Thursday, September 08, 2022

Queen Eliizabeth II

I'm tired, I have a crazy work day waiting for me in the morning, and this is the last thing I wanted to do tonight.

Which is why I'm doing it. Pretty sure Her Royal Highness did things every day when she was tired and feeling out of sorts, and it's that spirit of relentless duty I honour in this writing. 

Let me get this out of the way first, please.

I disagree, to put it mildly, with calling anybody "Highness", for the simple reason is it makes everyone else "Your Lowness". And if we're going to have royalty, if it's absolutely essential for some reason, it should be based on accomplishment, not bloodline. I can think of some scientists that should qualify. Also some poets. 

I reserve a special antipathy towards British royalty, largely based on how it has treated outsiders who aspired to its ranks (see: Diana, Princess of Wales; also Meghan. Duchess of Sussex). And yet I feel that Queen Elizabeth embodied her position so well, so steadily, and for so long, it's hard not to feel that something has snapped. A cable, perhaps, of the sort that holds the world up. 

That sounds grandiloquent to apply to any one human being, even the one we in Canada knew as "Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, Queen of Canada and of Her other realms and territories, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith". (In other nations, she carried different but similar titles; such were her wishes.) An even loftier styling. And yet: in the eyes of hundreds of millions worldwide, she lived up to that loftiness. 

Seventy years. SEVENTY YEARS. 

That's a long time to be in the public eye. That's a long time to represent an entire country. Longer than anyone in that country's history. It's especially impressive when you consider what Elizabeth presided over, which was the last gasps of empire all the way up to Brexit.

Empires don't generally die peacefully. The fact this one did is in no small measure the Queen's doing, and for that alone she has my eternal respect. People in what used to be British colonies have a very different view, of course, and they're entitled to it, but something really must be said for overseeing decolonization on a grand scale. There's a long way to go: Britain stole $45 TRILLION from India alone. But the British Empire, arguably the most wicked institution of the past three centuries, is no longer even a paper tiger. 

And she wasn't supposed to be Queen at all. 

If her uncle hadn't abdicated, she never would have seen the throne. For me, this is another mark of respect: this woman wasn't born to power and didn't choose it; she had it thrust upon her, and responded more than admirably. But even before that happened, she served her country honourably in World War II, earning the rank of Junior Commander in the Women's Auxiliary Territory Service, repairing and rebuilding engines in military conveyances and by all accounts revelling in something well out of standard Royal protocol. Reports indicate she loved getting dirt under her nails and showing it off to her friends, and somehow I don't think of it as "slumming" in her case. 

She was extremely protective of those in her inner circle. One of her final acts was to pay out £12 million of taxpayer moneys to a woman her son trafficked for sex. Again...complicated legacy. The same woman who oversaw the end of empire ruled over several morally questionable exercises, most notably in Northern Ireland. I'm inclined, against my usual run of thinking, to forgive her for this: heavy is the head that wears the crown, and all that. I'm likewise hostile over Diana, but even I recognize just how fraught that whole "crowded" marriage was. The Queen didn't exactly distinguish herself there, but what a gawdawful situation for all involved. And Meghan? Yeah, I'm really not happy with what I know of how she was treated -- but the most I can knowingly blame the Queen for is not putting a stop to it.

All of this in service to the Family. Which is not the same without her.

Oh, The Firm will carry on carrying on, of course: it is, after all, British. But it doesn't seem as firm, today, with Charles in charge. He's a divisive character all by himself; his Queen Consort remains divisive to many. 

Two things about that. One, protocol states Camilla should be PRINCESS Consort, not Queen Consort. Camilla herself insisted that's what she should be called. But she was overruled by the Queen herself, and that should tell you all you need know about Camilla's earned place in the family. Two, I will not tolerate abuse of Camilla from anyone, especially if it's based on her appearance. I get that her rival was almost universally adored (almost); I ALSO get that Charles and Camilla should have married fifty years ago. Andrew Parker-Bowles attended the wedding of Charles and Camilla: that should also tell you something. I think if you have questions about somebody's marriage dynamics and you can't ask them, you should maybe forget you have questions. 

I'm not a fan of Charles personally: he has some very strong opinions I very strongly disagree with, and there's that weird factoid that he's had two men, paid by the State, to dress him every morning, ironing his shoelaces and even squeezing toothpaste on to his toothbrush. That to me screams "royalty" in a way his mother never, ever did. 

One formidable woman did all she was capable of to reconcile royalty and modernity; her son is the sort to drag it backwards. It's hard not to feel some trepidation at the future, with a sense the Queen bowed out just as life is about to get terribly rocky for her closest subjects. But I can't blame her for that, either. Not after a lifetime of devoted service to a country, to an idea, to an ideal.

RIP Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor. God rest the Queen. 

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