What is an epithet? Calls for Queen to be known as Elizabeth the Dutiful

Discussions are taking place about the epithet she could be given  (AFP via Getty Images)
Discussions are taking place about the epithet she could be given (AFP via Getty Images)

The nation continues to mourn the death of Queen Elizabeth II and thousands of people have come to London to see her coffin before Monday’s funeral, with mourners queuing throughout the night to pay their respects.

Now, discussions are under way about the epithet she could be given.

While making a speech in the House of Commons, former prime minister Boris Johnson recently referred to the late Queen as "Elizabeth the Great". And Rev Richard Coles, a former Church of England parish priest and broadcaster who co-presents BBC Radio 4’s Saturday Live, has now suggested calling her Elizabeth the Dutiful.

During an interview on Good Morning Britain on September 16 he praised the Queen for keeping her promise to the nation. He also told presenters Ben Shephard and Kate Garraway why the name would perfectly embody the Queen and her characteristics.

Mr Coles said: “How history decides to remember the Queen – well, of course, that’s for history to decide – and some people have suggested Elizabeth the Great, I think a former prime minister did. My suggestion would be Elizabeth the Dutiful because I was really thinking about what is the characteristic of the Queen and her reign, what’s the thing that really has so connected with people?”

“I think it’s her sense of duty. Do you remember what she said when she became heir to the throne? ‘My life, whether it is long or short, I will commit to your service’ – and she’s done that, through thick and thin, unwavering. In an era like ours when people don’t even want to commit to lunch, let alone anything of significance, I don’t think you can overstate how significant that is and what an example that provides.”

Some Good Morning Britain viewers had their own ideas for the Queen’s epithet, sharing their thoughts and suggestions on Twitter.

Ana Woodward said: “I think Elizabeth the Endearing as she inspired love and affection wherever she went, or Elizabeth the Patriotic, due to her years of love and loyalty to her family and nation.”

Michael Carroll suggested: “The Queen should be remembered as simply ‘Queen Elizabeth the loved’.”

Sital Kotecha wrote: “Queen Elizabeth should be remembered as ‘Queen Elizabeth the Vibrant’.”

John Doyle commented: “Elizabeth the Extraordinary.”

And Sharon Chapman tweeted: “I think she should be known as Elizabeth the faithful.”

What is an epithet?

An epithet is a literary device that describes a person, place or object by accompanying it or replacing it with a descriptive word or phrase.

It’s often used by writers to make a text more meaningful, and to describe characters and settings with more vivid, figurative language. The word “epithet” comes from the Greek word “epitheton” (neuter of “epithetos”) which translates as “added” or “attributed”.