Covid Island Discs
Song 6: 9th of September 2022 – Let it Be, The Beatles
The First Day after the Death of Queen Elizabeth II
I usually pride myself in being able to select an appropriate song for certain events but alas, for the death of Queen Elisabeth, I can only copy the most popular rock song that is being played on BBC radio 2.
It feels strange realising that the Elizabethan era of 70 years is at an end. Tonight for the first time in St Paul’s Cathedral the version of the British National Anthem, which has not been heard in my lifetime, rang out: “God save our gracious king ..” It is incredible to think that for the rest of my life I will never again hear God save the Queen. Likewise, it is highly likely that my new great nephew, who was born yesterday, the day the Queen died, (the circle of life right there) is also highly unlikely to ever hear in his lifetime “God save the Queen” because we know the next three monarchs will be kings as Prince William’s oldest child (George) is a male.
Like all things in this very broken and divided world, even the death of a woman who tirelessly served the UK up until 48 hours before her death still draws harsh criticism from some hardline republican quarters. To one particular comment about the Queen costing the writer money through her taxes I wrote the following:
Just to add a comment to stimulate thought, it is still possible to critique the concept of a monarchy without conflating that with the person of Elizabeth herself. A lot of the Queen’s so called wealth, really belongs to the state. Did she enjoy wealthy surroundings? Yes of course. Was her life anymore materially opulent than the many very wealthy multi-millionaires that inhabit this planet? I doubt it.
So here’s the critical question. If we are not complete egalitarians, and we also assume that those who contribute most to our society should receive a higher reward, can it not be argued that her contribution of over 70 years of unceasing service makes her a rightful candidate for generous financial compensation?
But someone will counter what did she contribute? The simple answer is herself. She gave relationally all her life to people and made them feel something positive in her presence. And she did this for more people than probably anyone else alive.
But surely that’s not much is it? She never started a business, was a top surgeon, scientist or politician? Yet haven’t we just left out actors, comedians, writers and musicians? Does Paul McCartney deserve his wealth? Many would say yes because of his giant contribution to rock music. But what is the utility of his work? The answer is simply it brings joy into people’s ordinary lives just as the Queen’s countless hours of meeting people from all walks of life brought joy and meaning into theirs.
I am not a strong royalist but by any measure the overall balance sheet of what the Queen gave to Britain and the world through her service far exceeds what she took from it. Most people cannot honestly say that about their own lives which therefore makes Elizabeth, the person, an exceptional woman and worthy of a nation’s grief.
RIP Queen Elizabeth II. Thanks for your 70 years of service. I am confident Jesus will welcome you with those blessed words: “Well done, good and faithful servant.” (Matthew 25:23)