Queen Elizabeth II – Gem from Youth

Queen Elizabeth II
Photo courtesy of History.com

The world has lost a gem. At an age when many kids – even adults – are self-absorbed, patriotically indifferent, unapologetically indulgent, and willfully ignorant, Queen Elizabeth II stood up. World War II’s dark cloak threatening free nations, she addressed Britain – age 13.  At age 18 – 1944 – she joined the Army, active duty, became an overall-wearing mechanic. All her life, she knew the sound of a 4-stroke combustion engine working right – and wrong. Oh, the lessons she taught …

Here was soon-to-be Queen of England, who had no pretensions, wanted none, worked under the hood of a truck, knew how intake, compression, spark, and exhaust worked, crank shaft, pistons, greasy rocker arms, how a dry cloth under a wet distributor cap, especially after a soaking rain, might get an engine to turn over.

Here was a future monarch who wanted to be what her people were, hardworking, undeterred, courageous, resilient, and can-do. When the war ended, she and her sister – dressed in common clothes, Elizabeth in Army duds, mingled with the celebrating crowds. She did her part.

As Queen, age 25 on, she performed many noble deeds, official and unofficial, personal, professional, wartime, peacetime, keeping the British monarchy and beleaguered commonwealth together, keeping weary countrymen aware of their past and hopeful with her uncommon poise, grace, perspective on history, and personal dignity.

Much will be written about her individual deeds, tenure through the coming and goings of 13 US presidents, her relationship with history-changing British prime ministers, like Churchill and Thatcher, her presence and impact on history.

All these tributes are worthy, well-placed, elevate qualities we see too little in leaders – dignity, honor, decency, patience, respect, fidelity to history, family, and the perspective of others, not to mention elegance and eloquence. She knew when to speak, when to let others speak, when to intercede and when to let the engine spin down.

While most of us never met her, we saw the unchanging influence of her quiet temperament on history. She was not a bystander, but not a braggard. She was not without her emotions, losses, disappointments, resolve, and charm, was a reservoir of stoicism, stabilizer in an unstable world.

During my two years at Oxford, the odd day put me in London at The Old Bailey, an historic local Courthouse, watching Parliament or ambling as kids do around the big city, periodically passing Buckingham Palace, watching the “changing of the guard,” those regal beefeaters, all the precision.  Somehow, her influence suffused that place. She was an extension of history, personification of nobility’s better side.

But all this really pales, the palaces, anniversaries, pomp, circumstance, and ceremonial events – just bookmarks in a long and wonderful life – by comparison to something bigger.

She was destined to be Britain’s monarch from birth, lived the role with dignity, but that is not why most Americans respect her. She honored America’s spirit, the “special relationship,” understood that our young saved Great Britain and Europe in World War II, as Reagan with Thatcher brought down the Soviet Union. She knew heart – not genetics – makes the person.

What I personally admired – do in her passing – is her heart, the heart of a young woman who stepped up to responsibilities she did not need to assume, insisted on placing herself at risk for freedom as a matter of duty, preferred mingling unrecognized with her countrymen than a tiara. 

What speaks to me is the young woman, destined to be Queen yet responsive to her conscience, who loved liberty enough to embrace what it takes to preserve it, who worked hard, got dirty fixing Army trucks at 18, knew combustion engines, did her part. If she could, we all can. If more just took that lesson, the world might be a better place. She was a gem.

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Marta Alvarez
6 months ago

Somebody please tell Uju Anya that brains is what counts, not Victimology, Inc. Nobody denies historical facts, what is really brainless is what you do with those facts.

John Bean
6 months ago

The queen was certainly not perfect, and one can debate the worth of the monarchy.

Still, as a very young women, she was thrust into a role she would rather have avoided altogether. She could have run away as her uncle and her son did, but no. She embraced her situation because she felt it was her duty to do so. And she carried out her duties with intelligence and grace and political dexterity, all the while living a dignified life while retaining sharp wit and humanity.

Would that many of today’s leaders would conduct themselves as she did.

What is “handed” to us in this life is not so important as what we do with it.

jim pollino
6 months ago

You people pay more attention to the queen then 9/11.what a disgrace.

Shirley White
6 months ago

I’m not convinced she stood a candle to Thatcher. She was handed everything that came to her. Thatcher was not a royal she was a commoner from what I recall and became the leader of Israel at such a time to ensure the 3 day war ended well for Israel. She begged and pleaded and narrowed to do so and no.one handed her a thing. It all came from her love for her countrymen.

Marta Alvarez
6 months ago
Reply to  Shirley White

They were two different women in different times that used their brains to work for this country. It is difficult to compare the two, both remarkable in their own right.

6 months ago

Bravo Charles. Enjoy most all your messages!!

Old Silk
6 months ago

Having an uncle who decided to abdicate his duty and marry a divorcee with whom he had an affair and drop the world on her shoulders at 25 worked out for the best it seems.

6 months ago

Enough of the Queen of England Admiration Society already .How much more of this drivel do you morons need to have?
There is actually REAL news happening!

Kim L.
6 months ago

The Queen was the epitome of class; something the world needs move of.

6 months ago

When the truth comes out you may regreat having painted the queen so eloquently

6 months ago
Reply to  dave

No one is perfect, she did the best she could within her limitations.

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