We knew the end would come at some point, even though she often seemed invincible. At 96 years of age, Queen Elizabeth lived long enough as the regnant monarch to celebrate her 70th anniversary on the United Kingdom throne earlier this year.
And now, she belongs to the history she has made. Requiescat in pace, Queen Elizabeth II, Britain’s longest-reigning monarch:
Here is the moment Huw Edwards on BBC One announced the death of HM The Queen. pic.twitter.com/ar08Ox27Cr
— Scott Bryan (@scottygb) September 8, 2022
There is no question about the succession. Buckingham Palace made it immediately clear that Prince Charles has succeeded to the throne, and that Camilla will assume the title of Queen Consort:
The death of Queen Elizabeth II has paved the way for a new UK queen — or at least queen consort — in Camilla.
Before her death Thursday, the longest-serving monarch in royal history had declared it was her “sincere wish” that her once-controversial daughter-in-law “be known as Queen Consort.”
The regal title is reserved for the wife of a reigning king, and does not carry the power and importance of the reigning Sovereign, all of which instead now goes to Camilla’s husband, the new King Charles, 73.
It is a role that rests entirely on her being married to the king, meaning she will not take the throne if he dies before her.
That decision came from Elizabeth herself earlier this year, considered a surprise at the time. It amounted to a public vote of confidence in Charles as the heir apparent as well as an attempt to normalize the royal relations after Charles’ remarriage.
All of this is organizational necessity, of course. The focus should be on the remarkable life and legendary commitment to duty of Elizabeth II, who famously pledged — at the age of 26 — to dedicate her whole life to the service of her people, whether her life be “long or short.” In the 70 years since that pledge in the wake of the untimely death of her father, Elizabeth never wavered from it. In that period, she welcomed British leaders from Winston Churchill to Liz Truss into the Prime Minister’s office, and more than a dozen in between.
One does not have to care much for the monarchy as an institution to recognize the value of the extraordinary example Elizabeth II set. She presided over the passing of the empire and the waning of British influence on world affairs, but she stepped into that void to hold together the British Commonwealth for decades. Elizabeth strictly obeyed the British tradition of staying out of electoral politics, but still kept herself relevant to the British identity and sense of order. That balancing act — with family dramas playing out on the widest possible stages all along — will look nearly impossible from a historical perspective. However, Elizabeth managed it and remained at the heart of her people through it all.
When world leaders of this magnitude finally pass, history focuses on specific accomplishments: wars fought, political campaigns won, advances in technology achieved. However, in Elizabeth’s case, history will have to focus on examples set, crises endured, and character expressed. Her record will not be perfect, because whose is? But her remarkable commitment to public service and the British people will leave a legacy that will pass quickly into legend, and a mark that others can and should aspire to reach.
Rest in peace indeed, Queen Elizabeth II. And thank you for that legendary career of service in the unique calling that the United Kingdom had for you.
Our prayers and thoughts are with her family, friends, and our great friends in the United Kingdom.