COURTESY OF WIKIMEDIA COMMONS
I was in my plant physiology lecture, busily filling out a study guide when I saw the headline: Queen Elizabeth II has died.
At first, it seemed wholly unreal. I was near tears.
She was such a strong public figure, even in the toughest times, that she almost seemed invincible. Alas, the news sank in. I had to accept that no one lives forever – though 96 years is pretty darn close.
After pulling myself together, I decided the best thing to do would be to write a piece about her for the paper. So, when class got out, that is exactly what I set to do. Here is what you should know and remember about Queen Elizabeth II.
Queen Elizabeth was always an admirable figure. Her advocacy for peace, equality and freedom was hard to match in the global arena.
At the mere age of 21, Princess Elizabeth became Queen following the sudden death of her father. Reigning since 1952, she was the second-longest ruling monarch in the world, according to the New York Times.
By championing confidence, even when the press was not on her side, the Queen maintained a persona defined by wise and reliable leadership. She seemed near unshakable.
Her country was not the only one strengthened by her leadership in the face of evil. Following the Sept. 11 attacks, she ordered the “Star Spangled Banner” played at Buckingham Palace.
President Bush called her “freedom’s friend,” according to the BBC. The sentiment has been echoed in past days by head members of our nation’s government.
The Queen truly treated her role not as a job, but as a responsibility to her people and all free people of the world. She embraced the cards life dealt her and made an enormous impact.
She was a champion of firsts. Technology was not something the Queen shied away from; she insisted her coronation be televised. It was one of the first major political events shown on television.
Her visits to countries around the world made history, especially to those historically under colonial rule. Instead of asserting the power of the United Kingdom, her visits strengthened diplomatic relations and mended bridges burned by the infamous colonial era.
In 2011, she became the first British monarch to visit Ireland. Perhaps her most famous appearance there was the following year, when she met and shook hands with Martin McGuinness, according to the BBC. The significance of her gesture to the former head of the IRA could not be more immense: her cousin was killed by an IRA bomb in 1979.
By embracing and promoting forgiveness and empathy, she taught the world how to lead by bringing people together instead of widening the divides between them.
Humanitarian efforts were not the only activities on her docket.
Queen Elizabeth was invested in a future where the people and animals of the world could co-exist peacefully. In Uganda, Queen Elizabeth National Park commemorates a visit she made to the country in 1954, according to the Park’s official website.
Her family is also concerned with conservation, especially William, whose title just became Prince of Wales, according to CBS News. He works to combat the illegal wildlife trade, the largest threat to species today aside from habitat loss.
Although the Royal Family is characteristically in the spotlight, the Queen never acted like a typical celebrity. Her appearances were always professional, unbiased by the media and never to create publicity for short-term gains.
Though she had arguably one of the most difficult jobs in the world, she took time to enjoy her life. She loved her husband, Prince Philip, whom she remained married to until his passing last year. She also loved her horses.
This spring, the Platinum Jubilee celebrated the Queen’s seventy years on the throne. Over five hundred horses delighted her Majesty with decadent displays of regal, breathtaking grace.
Besides horses, the other four-legged creature close to her heart was man’s best friend.
Corgis may be one of the most iconic symbols of the Queen; throughout her life, she called more than thirty of the pups family, according to NPR. She was rumored to have had nine running the grounds of the Palace at once.
Most importantly, she knew how to face each day with determination but was not perpetually serious. Those close to the Queen often commented on her wicked sense of humor, according to The Washington Post. It was known to catch them unaware, no matter their expectations during a meeting or family event.
We all should remember to laugh a little more. It is amazing what can be accomplished by sharing a chuckle with someone, even in the most difficult circumstances.
The days ahead will be a bit difficult for me, even though I do not follow the proceedings of the Royal Family closely. It is as if I can feel a silence, a gap in the comfort of knowing the Queen stood at the ready to defend those believing in freedom.
While she is in my thoughts, I have taken time to reflect on how best to honor her legacy.
Though her nation lay surrounded by sea, the Queen never failed to reach those in need and bring them together for a common purpose. By revoking isolationism, she united not just her Kingdom, but a large portion of the world.
In her absence, we should strive to be more respectful of each other, more accepting and more forgiving. We should embrace each other’s differences, recognize the value of each and every being – human and animal alike – and be better. God Save the Queen.