The queen of all revolutions


The queen is dead, long live the king. Elizabeth II died at her Scottish castle of Balmoral on Thursday after seven decades of reign, the longest in British history and one of the longest in world history. She was 96 years old.

His eldest son, Charles of Wales, becomes the new king, aged 73. His wife, the Duchess of Cornwall, is now queen consort, not regnant. The coronation will follow in several months.

“The death of my beloved mother, Her Majesty the Queen, is a moment of great sadness for me and for all members of the family, King Charles III said in a statement released early Thursday afternoon. . His loss will be felt deeply across the country, kingdoms and commonwealth and by countless people around the world. »

Indeed. The news that the sovereign was not doing well was relayed Thursday morning. The BBC quickly launched special broadcasts, in particular to follow the ballet of the Land Rovers towards the castle of the moors.

The flood of condolences from world leaders followed as soon as the death was announced at the gate of Buckingham Palace, London, as tradition dictates. The crowd sang the God Save The Queen crying.

The reaction Urbi and orbi proves to be commensurate with the exceptional character. Elizabeth was probably the most famous and recognized head of state on the planet. She belonged to a small group of world celebrities which usually featured a few pop music stars and a handful of sportsmen.

She was Supreme Governor of the Church of England. She ruled over Great Britain and 14 other sovereign states (including Canada). She officially led the organization of the Commonwealth, with 56 member countries. This year, she became the only monarch in the United Kingdom to have celebrated her platinum jubilee, or 70 years of reign. By comparison, his great-great-grandmother Victoria reigned 63 years and 7 months in the 19th century.e century, and the King of France Louis XIV (1643-1715), 72 years and 3 months.

During his life spanning nearly a century, his kingdom and the world experienced major upheavals and revolutions in every sphere—military, political, economic, technological, and cultural—for better and for worse. As sovereign, she saw the transformation of the British Empire into a Commonwealth thanks to the decolonization movement; the entry and then the withdrawal of his kingdom from the European Union; the beginning, development and end of the Cold War.

The sovereign’s political role remained essentially symbolic. She has, however, witnessed major international crises directly involving her kingdom, including the Falklands War, the end of apartheid in South Africa, the Gulf War, the war in Afghanistan after the September 11 attacks and the crisis pandemic of the past two years.

The continuing unrest in Northern Ireland, marked by terrorist attacks, has affected her personally. Louis Mountbatten, last Viceroy of British India, uncle of her husband, Philip, died in an explosion claimed by the Provisional IRA in 1979. In 2011, Elizabeth II made an official visit to the Irish republic for a first visit since 1911 by a British sovereign, a strong symbol of reconciliation between London and Dublin.

The British sovereign embodies the sacred without holding the levers of power. The sovereign knew fifteen prime ministers, whom she saw parade weekly at the palace, from Winston Churchill to the brand new Liz Truss, to give « advice and encouragement ». Analysts lent him sympathy for a moderate right and an antipathy for the radical and authoritarian policies of Margaret Thatcher.

A dedicated life

When Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor was born on April 21, 1926, in the chic London district of Mayfair, the sun never actually set on the British Empire, but nothing, or almost nothing, predestined her to the throne. The dramatic turnaround occurred when her uncle became King Edward VIII in 1936, but quickly abdicated in favor of her younger brother George VI, Elizabeth’s father. The princess becomes at the age of 10 the heiress presumptive to the crown.

Educated by tutors – she spoke exquisite French –, accustomed to rigorous protocol, looked after by a shy and benevolent father, she spent the entire sad period of 1939-1945 at Windsor Castle in London. The teenager enlists as a volunteer in the reserve army (registration number 230873), where she becomes a mechanic and driver of a military truck. She maintained a lifelong passion for cars, horses and dogs, especially her corgis.

Elizabeth acceded to the throne on February 8, 1952 at 11:15 a.m. She opted for her first name instead of becoming Mary III.

The Princess married Philippe of Greece and Denmark, who became Philippe Mountbatten (1921-2021) in 1947. The ruling couple of House Windsor had four children. Elisabeth was the grandmother of eight children and the great-grandmother of a dozen others.

The royal family itself has been affected by profound upheavals. Three of the children of Elisabeth and Philippe divorced, like more and more subjects of the kingdom elsewhere. The separation of her son Charles from Diana and then the death of the ostracized princess in a road accident have shaken the reputation of the royal family, as have the recent tense relations with Prince Harry and Meghan.

The Duke of York, Andrew, has left the institution in deep embarrassment after revelations of his links to American pedophile Jeffrey Epstein and the prosecution of American Virginia Giuffre accusing him of three sexual assaults when she was 17. An out-of-court settlement, involving the payment of an undisclosed amount, occurred in February this year.

Without forgetting of course the criticisms for the backward customs, the ostentatious way of life of the royals, the castles, the stables, the limousines, the ceremonial clothes, the sumptuous galas and the personal fortune of the queen. That said with all due respect for Her Majesty’s sense of duty.

The exponential force of the media has also had its effects felt on the crown and its entourage. Elizabeth’s coronation in 1953 was her country’s first major live televised event. Radio-Canada broadcast the film of the event four hours after the end of the ceremony, a feat before communication satellites. The photogenic young queen was already arousing popular passion, like Diana thirty years later. She herself was the more or less voluntary star of a myriad of artistic creations.

The queen is not a subject, and yet Elizabeth II posed for around 200 portraits of her by the greatest contemporary artists, from Annie Leibovitz to Lucian Freud. Chris Levine was even able to immortalize it in hologram.

The Royal House tried somehow to adapt to the upheavals to display a less solemn image. Elizabeth took part in countless meetings with the people, christening ships, inaugurating factories or museums, consoling crowds after tragedies, always dressed and wearing bright colors, chosen precisely to distinguish her small figure among her gathered subjects. His iron health allowed him to accumulate more than 325 official engagements per year, even in his eighties, always with a certain reserve, but without haughty distance.

Elizabeth II also traveled the world, visiting all member countries of the Commonwealth (except Cameroon and Rwanda, late members of the organization). The Queen of Canada has come more than twenty times to this constitutional monarchy, which is changing sovereigns for the first time in 70 years. The queen is dead, long live the king…

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