Death and funeral of Queen Elizabeth
« I declare before you all that my whole life, whether long or short, will be devoted to your service and to the service of our great Imperial family to which we all belong. »
This line, spoken on Elizabeth II’s 21st birthday, defines her career like few others. In five years she would be queen – and she would become the longest-serving monarch in British history.
Elizabeth II dedicated herself to lifelong service. This explains why she never abdicated, as many of her younger contemporaries did. Between February 2013 and June 19, 2014, four European monarchs resigned: Pope Benedict XVI of Vatican City; Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands; King Albert II of Belgium; and King Juan Carlos I of Spain.
Elizabeth, a devout Christian who rarely missed a Sunday at church, resisted the exodus because of the promise she made not only to her subjects but to God. A clue at the end of his 21st anniversary speech: “I will only have the strength to lead this resolution alone if you join me in it, as I invite you now: I know that your support will be given without fail. God help me keep my vow, and God bless you all who are willing to share it.
Even when her husband Prince Philip retired in 2017, Elizabeth continued with her public engagements and brought in other family members to accompany her as needed. Just days after Philip’s death in 2021, she resumed her official duties with the appointment of new ambassadors to the UK.
Elizabeth understood the power of the media from an early age, and harnessing it was to become another key theme of her reign. This speech on the occasion of his 21st birthday was recorded not only for radio, but also for the emerging medium of television. At her coronation in 1953, she personally requested that cameras be allowed into Westminster Abbey to broadcast the ceremony live.
People went to buy TVs so they could watch. It was a sacrosanct moment the public had never been able to witness before; they remembered where they were and with whom they were watching. The Queen had inadvertently invented event television. All she wanted was for as many people as possible to feel part of it.
A phrase often attributed to Elizabeth was that « you have to be seen to be believed ». She understood that it was not enough to go out in public, but that she had to be seen there. Television gave her a wider audience and when color was introduced she wore brighter shades to stand out.
Read more about the modernized monarch here: