly, I believe the sadness many of us are all feeling today is not just due to the passing of true greatness, but the passing of an era.
She was the last of her kind in many ways – as those of her generation age and pass away.
She was born in 1926 in the aftermath of the First World War and in the long dark shadow of the Second World War, making her one of what Americans would call a member of the Greatest Generation.
It was a generation that knew suffering and sacrifice, not softened by luxury but called to service again and again.
In America we know that some of our parents and grandparents were called to war in Europe. But in the United Kingdom war came to them – as Nazi Germany bombed their homeland and threatened to invade their shores.
The following generations of leaders have shown themselves to be more selfish, weaker, and more easily led by impulses.
So much of the chaos we have seen in America and elsewhere have been brought on by what can only be seen as a result of the deeply flawed and chaotic Baby Boomers (and how I hope that the new king does not succumb to that generational trait.)
Ironically, Queen Elizabeth’s passing also comes at another time of global turmoil.
There is war in Europe again and a sickening feeling of unease.
In some ways, we can only – as the British say – keep calm and carry on: a virtue exemplified by Elizabeth.
To my British friends, I thank you for sharing your pain and adoration for a woman I only began to appreciate in my own adulthood.
Understanding her place in history has made me more appreciative of your wonderful country and America’s greatest global ally.
There will be a day, when the mourning is past, when you are able to think fondly of everything Queen Elizabeth has done to strengthen your nation. As for today, I wish you peace in your grief as you respect the passing of true greatness.
God Rest The Queen.