–These past two weeks have seen the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, the great pageantry that only the British can do well to honor her life. I have watched with interest as the week of mourning passed, the lying-in-state, through the Service at Westminster, the ride home to Windsor, and her final interment to eternal rest. These events and places stirred up many memories. I reflected on her life and how she has always been a constant, regardless of where I lived.
I ask for my readers’ indulgence as I reminisce over the years.
I was a child of about six when George VI died on February 6th, 1952. We were on holiday in Fishhoek, Cape Town, Union of South Africa, when the newspaper was brought to our hotel room announcing the King’s death. Even then, I had a knot in my stomach; what would happen now? That sense of uncertainty when an important person is no longer there. Those same feelings came to me on the announcement of Queen Elizabeth II’s death. The constant presence of a trusted leader is gone, and the uncertainty of what the new monarch will bring to the world.
1953 was a Royal Year for us in Southern Rhodesia. First, the Coronation on June 2nd, 1953, I received my Coronation mug and Commemorative booklet from the City of Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia, via the primary school I attended. The Coronation was followed by the visit of Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother and Princess Margaret to Salisbury, as they were represented by the Queen to open the Rhodes Centenary Exhibition in Bulawayo and to lay the foundation stone for the University College of Rhodesia and Nyasaland. The Federation of Rhodesian and Nyasaland was formed with the three British colonies, Southern and Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland, in August 1953. This Federation only lasted ten years, dissolving in 1963 when the ‘Winds of Change’ blew through Africa. Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother returned four years later, in July 1957, as Chancellor and President of the University College, which was declared a non-racial island of learning, open to all races to fulfill their dreams. We lined the streets, waving our union jacks as the Queen Mother drove to Government House.
I attended the Queen Elizabeth Girls High School, for which I will forever be grateful for our outstanding education. This was a time of real political upheaval in Africa, and the new Queen Elizabeth II’s government had to negotiate with all the former British Colonies demanding independence from Britain. There was upheaval throughout Africa as not only the British but Portuguese and French colonies claimed their new independent status. These countries changed their name as the new state was formed, Northern Rhodesia became Zambia, and Nyasaland became Malawi. Rhodesia was already self-governing, but it was not as simple as just changing to Rhodesia as there was a protracted dispute over the terms to be fully independent of Britain. South Africa had already become a Republic in 1961and left the British Commonwealth. The stalemate between the Rhodesia Government and the British government between 1964 and 1965 led to the Unilateral Declaration of Independence on November 11th, 1965, by Ian Smith’s government. Again, my stomach knotted as a young adult and bride-to-be in my first job. What would happen now? The following years must have been tough for Queen Elizabeth II as her former colony was at war, in many cases, brother fighting brother. She remained dignified, and her crown must have felt very heavy at times in her interviews with her Prime Ministers.
I will fast forward to the years I lived in the UK, as this post is about the late Queen and her continuous presence. Fifty years had passed since the Rhodesian Light Infantry (RLI) formed. On September 24th, 2011, I was privileged to attend the 50th Anniversary Celebration service on the Banks of the River Lea in Hertfordshire on the property of Lord Salisbury, Hatfield House. A 5-gun salute by the Royal Artillery, a fly past of a Hunter aircraft, and a 1-gun salute from the Queen concluded this very moving ceremony: healing the past breach.
While living in England, I had the privilege of visiting some of her properties, which she graciously allowed the public to visit when she was not in residence. I have been to Sandringham, Windsor, and Buckingham Palace several times. A friend who got tickets to see her leaving the property in Windsor and driving by carriage to Ascot kindly took me to get a close-up view of her Majesty. He also took me on informed visits to Windsor and Buckingham Palace, explaining the history and rituals. Watching Queen Elizabeth II’s funeral proceedings reminded me of the places I have walked where she has walked and how history has a habit of repeating its cycles. The monarchy in England has thousands of years of history, where generation after generation of kings or queens has trodden those paths, each one standing on the shoulders of their predecessor. Queen Elizabeth II is a hard act to follow. Her constant presence, graciousness, and care for her people, even while facing monumental problems in her Empire and Commonwealth, and in later years, her family, kept her nation together.
Faithfully every year, she would give her Christmas message to share her faith in God, hope, and encouragement for the future, a silver thread that hung every year of her reign like a jewel on her crown, keeping the continuity of her Kingdom. We will miss that. As she was laid to her final rest at King Georges Chapel, Windsor, the chosen hymn was, “All my hope on God is founded.” For a Sovereign of the Realm, there is no one else to give you hope, Queen Elizabeth II relied on God for her wisdom, and her faith carried her through her 70-year reign. The service ended with the Benediction from the Common Book of Prayer. The Queen’s era has come to an end. As we think of her life, may it inspire us to live in that generous space of faith, hope, and love.
Go forth into the world in peace.
Be of good courage.
Hold fast to that, which is good.
Render to no one evil for evil.
Strengthen the fainthearted.
Support the weak.
Help the afflicted.
Show love to everyone.
Love and serve the Lord,
rejoicing in the power of the Holy Spirit;
and the blessing of almighty God,
the Father, the + Son, and the Holy Spirit,
be among you and remain with you always. Amen.
The Queen’s final Resting Place – King Georges Chapel, windsor