By now, most Americans have seen more television about the British monarchy than they ever knew existed. No doubt that the United States has had a fascination about Queen Elizabeth II and the royal family. Indeed, the entire world seems to recognize the role this extraordinary woman has played not only the United Kingdom’s history, but the impact she has had throughout the world.
While the world’s media carries the historical impact of her 70-year reign and the centuries old pageantry of the changing of a monarch, it is the individual connections from around the world that seem to make this such a powerful and emotional event.
Today is my 68th birthday. Elizabeth had already been Queen for two years when my wife and I were born. Throughout my life, the United Kingdom has been our most steadfast ally.
My wife, Mary Lou, was a British history major. She spent a year at the University of Reading, England. It was a year that transformed her as she embraced the culture that was part of her degree.
During her year in England, Mary Lou experienced the first Hard Rock Café and was part of a group that hung their RMWC college banner from the rafters of what was then nothing more than a popular pub for Americans. She also experienced the bombings in London during the terrible years of fighting with the Irish Republican Army, IRA.
Years later, our oldest daughter flew from Washington, DC to London to spend her own Junior year abroad. It was just a couple of weeks after 9/11. It is hard to send your daughter off into the world when it seems to be crashing down. However, we took comfort that the Star-Spangled Banner was played by the Queen’s Band from Buckingham Palace.
Over the many years since Mary Lou’s time as a student in England, we have traveled back numerous times. As we have been watching the news coverage, we realized that we have been almost everywhere they have covered.
Cathedral of St. Giles. Palace of Holyroodhouse, the official residence of the monarch in Scotland. The Royal Mile. Windsor Castle. Westminster Abbey. Buckingham Palace. Parliament. We have visited them all, along with many more historic sites connected to the royal family in the United Kingdom.
Over our many trips, we grew to love the British people. We embraced the Brits just as they embraced the Yanks. Our countries have been more connected than we were ever separated, despite the war that gave America its freedom.
Perhaps that is why we mourn Queen Elizabeth. She knew 13 American Presidents and worked with 15 British Prime Ministers. She personally met with and knew almost every important person of my lifetime.
Yet, she was not flawless. The British Empire has a legacy that requires accountability. It is likely that some additional members of the British Commonwealth will seek their own independence following the death of the popular Queen.
Nevertheless, in this time of our own nation’s intense anger against political parties and their leaders, it seems comforting that a sovereign of a nation could lead them through seven decades of turmoil and challenge.
Perhaps that is what we so cherish about Queen Elizabeth II. She was steady and steadfast. She held the crown and by extension, her nation, above all else. Her country came first, no matter the challenge and no matter the cost. Decade after decade after decade.
American politicians should take note of the worldwide outpouring of love and respect for this 96-year-old lady who not only led her nation but, in many respects, became the Queen of the World.
Dan Ponder can be reached at email@example.com