“May flights of Angels sing thee to thy rest,” said the visibly grief-stricken new king, Charles III, on September 8 in a tribute to his ‘darling Mama’, Queen Elizabeth II, who had died that afternoon.
The quote, from Shakespeare’s Hamlet, moved many to tears, coming as it did on the back of the news that the longest serving British monarch of all time had died, peacefully and with members of her family around her at the place she called her favourite home, Balmoral Castle.
Immediately wall-to-wall coverage filled TV screens and the airwaves. People gathered silently at Balmoral, at Buckingham palace, or wherever else they found solace or time to digest the news.
It was always going to happen, everyone knew that, but surely not then, surely not so suddenly.
After all, her majesty had been seen smiling, if frail, and twinkling of eye on the news just two days before when she met the new Prime Minister, Liz Truss.
Queen Elizabeth II was – and still is – arguably the most instantly recognisable person on the planet. Her image, if not her actual royal personage, has been seen by countless people and at least 9 in every 10 living human beings have never known another British monarch other than her. This familiarity and longevity, coupled with her decency and integrity, made even those who had never met nor seen the Queen in real life feel that they knew her or had a connection with her.
Whenever she visited Dorset and people did get near her, what they discovered was an engaged, modest and naturally friendly woman.
At Maiden Castle in 1952, she broke with protocol to shake the hand of a shepherd.
In 1997 while visiting Bovington Tank Museum as colonel-in-chief of the Royal Tank Regiment and to observe soldiers training, she wound up riding in a 1920s Rolls Royce armoured car – while dressed in a daffodil yellow coat and hat ensemble.
In 2008 at Wimborne’s Queen Elizabeth School to mark 500 years of free education in the town, she spoke to staff and pupils, signed a picture of herself and was genuinely fascinated by a scientific experiment children were undertaking.
Of the Queen’s death, headteacher Katie Boyes said: “As a school we have taken time to remember and reflect. King Charles and the Royal Family are in all of our thoughts and prayers.”
After being warmly welcomed by the public in Poundbury in 2016 and unveiling a bronze statue of her late mother in Queen Mother Square, she visited the pub, named after her accompanying daughter-in-law, the Duchess of Cornwall, where she left huddled dignitaries so that she could inspect the beer pumps.
In the local Waitrose, she browsed the shelves and chatted and laughed with delighted staff and Dorset suppliers.
Waitrose’s marketing director at the time said: “It was lovely and a delightful experience …such an honour. The Queen was fascinated to talk with the dairy farmers and the local producers.”
Her legacy is vast, but its foundations were laid when she was just 21 and made the public a solemn promise: “I declare that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your serve.”
A promise she kept for more than 70 years.
So, while the new king and the new Carolean age are welcomed in, Elizabeth II, a unique queen for all people, will remain a huge part of the global public psyche and one of the most memorable rulers in our country’s monarchical history.
by Lorraine Gibson.