Queen symbolised dignity and compassion - GulfToday

Queen symbolised dignity and compassion

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Queen Elizabeth II

UAE President His Highness Sheikh Mohamed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan had aptly described Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, who passed away at Balmoral Castle in Scotland at the age 96 on Thursday, when he observed, “Her Majesty is a close friend of the UAE and a beloved & respected leader whose long reign was characterized by dignity, compassion & a tireless commitment to serving her country.”

The key words are “dignity, compassion & a tireless commitment to serving her duty”. Britain is a complicated polity, where democratic values are guarded with great zeal, not the least by the common people. Yet, the same common people retained respect and affection for the monarchy. The delicate task for a British monarch has been to retain that respect and that affection. Queen Elizabeth II in her 70 years on the throne did the job with a quiet dignity. In many ways, Queen Victoria who ruled over Britain for much of the 19th century oversaw the democratization of Britain with the extension of the voting rights of the common people even as the British Empire expanded. Queen Victoria felt a moral duty to protect the people in the colonies as much as the people at home.

Queen Elizabeth II, who was on the throne for the second half of the 20th century saw the British Empire shrink as the colonies became independent, starting with India and Pakistan in 1947, and the Empire was transformed into the Commonwealth. Queen Elizabeth II presided over the Commonwealth with grace and dignity.

To play the role of a constitutional monarch as that of the British monarch is no easy task. The Queen could exert no political influence. She could not support or oppose any political party or idea. And yet through her mere presence in the political running of the country, she seems to have exerted a quiet influence on men, women and political matters.

And the many prime ministers whom she had to appoint seem to have come away after the interaction with Queen Elizabeth with a great deal of respect for her. There were difficult situations as when popular grief burst out on the death of Princess Diana on August 31, 1997. The Queen addressed the nation praising Diana’s special role and her place in public life, went out to meet the hundreds of mourners who stood outside the Buckingham Palace and soothed their feelings with assuring gesture and words. What appeared to be a hostile attitude of the people towards the British Royal Family was managed with “dignity, compassion”.

Unlike the reign of Elizabeth I, the Tudor Queen, who ruled Britain for half a century in the latter half of the 16th century, and England emerged as a great European, and Elizabethan England witnessed cultural glory in the form of great writers like Shakespeare, the rule of Queen Elizabeth II, has not really witnessed any brilliant cultural contributions. But cinema and popular music were two areas where Britain made contribution.

In cinema, apart from brilliant filmmakers, what caught the imagination of the public worldwide were the James Bond films, with James emerging as the charming fictional spy of Her Majesty. Then there was the phenomenon of the Beatles, the musical group, which had charmed audiences across the globe as well as the Royal Family.

A future historian would mark out James Bond and the Beatles as icons of the second Elizabethan era! There have been tremendous and drastic changes in lifestyle and politics during the last 70 years, and Queen Elizabeth II seems to have taken them in her stride without expressing shock. She was the quiet Queen of changing times.

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