Thoughts by Richard Bleil
Sad news broke today when it was reported the Queen Elizabeth II has passed on. She died at 96 and was the reigning Queen of England for seventy years. King Charles III has taken the monarchy.
I’m sure there will be a lot written on her in the days to follow, so I think I will simply write my own thoughts on the matter. Frankly, I’ve always adored Queen Elizabeth, her quiet demeanor, her charm, and her courage. The stories of her always seem to be good ones, even though she and her family have lived through their fair share of controversy.
Rather than taking privilege of rank and wealth to avoid serving, in World War II she fought in the Royal military. I’ve often enjoyed the thought of if Princess Elizabeth ever crossed paths with the King Elvis. She was apparently a mechanic in the army, working side-by-side with the fighting men, putting her own life in harm’s way in the service of her nation. Her training in the military served her well, as I recall a story of when, as a relatively young queen, the car she was riding in broke down. Rather than waiting for a tow to rescue her, she simply got out of the car, lifted the vehicle’s “bonnet” (as she would have called it) and fixed the car herself. It must have been a sight for the chauffeur and security detail to see the queen bent over a hot engine, getting dirty and oily, and successfully repairing the vehicle.
It’s hard for me to think of the passing of Queen Elizabeth II without recalling the tragedy of the “People’s Princess”, Dianne. Princess Diana married Prince Charles in what became a fairy tale wedding for every young woman who dreamed of marrying a prince. Only two years older than me, she married the now-king Charles III in 1981, when I was in my final year of high school. They had two children together, and their marriage, as I recall, suffered the scandal of then-Prince Charles affair. She died tragically in a car crash in a tunnel of England as her driver was, it was reported, attempting to evade paparazzi. I guess her children are now in line to overtake the monarchy once King Charles III vacates the throne.
Paul McCartney and I apparently have more in common than I realized. He, too, reportedly had a little schoolboy crush on Queen Elizabeth II and, as a result, wrote a little tongue-in-cheek ditty as a tribute to the queen called “Her Majesty” which appeared as a hidden track (no credit given in the song list) on the B side of Abby Road. The Lyrics, in their entirety, went “Her Majesty, she’s a pretty nice girl and she doesn’t have a lot to say. Her Majesty, she’s a pretty nice day but it’s just too late today. I want to tell her that I love her a lot, but I got to get a belly full of wine. Her Majesty, she’s a pretty nice girl, someday I’m gonna make her mine, oh yeah. Someday I’m gonna make her mine.” He recorded it intending it to be taken as a joke. I can’t help but wonder how she took it, but with the sense of humor that she seemed to have, I’m sure it at the very least made her smile. I can just picture her wondering the palace quietly singing this song under her breath.
The role of the queen in England is largely as a figurehead. With enormous power in the past, the monarchy has had much of its power stripped and given to the elected House of Lords (as I understand it), but being in-tune with their history, the desire was for the monarchy lineage to continue. This gives rise to a sense of royalty and respect, but even with duties largely ceremonial, Queen Elizabeth II brought with her a certain dignity, and demonstrated the influence possible even when one has no (or extremely limited) power. Her influence was felt heavily as she carried out her administrative and representative duties, meeting with dignitaries and leaders from around the world, quietly spreading the influence of her nation and promoting friendship. Even in the height of controversy with the Trump administration, as people protested his actions on the Mexican border, his shift of support away from US allies and towards dictatorships, his negativity towards the UN and NATO, the Queen was still the magnanimous and gracious host we’ve all come to love and respect. Despite protests aimed at keeping him out of Buckingham palace, Queen Elizabeth II still extended the invitation, and hosted his visit, cool as it was. She played a major influence on keeping the relationship with the US warm with England even in the face of such hostile political forces.