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Elizabeth II was World Britain personified

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The loss of life of Elizabeth II is an occasion that has resonated far past the shores of Britain. All flags at US authorities buildings might be flown at half mast till the Queen’s funeral. The EU has additionally lowered flags at its buildings. Even distant Brazil has declared three days of nationwide mourning in response to her loss of life.

Only a few days in the past, Liz Truss, Britain’s new prime minister, was unable to say if President Macron of France is a pal or foe. However Macron responded to the Queen’s loss of life with a heartfelt tribute, saying that she had embodied the “heat, honest and constant partnership” between the UK and France.

This worldwide outpouring demonstrates the Queen’s success in transcending politics and easing worldwide tensions. Relations between governments and nations undergo good and unhealthy patches. Exhibiting respect and affection for the Queen allowed nations all around the world to sign the enduring nature of their ties with Britain. Even Vladimir Putin has despatched Charles III an open letter, expressing Russia’s “deepest condolences”.

The monarch’s standing as an apolitical determine was important to her worldwide attain and standing. However Elizabeth II’s private qualities have been additionally essential. She demonstrated that responsibility, dignity and repair weren’t empty phrases. Simply two days earlier than her loss of life, Elizabeth was photographed performing her official duties, as she invited Truss to kind the brand new authorities. The worldwide response to the Queen’s loss of life means that — at a time when inspiring political management is in brief provide all around the world — these values have common attraction.

Whereas the Queen stayed above the political fray, the way in which she performed herself had a significant affect on home and worldwide politics. It fell to her to be the monarch who oversaw Britain’s remaining transition from an empire to a post-imperial energy. Via her actions and her personal acute political intelligence, she set an instance for the UK as an entire — demonstrating that the tip of empire needs to be about reconciliation not revanchism.

She was born in 1926, when the British empire was at its top — masking roughly 1 / 4 of the world’s landmass. When she devoted herself to a lifetime of service — in remarks delivered in South Africa on her twenty first birthday — she spoke of “our nice imperial household”.

She heard the information of the loss of life of her father and her personal accession to the throne in Kenya in 1952, when the nation was nonetheless a part of the empire. The Mau Mau rebel towards British imperial rule in Kenya was simply getting underneath means. Over the next decade, it was repressed with appreciable brutality and bloodshed, till Kenya lastly achieved its independence in 1963 — as a part of the wave of decolonisation that dismantled the British empire.

However the Queen herself made it clear that she was decided to construct a brand new relationship with Britain’s outdated imperial possessions — based mostly on friendship fairly than post-imperial bitterness. In a symbolic second in 1961, she visited Ghana and danced with President Kwame Nkrumah — who had been some of the distinguished anti-colonial leaders in Africa and was briefly imprisoned by the British.

The Queen’s enthusiastic embrace of the Commonwealth — the organisation that succeeded the empire — helped to rework relations between Britain and its former colonies. As a political grouping of 56 nations, with members on each continent and even new members with not historic connections to empire, the Commonwealth nonetheless locations Britain on the centre of a worldwide community.

However the legacy of the British empire has not been fully erased. King Charles has come to the throne at a time of heightened world consciousness of racial hierarchies and injustices. It’s doable that — with out the Queen holding the organisation collectively — the relevance and even the existence of the Commonwealth will come into query.

The British monarch is the top of state not simply of Britain but additionally of 14 different nations — together with Australia, Canada, New Zealand and eight Caribbean nations. A ballot taken in Canada earlier this yr discovered that 55 per cent of the general public supported Canada remaining a constitutional monarchy whereas the Queen was on the throne. However this dropped to 34 per cent assist for her successor. Jamaica is one other nation that’s actively contemplating shifting in the direction of a republic — following the instance of Barbados final yr.

The lately elected prime minister of Australia, Anthony Albanese, is a longtime republican, who has appointed a minister for the republic in his new authorities. Nonetheless, public assist for an Australian republic at present appears lukewarm. A ballot performed final yr steered that solely one-third of Australians assist the thought — the bottom degree since 1979 — which can be a mirrored image of Australia’s emphasis on its outdated alliances with Britain and America, because the perceived menace from China grows.

Elizabeth II, nonetheless, at all times knew that a lot of the monarchy’s energy flows from its capability to attach the current to the previous. Charles III could have his coronation in Westminster Abbey, like each monarch since William the Conqueror in 1066. Will probably be a reminder that even the British empire and the union with Scotland are simply episodes, within the for much longer historical past of England.

gideon.rachman@ft.com


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