UK's mourning for Queen Elizabeth an example to heed -editorial

The discipline and respectfulness seen in the UK these past days could be a beacon to guide us forward in some aspects.

 Pallbearers carry the coffin of Britain's Queen Elizabeth as the hearse arrives at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, Scotland, Britain, September 11, 2022. (photo credit: ALKIS KONSTANTINIDIS / REUTERS)
Pallbearers carry the coffin of Britain's Queen Elizabeth as the hearse arrives at the Palace of Holyroodhouse in Edinburgh, Scotland, Britain, September 11, 2022.
(photo credit: ALKIS KONSTANTINIDIS / REUTERS)

Even at 96, and after serving on the throne for more than 70 years, there was a pervading sense that Queen Elizabeth II – the only British monarch most people have ever known – would be there forever.

The queen’s death sparked outpourings of grief and commemoration the world over for a mother, a grandmother and a great-grandmother and, equally, for the mother of a nation and a leader who conducted herself with peerless dignity and respectfulness. She was looked up to like no other head of state, as was so apparent in all the glowing tributes paid to her memory.

Through the relics of the British Empire, the queen was head of state of 15 countries, but she never got involved in day-to-day politics and kept her opinions on such matter completely private. She knew the rules down to the last dotted I and crossed T, and she never wavered.

Elizabeth hardly ever put a foot wrong – not something that can be said of some of her family members.

Although at birth she was not expected to be queen,  once it became her destiny she accepted her fate and lived her life true to her word when she declared as heir apparent: “My whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service.” 

 A handout photo of Queen Elizabeth photographed at Windsor Castle, Britain in May 2022 issued by Buckingham Palace on September 18, 2022.  (credit: ROYAL HOUSEHOLD/RANALD MACKECHNIE/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS) A handout photo of Queen Elizabeth photographed at Windsor Castle, Britain in May 2022 issued by Buckingham Palace on September 18, 2022. (credit: ROYAL HOUSEHOLD/RANALD MACKECHNIE/HANDOUT VIA REUTERS)

King Charles under weight of crown

Charles III is the 42nd monarch since the Norman Conquest of 1066, a watershed date in British history. He became king the instant his mother breathed her last and the transfer of the crown to him was seamless and invisible.

The 11 days following Elizabeth’s death until her funeral on Monday prompted countless reflections of her storied life and eulogies but also speculation, including in Israel, of how things might change as Charles settles into his new role. Commentators pondered whether he would/should/want to be king. They wondered if the queen’s demise would signal a beginning of the end for the monarchy.

But the doubters got an emphatic answer that had been staring them in the face for days through the public outpouring of grief and adoration in the unique ceremonials they were witnessing. Charles will be king until his dying day, and his heir, probably his son William, will take over in the fullness of time. 

The realms overseen by British monarchs have undergone many profound changes throughout the centuries, not least since Elizabeth became queen in 1952. In some 1,200 years, more than 61 kings and queens have ruled the British Isles, and while there are those who think that change should come, there is no reason to believe that the monarchy will be abolished  in the foreseeable future.

This is much because most of the people directly affected feel comforted by their symbols of statehood. Since the French Revolution, the founding of the United States and the overthrow of Russia’s monarchy, three events that have heralded the modern age, public reverence for hereditary leaders has almost entirely disappeared from the enlightened world.

But there are a few monarchies that have evolved and remain relevant to their citizens even in the 21st century. Some do not, but most of the people of Britain and many of the nations closely associated with it still want a monarchy. “A constant in our lives” was a statement repeated by so many who came to pay their respects to the queen.

Head of the armed forces

For those who serve in the British military, the monarch is “the boss,” the ceremonial head of the armed forces, the flesh-and-blood embodiment of the state to whom all swear allegiance. It should also be borne in mind that the thousands of sailors, soldiers and airmen who carried out the ceremonial duties at the funeral, resplendent in their magnificent uniforms, are not toy soldiers in fancy dress. They are among the best-trained and most effective troops in the world, hardened in battle through many global conflicts.

The discipline, reverence and the respectfulness the soldiers displayed at the funeral on Monday do not mean that Britain is without fault, far from it, but the esteem in which some constants in established nations are held should serve as an example to a young country such as Israel, not yet 75 years old and still finding its way in the world. 

Israel is unique in its own way, but the discipline and respectfulness seen in the UK these past days could be a beacon to guide us forward in some aspects.