The world knew this day would come, but it seems that one can never really prepare for it. Queen Elizabeth II, the longest-reigning monarch in British history, has died at the age of 96.
She soared to a throne trembling from the tremors of a collapsing Empire. She died in Scotland, where independence enthusiasm is on the rise, with the kingdom she kept together on the verge of splintering.
She presided over a turbulent era of women’s liberation, gay and lesbian rights expansion, deindustrialisation, and immigration that altered the face of her country.
She remained unmoved throughout the Cold War and Northern Ireland’s civil war, Britain’s entry and acrimonious exit from the European Union, and the disorienting spasms of a globalising economy – the last link with national heroic mythology forged during World War II.
The Queen was a constant presence from the days of black-and-white television to the technicolour and internet eras, to a time when mourners snapped selfies outside Buckingham Palace after she died.
Commonwealth countries where she served as head of state, such as Canada and Australia, with young populations that have diversified far beyond British ancestry, may also wonder if it is finally time to sever last ties with the homeland.
And Britain’s search for a post-Brexit role as a middle-of-the-road world power will have to continue without its most valuable foreign asset – a sovereign who was the most famous woman in the world and who most of the world couldn’t remember not seeing.
Now, King Charles III inherits a nation divided, economically on the verge of collapse, and bracing for a terrible winter as high energy prices and inflation wreak havoc on the country as part of the new Cold War over Ukraine.
A second superpower conflict with China is on the horizon. And the scorching heat that engulfed Britain during the Queen’s final platinum jubilee summer heralds a looming climate disaster that could be especially dangerous for her island nation.
“God Save the King.”
Liz Truss, the newly-appointed British prime minister who had only been in office for two days, marked the end of the second Elizabethan era with these four words.
Her remark, the end to a brief speech commemorating Queen Elizabeth II’s death on Thursday, was startling because only people in their seventies had heard the phrase before.
It also marked the end of an era in which the Queen became a global symbol of leadership despite the fact that she was not a politician.
In many ways, her influence stemmed from the fact that she was always present, year after year, decade after decade, she was there – always.
And now, she’s gone.
The Queen’s death, despite the fact that she was 96, was quiet and unexpected.
It shattered a pillar of stability and steadiness at a time when Britain and the world appear more disoriented and volatile than in decades she has ever witnessed.