Queen Elizabeth II (1926 – 2022)
Published in Insights, The New Zealand Initiative’s newsletter, 9 September 2022
We mourn the passing of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II.
Her reign was extraordinary. It linked different eras. In effect, it became a new era in itself, the new Elizabethan Age.
A British monarch has only three constitutional rights according to Walter Bagehot’s classic definition: The right to be consulted. The right to encourage. And the right to warn.
Elizabeth II. added a fourth right to the list: the right to lead by example.
She would not have seen it as a right but as her duty.
Her lifelong commitment to public service began in World War II and continued when Elizabeth ascended to the throne in 1953. She promised to serve for as long as she lived.
She fulfilled that promise. Though visibly frail, she swore in her 15th British Prime Minister, Liz Truss, only this week.
Elizabeth II. never put herself above the institution she served. As the head of state, she was the state’s first servant.
Her understanding of the monarch’s role also prevented her from overstepping it. Even though widely considered one of the most knowledgeable political observers, she remained apolitical in her public service.
By delivering on promises, fulfilling constitutional duties and serving the public, Elizabeth II. led by example.
For any public servant, for any Governor, Minister and Prime Minister, the head of state provided the role model.
The tributes to the Queen show a world united in mourning. The Queen’s service is acknowledged and praised from progressives to conservatives, from committed royalists to ardent republicans.
This is a testament to yet another of Elizabeth II.’s remarkable qualities: her ability to unite.
At a time of fracturing societies, of countries dividing themselves into identities, a unifying figure like Elizabeth II. was a much-needed focal point.
As we are saddened by Elizabeth’s passing, she leaves us many models: a model of duty, of service, of promises kept, of integrity, of unity.
For all that, we remember Elizabeth II. with gratitude.
We offer our condolences to the Royal Family – and her wider family, to which we all belong.