Queen Elizabeth II, the long-reigning, dignified, Stoic monarch of Great Britain, passed away this week at the age of 96. The news was shocking, not because of the tragedy of her death itself, but because I’d always assumed she would live forever—even though I knew that wasn’t possible. Queen Elizabeth was just always there, and it seemed like she would be.
To be honest, I’m surprised she was only 96; I thought she’d already hit 100. As it was, she was pretty close. Her seventy-plus-year reign is the longest in the history of the British monarchy, and the longest any woman has been a head of state in all of recorded history.
The Queen’s passing, as other commentators have noted, truly marks the end of an era, an era in which the West, while fumbling a bit, still reigned supreme, and took itself seriously as a civilization. Her death marks the final page of a long chapter in the book of Western Civilization, as her reign was the last vestige of the Old England so many of us, even here in the States, loved so dearly.
It is, then, perhaps apropos that the Queen’s death came so close to 9/11, a day of infamy which, sadly, seems to have receded further and further into the collective imagination of our divided and bickering nation. Both the Queen and 9/11 were once symbols of national unity and patriotism, but the latter marked the death of American liberty. Queen Elizabeth’s death, on the other hand, is a coda, the last few measures of a piece that lost its orchestra some time ago, but which managed to maintain a few dedicated musicians to play her out.