Queen Elizabeth II, Britain’s longest-living, longest-serving monarch, passed away yesterday at the age of 96. Her son, King Charles III, will address the nation for the first time as monarch at 6pm this evening.
And in the last few hours, the King has arrived at Buckingham Palace with the Queen Consort, Camilla, where they were greeted by crowds of well-wishers.
It does feel as if nothing will quite be the same again. Words such as longevity, service and constancy seem inadequate. Queen Elizabeth’s first prime minister, Winston Churchill, and her last, Liz Truss, were born 101 years apart. She met with 13 of the last 14 US presidents, dating back to Harry Truman. She danced with many of them too – this one of Her Majesty with Gerald Ford is for some reason my favourite.
Of course, there is no transition period. The Old Bailey this morning welcomed the King’s Justices, QCs woke up as KCs and ‘God Save the King’ was declared. And this, above and beyond the seven decades of duty, is perhaps Queen Elizabeth II’s crowning achievement. Her eldest son, Charles III, is King.
It will take more than a little getting used to. The everyday things of life – our bank notes, new post boxes, passports and of course the national anthem – all will have to change. We will at least be spared a general election, which was triggered at each passing of the monarch until 1867.
Indeed, strange as it may seem now, as the second Elizabethan age draws to a close, it will be some time before ‘God Save the Queen’ is sung again, with a new King and two male heirs in place.
The Standard’s Royal Editor, Robert Jobson, has produced a remarkable piece of work, a sort of mini-series through the decades of her life. Starting with the coronation in 1952, followed by the sixties, seventies, eighties, the turbulent nineties and the final years of pomp, pageantry and special occasions.
There have also been some genuinely moving tributes from world leaders. I’d draw your attention in particular to that of French President Emmanuel Macron, a fellow head of state, who made a speech in English with the standout line: “To you, she was your Queen. To us, she was The Queen”. You can watch it here.
In the comment pages, royal biographer Philip Eade says that calm, patient and dutiful, the Queen served the nation as a vital unifying figure. While Defence Editor Robert Fox writes that all our forces knew that for the Queen, it was personal.
And finally, amid tributes in the House of Commons, former prime minister Theresa May brought the chamber some laughter in recalling an incident involving the Queen, a picnic and some dropped cheese.
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