At the age of 96, after a reign of 70 years, the United Kingdom’s Queen Elizabeth II has died peacefully in Balmoral, Scotland. The woman who was never meant to rule has left an indelible mark on the world, with broken hearts mourning the loss far outside the boundaries of her kingdom.
Born Elizabeth Alexandra Mary in 1926, there was originally little chance of her ascendance to the throne. That all changed when Edward VIII abdicated the throne in 1936, making Elizabeth’s father, George VI, king. Less than 20 years later, though, he died suddenly of a coronary thrombosis in 1952, making Elizabeth the sudden queen.
In her lifetime, Elizabeth dedicated herself completely to serving her country. She oversaw the transition of the United Kingdom from a worldwide empire to a Commonwealth and was the last head of state to have served in the military during World War II. In 1944, she joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS), the women’s branch of the British Army; her father, King George VI, ensured she was not given a special rank. She trained as a mechanic and earned the rank of captain. Queen Elizabeth outlasted 15 prime ministers, 14 United States presidents, seven popes, and six archbishops of Canterbury.
One of the most moving aspects of her life was her marriage to Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark. She fell in love with him at just 13 years old, and they spent years exchanging letters before becoming engaged when she was 21. Together, they had four children, eight grandchildren, and 12 great-grandchildren. Prince Philip died during the COVID-19 pandemic, and photos of Elizabeth mourning him alone during the funeral broke hearts across the world. She loved her husband deeply, and she relied completely upon him during some of the most difficult times of her life — in particular, 1992, her “annus horribilis.” That year, three royal marriages ended in divorce, a massive fire destroyed a large portion of Windsor Castle, and a sex scandal engulfed Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York. Philip was, at that time, and during many other difficult moments throughout her life, a pillar of strength for her, something she alluded to during their golden wedding anniversary in 1997:
“He is someone who doesn’t take easily to compliments but he has, quite simply, been my strength and stay all these years, and I, and his whole family, and this and many other countries, owe him a debt greater than he would ever claim, or we shall ever know.”
Throughout her reign, Queen Elizabeth exemplified the notion of selfless duty, putting her role as monarch above all else. At 21, four years before officially taking the throne, she vowed, “I declare before you that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service, and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.” Those words proved to be incredibly true, as she served unfailingly throughout shifting tides and changing times. Whether it was giving alms or overseeing state dinners, Queen Elizabeth’s dedication never wavered.
Upon her death, “Operation London Bridge” has taken effect, and the United Kingdom will go through 10 days of mourning. Her oldest son is now King Charles III, and though her family is mourning her loss, the entire world is as well. She has held a unique position in our lives, modeling steadfast strength, honor, dignity, and selflessness, even through the worst of times. Her memory will remain cherished for generations, both in the United Kingdom and around the world.
“We will succeed — and that success will belong to every one of us. We should take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better days will return: We will be with our friends again; we will be with our families again; we will meet again.” –Queen Elizabeth, Palm Sunday, 2020