Since Queen Elizabeth II passed away last week, I find myself taking in some of the ceremony that goes along with the death of a British Monarch. I am not a Royal connoisseur, and do not know all there is to know about the late Queen, but being Trinidadian-Canadian, I am very used to Commonwealth life and I have always admired the demeanor of Queen Elizabeth II, a woman bound to a highly scrutinized public life.
I have been watching the news, taking in the various stages of celebrating the life of a monarch and as I observe British people of all generations, pay their respects to their beloved late Queen and her family, I cannot help but wonder what this monumental appointment of Queen must have been like for this remarkable woman. One can only imagine how she must have felt when she had to compartmentalize her grief for her late father and bravely step into the role of Monarch. The abdication of her uncle King Edward VIII, followed by the death of her father King George VI, catapulted the then Princess from being third in line, to first in line, to assuming the throne at just 26 years of age — a responsibility placed upon her that she accepted and carried out for 70 years with grace, poise and quiet confidence. What were you doing at 26?
Queen Elizabeth II assumed the Crown when the world was predominantly a man’s world. She grew up in an era when princesses did not have a formal education but was tutored at home, perhaps differently from how a prince at that time would have been educated. Upon assuming the Throne at 26, she knew the only way to survive being thrown into the deep waters of the spotlight was to swim. And swim she did, doing whatever had to be done, learning whatever had to be learned to be effective as a Monarch.
The word queen has many meanings to different people in today’s society but the common idea behind the word is confidently owning and showing who you are. At various stages of my life, I have had to step up and own the woman I needed to be and now in my fifties, I’ve realized that I have collected all the women I have been and combined them to establish the woman I am. Little did I know, I have been subliminally influenced by great women over time and the Queen was one of those women. She represents not just what humans, especially women, have had to adapt to and endure in order to carry out ones duties. Sure, she was a woman of privilege, but like so many of us, she juggled being a wife, mother and worker, quite seamlessly under all kinds of pressure that the rest of the world never got to witness. The Queen possessed the ability to cope, which is rather difficult for many people living in our world today. The crosses she has had to bear publicly, may seem to many to be problems of privilege, but they were her crosses to bear forged out of pain, tragedy and occasionally scandal. But bear them she did, with dignity and grace.
As I continue to have the privilege of good health, I find myself deciding how to live the rest of my life while bearing the crosses of my comparatively ordinary life, with dignity and grace. To me, this involves a willingness to forgo the hyper-zealousness of my activist teens, the overbearing ambition of my twenties and the strive for excellence in my thirties during a time of overwhelm. Now I am laying the bricks of knowledge and experience I have gained over the years on a foundation created by the epiphanies of my forties and the stillness I have acquired in my fifties.
While I have not been as polished as Her Late Majesty, I believe I have done my duty as a daughter, sister, spouse and parent, friend and citizen progressively more gracefully and more dignified throughout the years. The late Royal Highness Queen Elizabeth II might have not meant to some what she meant to the British people, but she did have an impact on our lives, especially the lives of women. She certainly had an impact on mine long before I realized she had. She played her part in inspiring women worldwide by the way she chose to navigate her way through a seventy-year reign as Sovereign of Britain and as a global monarch. She showed us all that power and strength need not be loud, disruptive, forceful or boisterous but disciplined, kind, dignified and therefore, stronger.