The Daily Telegraph
Elizabeth’s final act was to bring us together in calm national pride
Many of us wondered for years before it happened whether the death of Queen Elizabeth II would lead to a terrible decline in Britain. Certainly, there would be a sense of national fear. She seemed to be single-handedly holding back so many ugly forces. She was the last link to our “greatest generation”, and epitomised virtues and a sense of our national selves that seemed at times to be all but lost.
Yet the reaction to her death has been strangely reassuring. It has turned out that there were deeper wells in this country than many people suspected: deep reserves of affection for the Queen, obviously, but also a vast wellspring of support for the monarchy and the nation itself.
The passing of Elizabeth II is remarkable for many reasons. But just one of them is the way in which the Queen’s final act seems to have been to bring her nation deeply together.
There is the literal way in which that has happened, with the mininationalists across Britain ceasing – for a moment at least – their relentless task of trying to tear our country apart. The Scottish nationalists observed the death of our monarch without a series of “buts”. Even Sinn Fein paid tribute and passed condolences to the Queen’s son and heir – an act which would have been unthinkable beforehand.
People have rightly remarked on the way in which hundreds of thousands of people have queued to pay their own personal respects to the Queen. But almost as remarkable is the way in which other nations around the world, as well as their media, have mourned her death.
True, sections of the American media used the occasion to talk about colonialism and even slavery, but that says more about their own curious obsessions than about us. The Queen leaves behind a Commonwealth that has been united in mourning – hardly the expected reaction if she had been the cruel tyrant of the New York Times’s imagination.
Although the dissenters have received an extraordinary amount of attention, more extraordinary is how united the world’s response has been.
France, for instance, is not known for its love of monarchy. But the French political and media class were united in paying tribute to her. She was honoured on the cover of almost every magazine and periodical, as she was across the European and world media.
This reaction is largely a tribute to a reign of unparalleled length and dignity, a life given to the service of country and the deepening of alliances with our friends and allies. But it also serves as a reminder of the way in which Britain is regarded around the world.
Absent a few raucously noisy malcontents, and we find that most people do not regard Britain as some terrible tyrannical power, either now or in history. Most see us, rightly, as having been among the fairer, certainly more benign world powers.
We still have huge sway. We have the power of our language, which is among many other great cultural and societal gifts that this country has given the world. Look anywhere for somewhere stable enough to want to invest in, or live, and the chances are that it is a common law country.
There will be those who will try to use this moment to turn against Britain, to wage war on all of our institutions, from the Commonwealth to the Church and even the monarchy. They will make a lot of noise and gain attention, but we should remember amid this squawking that a quieter but more resilient Britain exists, the Britain of calm national pride, the Britain which is currently undergoing a seamless and peaceful transition from one monarch to another.