Like many of my generation, we have known only one British monarch, HM Queen Elizabeth II. She was the person that we could all instantly identify. I was 16 when Princess Diana married now King Charles III. We lived in Germany at the time, and we all watched that wedding on TV – a memory that many across the globe can relate to. What stood out to me at that age was not just the pomp and circumstance in and around the wedding, but the Tiffany blue dress of HM Queen Elizabeth II and her bright smile. As girls, my sister and I were taken by the Queen’s poise, smile, and larger-than-life presence. Those are some of our very vivid memories of the time. Like many Europeans, we followed news about the British monarchy for decades – though we were not British subjects. We did not need to specify which monarch we were referring to when we would say the Queen. There was just one for us, HM Queen Elizabeth II – though some European countries had their own (i.e., Denmark’s Queen Margrethe II or the Netherlands’ Queen Beatrix.)
A few years later, and after moving to Italy, my mother and I came within feet of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, when she visited my hometown in late May of 1992 to appreciate the restoration of the frescoes of the Perugino. As it befits such a royal visit, many people lined the Corso, and it was nearly impossible to get close. I was able to wiggle through to the second row, with my mother in tow, and asked a tall gentleman in front of us if he would make room for my mother. He amiably agreed, and my mother squeezed between him and another. I was content to see my mother’s joy as she smiled and waved at the Queen Mother – they both were the same height: 5’2”. That day was also committed to memory as an awe-inspiring event. Mom and I commented later that the Queen Mother was just as kind, fun-loving, and warm-hearted as her daughter, the Queen. We thought: “Easy to see where she gets it from!” A couple of years after that event, Princess Margaret (the Queen’s sister) visited to admire the reconstruction of the town’s Fontana Maggiore, an authentic restoration feat of an architectural marvel.
As yesterday the news of the death of HM Queen Elizabeth II spread around the globe, eventually reaching us in Texas, I felt suddenly emotional and found myself shedding many a tear. Realizing that the Queen had passed made it feel like a surreal – and incredibly touching – moment. In the last decade, we knew that the Queen’s advanced age meant that her time was drawing nearer. It was a tucked-away, rational thought, there but not there. The flood of memories, thoughts of events, her life-long service to the United Kingdom and the other Commonwealth realms, and her undeniable strength, fearlessness, and popularity all materialized in my mind in those first hours after her death. Regardless of the fraught history, both within and without the royal family, war and decolonization, political and press scrutiny, etc., she was a symbol, a role model not just for Brits but for many of my generation, preceding and following. In June 2022, HM Queen Elizabeth II met with the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, who “came away thinking there is someone who has no fear of death, has hope in the future, knows the rock on which she stands and that gives her strength.” (The Guardian, 09/2022, article by Harriet Sherwood)
HM Queen Elizabeth II reigned for 70 years, making her reign the longest of any British monarch and the longest recorded of any female head of state in history. Her reign was the second-longest in history after France’s Louis XIV – his reign ended in 1715.
This moment in history is genuinely dazing, and, in all likelihood, no future monarch will ever match her stamina, steadfastness, and spirit. She rose above politics and had no political agenda — a woman. Irreplaceable. God save the Queen.
Reunion Tower, one of Dallas’ iconic skyline buildings, went dark last night, and management tweeted: “What a bright light the Queen was. It’s only appropriate to mourn her passing by going dark.”