There have been sixty one Kings and Queens of England in the last 1200 years but none has been monarch longer than Queen Elizabeth II, who died yesterday at the age of 96. Elizabeth II became Queen at the age of twenty five on February the 6th 1952 and so was Queen for 70 years and 214 days and this year became the only monarch of this country to celebrate a Platinum Jubilee – marking 70 years on the throne. Many of the families from our schools will have seen the seen the celebrations on TV and, being Londoners, we can be sure that a few families were able to attend the celebrations that took place in June in person. It was clear at that time that the Queen was frail, as you would expect from a lady of her age, and she was not able to attend some of the events that had been organised. However, she assured everyone that her ‘heart was with us all’ and that she had been inspired by ‘the kindness joy and kinship’ that was evident. It was well known that the Queen loved a party and she would have relished this celebration and given thanks that she was able to enjoy such a long reign.
None of the children at our schools will have ever known another monarch and many may not even have known that it was possible for the job to be done by anyone else. The Queen has, quite simply, always been there, calm, assured and actually remarkably unchanged for all that time. Her attitude to the responsibility of being Queen was summed up in a speech she made In 1947, on her 21st birthday, when she gave a now-famous televised address on her first official overseas tour in South Africa. She assured us all that “… my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service” Although she could not have known it at the time her life was indeed a long and happy one with the husband that she adored, Prince Phillip, by her side until last year. She had the good health and work ethic to make good on that vow that she made aged just 21 and she undertook her last public engagement, appointing her 16th Prime Minister, Liz Truss, only two days ago. Despite being 96 she never retired.
Of course the Queen has a famous family of Princes and Princesses, Dukes and Duchesses, who she leaves behind. We have lost our Queen but they have lost a Grandma, Great Grandma or Mother. From our Pegasus family we send our condolences to the Royal Family and hope that they will find comfort in the fact that the Queen was able to achieve her desire of a lifetime of public service and died peacefully in her sleep. The United Kingdom and the countries of the Commonwealth have lost a great Head of State.
There will now follow a 10 day period of mourning until Her Majesty’s funeral takes place. Our schools will be arranging series of events to mark the end of of the reign of Queen Elizabeth but those will be shared on another day. For now flags all over the country fly at half mast to recognise the death of a great Queen. May she rest in peace.