Published Oct. 6, 2022
By SARA EYJOLFSDOTTIR
When Queen Elizabeth II, Britain’s longest-reigning monarch and the longest recorded female head of state in history, died Sept. 8, many, including CHS students with connections to the United Kingdom, were left with tremendous uncertainty and upheaval.
The queen’s death preceded 10 days of national mourning before her state funeral Sept. 19. The process, dubbed Operation London Bridge, was put in place to handle all matters following the queen’s passing, including the announcement and the official mourning period. People around the world have joined to pay their respects and reflect on her reign and impact, and those with British connections in Carmel were no exception.
“She was an incredible woman to have held onto power for so long and still remain fairly respected,” says CHS senior Greta Beesley, who was born in the U.K. and consistently goes back to visit the vast majority of her relatives that still live there.
Elizabeth II ascended the throne in February 1952, aged 25, and in September 2015 she surpassed Queen Victoria and formally claimed the title of longest reigning monarch in the history of the British Empire.
“For the nation, it’s maybe not a shock seeing as she was 96, but it is definitely a huge change seeing as she was such a long-lasting figurehead,” says senior Clare Cook, who moved to the U.S. in October 2019 after living in Surrey, England. “To lose that is quite upsetting for a lot of people.”
For most, Elizabeth II was a constant, stable icon in a rapidly changing world. The monarch was a symbol of national pride, and even though she may not have been the political leader of her countries, she ruled the domain for over seven decades.
“Her role as a monarch was very traditional and played a large part in British identity and culture,” Cook says, “even though I think quite a lot of people in Britain, including me, may not have fully realized that on a day-to-day basis.”
The news of the historic leader’s passing broke around 6:30 p.m. BST on Sept. 8, following recent news that the queen was in poor health and that royal family members were rushing to her side.
“I found out about the queen’s passing when my mother texted me and was very upset,” says junior Grayden Miller, whose entire mom’s side of her family is from the U.K. “Americans without any British connections tend to struggle to understand the established relationship between a queen and a citizen, since presidents can only serve for up to eight years.”
The queen held varying degrees of significance for those with connections to the U.K., but was a quintessential symbol of British culture and history.
“I’ve grown up knowing about the royal family, and she’s always been an important figure in my life,” says junior Emilia Gorton, whose father and many other members of her family were born and grew up in England. “For my dad, she was the only monarch he’s known, so it has definitely affected him.”
Elizabeth II is succeeded by her eldest son King Charles III, a return to a king on the throne for the first time in 70 years.
“I’m hoping he will be a wise ruler, given that he has had plenty of time to prepare,” Beesley says. “But as a person, I think his history with Princess Diana definitely tainted people’s views of him.”
With such a long-lasting aspect of the British monarchy now gone, many countries and individuals are left wondering about its current state and their role within the system. Elizabeth II was queen to 14 other independent nations that were once under the rule of the British Empire, and many of these countries are now revisiting conversations of severing their connections to the crown.
“I think a lot of people in England are reevaluating the monarchy as a whole with Charles as king,” Cook says.
Following the queen’s death, anti-monarchist protestors took to the streets to protest King Charles’ ascension to the throne, resulting in some arrests and adding to the impact of Elizabeth II’s passing.
“Her passing, although it was mostly set in place because of her age, is a big change,” Beesely observes. “We now have a king, and how is that going to be different for the country?”