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12 September 2022

God bless the Queen. God save the King. 

God bless the Queen. God save the King. 

God bless the Queen. God save the King. 

As a political historian, I have found myself this weekend reflecting on the sheer extent of change that the Queen has overseen in her lifetime. To be honest, whilst I could always list the events, individuals and changes that the Queen oversaw, it has been mind-blowing to think of them collectively. As I said to the students on Friday morning in our very last-minute, but brilliantly put together by Mr Grant, Chapel Service, the Queen had already been on the throne for thirty-three years by the time that I was even born. That seems to be incredible. In an age where we see Prime Ministers come and go with reliable regularity, such a period of time in a role of public service seems astonishing.   

In between watching coverage of the Queen’s passing and the King’s ascendency to the throne, I have also been binging – perhaps controversially – on the early series’ of The Crown. For all the criticisms that this series attracts, it is a helpful reminder of just how different the country was when she came to the throne in 1952 and the enormity of the personal and political contribution that she has made, often to the detriment of herself and her family. 

The Queen has seen so many seismic changes that have fundamentally seen Britain as a nation state and its place in the world, change. Whether that is in the relm of geopolitics, where Britain has gone from a colonial military power to a nation which is just one part of a Commonwealth; whether it is in terms of societal attitudes, where Britain has gone from a country where capital punishment was frequently used and homosexuality was illegal, to a country which celebrates Pride and gay marriage and champions restorative justice; or whether it is in technology and communications, where a black and white television was a major development to a place in the world where Facebook is now considered to be old fashioned. The Queen also oversaw a plethora of global events; from the end of World War Two into a Cold War, Korean and Vietnam Wars, Cuban Missile Crisis, moon landings, space races, England winning football championships (most recently, this year), 9/11, civil rights movements achieving their goals, the London bombings and London Olympics, the dawn of a new millennium, fifteen Prime Ministers and fourteen US Presidents. In each of these changes and events, she has been the anchor for a nation and a role model across the world. I said to students in our Chapel Service that it is unsurprising that so many, including myself, feel a sense of personal loss for someone that they have never met. She has been the constant for each of us. As humans, we crave the security, stability and safety of the status quo. In a world that is ever-changing, the Queen has been that for all of us. The predictability of her outstanding personal dignity, commitment to duty and figurehead for the nation have given us an anchor to navigate the seas of change. In the coming days, as the news fully sinks in, people will truly realise that this has gone. That can be hugely upsetting for anyone. 

The nature of monarchy is remorseless. As His Majesty King Charles III must grieve for his mother, he does so in the very public glare that is the ascendency to the throne. As a grieving nation, looking for its new anchor, looks to him he must also step up whilst also mourning for a very private loss. As a nation we cheer on His Majesty and offer him the condolences to carry him through so that he can fulfil his new responsibilities for all of us.  

The College will be setting up a book of condolences which we will send to London for His Majesty. In it, we will all reflect on our own individual thoughts and memories of his mother and how we champion him to follow her excellent example. We have no doubt that he will. 

In the meantime, I am going to watch another episode of The Crown and toast Her Majesty and thank her for all that she has done for our nation. God bless you, ma’am.  

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