Elizabeth II, the last living legend dies


It looked like the prelude to a bad day: on 8 September, London dawned more cloudy and in several parts of the UK the sky burst into tears, Queen Elizabeth II has died at the age of 96 and she did so peacefully and quietly accompanied by her four children at her Balmoral residence. It was time for black crests.

"The Queen died peacefully at Balmoral this afternoon. The King and Queen consort will remain at Balmoral tonight and return to London tomorrow," the Royal Household said on both its official website and its Twitter account @RoyalFamily.

His son, Prince Charles of Wales, is now King Charles III of England at the age of 73 and his wife, Camilla Parker, the Queen. The new monarch's mission will be to liaise with the new prime minister Liz Truss on the affairs of state. His first-born son, William, Duke of Cambridge, the son of Charles and Diana Spencer, is officially heir to the throne.

The British, always defenders of their stale monarchy, see the death of their beloved sovereign as a kind of fatal omen: in the space of 48 hours they have had a new prime minister with the Conservative Truss at the helm and have lost the quasi-eternal head of the British state with the death of the monarch. 

In 2007, Elizabeth II became the longest-reigning monarch in British history and last June she celebrated her platinum jubilee in commemoration of 70 years of reign. 

Elizabeth Alexandra Mary, born in London on 21 April 1926, has been monarch since 6 February 1952 and sovereign of Britain and fourteen other independent states: Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Bahamas, Grenada, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Belize, Antigua and Barbuda, and Saint Kitts and Nevis.

She married Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark in 1947, with whom she had four children: Charles, Anne, Andrew and Edward. The Queen was widowed on 9 April 2021 after the death of her husband Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, aged 99.

A legend has died. She lives forever a mythical figure, much loved by the British people and admired internationally for her pragmatic ideas, always adhering to ancestry and the aims of the state; to a sense of duty rather than a sense of being. Those close to her spoke of her obsession with a sense of duty and perfection. 

Condolences and telegrams have poured into Buckingham Palace from all over the world as grieving Britons have come out to mourn their sovereign with candles, portraits, singing, weeping and flags at half-mast. 

On her Twitter account @vonderleyen Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, wrote that: "Queen Elizabeth II witnessed war and reconciliation in Europe and beyond through the profound transformations of our planet and our societies. She was a beacon of continuity throughout these changes, while showing a serenity and dedication that gave strength to many. May she rest in peace.

For his part, Charles Michel, President of the European Council, sent a statement to the media saying that he remembers a remarkable woman. An extraordinary human being who took on immense responsibility over the past 70 years. 

"Her inspiration has spanned generations. And she touched the lives of so many. While we all mourn the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, we also consider her reign. She has left a legacy like few others in European and world history. From the turbulent years of the Cold War to the globalised era of the 21st century," the statement said.

According to Michel: "For us in the European Union, his reign covered almost the entire arc of post-war European integration. We will always remember his contribution to reconciliation between our nations after the Second World War and the Cold War. He had experienced the devastation of the Second World War and knew the importance of trust and cooperation between our countries". 

French President Emmanuel Macron tweeted his respects on the passing: "Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II embodied the continuity and unity of the British nation for more than 70 years. I remember her as a friend of France, a kind-hearted queen who has left a lasting mark on her country and her century".

For his part, the president of the Spanish government, Pedro Sánchez, also on his social networks, wrote: "My condolences to the entire royal family, the government and the citizens of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth on the passing of Queen Elizabeth II.  A figure of global significance, a witness and author of British and European history".

On a visit to Seville, the King of Spain, Felipe VI, sent a warm message to the British people and King Charles III: "Our deep, family and institutional feelings of loss at her absence and of immense respect for her figure and career. Queen Elizabeth will be remembered as one of the greatest queens of all time for her dignity, sense of duty, courage and devotion to her people".

The new British Prime Minister, Liz Truss, was the last person to see her on 6 September when she went to Balmoral Castle to receive the monarch's accession as the new Prime Minister. It was her last official act, and in the photo with Truss it is clear that she looks old, tired and frail, barely leaning on a cane as she tries to smile. 

It was already striking and unusual because it was the first time that Elizabeth II received a prime minister at Balmoral and not at Buckingham where she gave her approval to fourteen prime ministers, including two women: Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May.

Doctors advised that all subsequent events should be cancelled, and since then all has been mist because the Queen's well-rehearsed death protocol, entitled London Bridge, states that the announcement of death should never be made in the middle of the night. 

It was on the morning of 8 September that Buckingham Palace issued a statement declaring Queen Elizabeth II's failing health: "Following further assessment this morning, the Queen's doctors are concerned about Her Majesty's health and recommended that she remain under medical supervision".

The deterioration in her health had been evident in recent months. At the time, Elizabeth II missed the State Opening of Parliament for the first time in 59 years. The palace cited the monarch's "episodic mobility problems" but refused to divulge further details citing patient confidentiality.

Truss was in Westminster announcing her aid programme when a telegram from Buckingham interrupted the session, which was cut short. The telegram announced that the sovereign was in poor health.

Following her death, the prime minister, dressed in mourning, has come out to pay her respects: "We are a modern nation. Queen Elizabeth II gave us the stability and strength we needed, she was the very spirit of Britain and that spirit will live on. She has been the longest reigning monarch, she has achieved this extraordinary achievement with dignity for 70 years, it has been a long life of service that will live long in our memory. She has been admired and loved by many Britons; her devotion to duty is an example to us.

Special protocol

The UK will have ten days of mourning. The people will take to the streets to bid farewell to their legend. Operation London Bridge has been activated as soon as the prime minister has been notified; Queen Elizabeth will be carried in her coffin from Balmoral to Holyrood, her residence in Edinburgh.

Meanwhile, in London, King Charles III of England will be received before the Privy Council, a committee of senior politicians and judges dedicated to advising the monarchy. A ceremony attended by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the highest-ranking cleric in the Church of England, will follow the proclamation of the new king.

By Sunday 11 September, King Charles III and the Queen consort will go to Holyrood, along with all members of the royal family, and there will be a procession from Holyrood to St Giles' Cathedral in Edinburgh. The coffin will remain open to the public for 24 hours. 

On Monday 12th, the coffin will leave the Cathedral and be transferred to a royal train to arrive in London under Operation Unicorn; Prime Minister Truss will receive the Queen's body at the train station which will then be taken to Buckingham for a three-day public viewing under Operation Lion; it will then be taken to Westminster, for a three-day public viewing under Operation Feather.

During these days State funeral arrangements will be made and many VIPs from all over the world will be received, and on the tenth day of the death the funeral will be held at Westminster Abbey. She will then be buried in the George VI Chapel Royal at Windsor Castle, where the remains of her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, will be moved.

Undoubtedly, the Queen's death comes at the worst time for the United Kingdom, which is in the midst of a crisis in various sectors, hit by the Brexit decision and heading towards an economic recession with a society that is tense, fed up and polarised.

The challenge ahead for Charles III will be to continue his mother's legacy with wisdom and discretion at a time when the United Kingdom is going through a delicate economic and social situation.

The public has been deeply affected by the lies, sex scandals and partying of the previous British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, and British society is demanding moral consistency.

Queen Elizabeth II's children have not been exempt in the immediate past from scandals that have besmirched the Crown, but it has been their late mother's uncompromising character that has kept the British monarchy afloat.

King Charles III will have to bite his tongue and learn from his mother not to meddle and to be prudent. It is too early to tell how he will get on with the new Prime Minister Truss, they are almost three decades apart in education and thought. 

God save the Queen!