I wrote the below in Lucire—even though plenty of publications have covered our monarch’s passing, it still felt right to acknowledge it. After all, she had appeared in Lucire a few times.
With the passing of HM Queen Elizabeth II on Thursday UK time, it would be remiss of this magazine to not mark this world event.
During the 25 years of Lucire, the Queen has featured several times, mostly from events that she attended. We weren’t around when she was newly crowned in her coronation gown by Norman Hartnell, and wearing the latest British fashions in her youth, a glamorous symbol of a new Elizabethan era that lifted the United Kingdom’s mood after World War II and continued rationing. But it is easy to imagine the coronation in 1953 being a dazzling, colourful event, and indeed it was covered in the likes of British Vogue at the time.
Her era has seen unprecedented change. As the longest-serving monarch in British history, she presided over an era which saw television become mainstream (a technology that she embraced with her Christmas message), many former colonies gain their independence, the dawn of the World Wide Web, the end of apartheid in South Africa, and both her country’s entry into and exit from what is now the European Union.
Much has already been said about HM the Queen’s sense of duty, and how she still read her red box’s worth of papers as head of state right to the end. On Tuesday she asked Liz Truss as the new prime minister—the Queen’s 15th, having begun with Sir Winston Churchill when she ascended to the throne—to form a government.
Here in Lucire the late Queen has attended events we happened to cover, beginning in 2008, with her last appearance at the Cartier Queen’s Cup in 2017.
I only caught a glimpse of her during a state visit to New Zealand in 2002 during her golden jubilee. It was her last visit to Aotearoa.
The visit was very subdued and HM the Queen and HRH the Duke of Edinburgh were whisked from the airport round the back roads of Rongotai, past the main street by Lucire’s then-HQ. I managed to photograph them as they drove by.
A neighbourhood shop had a staff member who was a diehard monarchist. I mentioned I had a photo of the royal couple and later gifted her my print. I still have the negative somewhere.
At the time, my sense was that our Labour government had republican leanings and downplayed the royal visit, hence ferrying them in the viceregal Daimler past industrial areas; it was a far cry from an earlier visit I witnessed in 1981 when as a school pupil, my schoolmates and I lined the drive at Government House to welcome her.
As someone who chose to retain my British nationality (I dutifully renew my passport every 10 years), as well as adopting my New Zealand one in 1980, I admit to having a tremendous amount of respect for HM Queen Elizabeth II and her unwavering sense of duty. Some of us born in Hong Kong in the 1970s, whose parents had memories of less pleasant times behind the Bamboo Curtain, appreciated the freedoms, although they stopped short of democracy, that we enjoyed in a Crown colony. Up to a point: my father said he could have worked harder to lose his Chinese accent after fleeing Taishan for Hong Kong after the communist revolution of 1949, but he chose not to as he didn’t want to be seen as sycophantic to the colonial power.
It was thanks to the Commonwealth that my Hong Kong-born, but China-raised, mother was able to obtain her nursing qualification from the General Nursing Council for England and Wales. When we emigrated to New Zealand, that made her transition into her job that much easier, as it was considered a notch above the rest. (Having said that, the Hospital Board put her on a lower pay grade than what she deserved, leading my parents to fight for it, with the help of Sir Francis Kitts, a family friend and the former mayor of Wellington. We won.)
When we came here, one familiar thing was that the currency had the Queen on it, and it was her constant presence that told you that there were, in principle at least, shared values. While we can rightfully critique the Empire and what it was built on, at least for this chunk of history, it was a reassurance for us as émigrés that there would be the rule of law in our new country, something that, as my parents could attest, China lacked during the difficult years of the war and immediately after.
My father’s preferred form of governance was social democracy, but he appreciated a constitutional monarchy; and my own studies at law school concluded that while an imperfect system, it was one which I, too, valued. The prospect of one of our own being president, at least to the law student me in 1992, seemed unfathomable and potentially divisive.
The success of the system does depend on our faith and trust in the monarch. HM Queen Elizabeth II gave us that sense, as one who placed duty first. As this nation enters into a period of official mourning, we also wonder what her successor, HM King Charles III, will bring to the table, with his interests in the environment and a UK government that he might not see eye to eye with.
Whatever the future, we pay tribute to HM Queen Elizabeth II and mark the close of this second Elizabethan age.
4 thoughts on “The Lucire tribute to HM Queen Elizabeth II”
I appreciate reading your perspective on this. You may recall that we broke with the monarchy back in the 18th century, here. ;)
All kidding aside, I have mostly refrained from comment on HM Queen Elizabeth II’s passing. It is both expected and not; no one lives forever, and yet she has been a steady presence all my life. There is something inspirational for all of us in her dignified commitment to duty and service, even before her ascension to the throne. While some envy her her wealth, I have a feeling that she was frugal, sensible, and very conscious of public perception. That she willingly accepted a role that gave her less freedom than most of us take for granted, in love and dedication to her country and its citizens. SHE was not colonialism. SHE supported the decisions of the government. How much political power, if any, does a constitutional monarchy have?
I don’t think anyone could live up to the example she set, though it would be nice to see Charles, then William, really try. It would be a credit to her, if they come close. It’s not as if she didn’t set an excellent example.
HM the Queen’s passing has many people thinking out loud whether we should do with HM King Charles III what you did with HM King George III. For us, she has been a constant, no matter how crazy the world gets. Without her, there’s a noticeable uncertainty. We can only hope her son winds up as a sensible monarch.
You are right about what power a monarch wields. They act on the advice of Parliament, and they pledge loyalty to it, so their influence is limited.
I used to dislike King Charles III. Lately, he seems to be stepping up to his duties, so I’m willing to say “wait and see.” Now, for England, the monarchy seems to make sense; from what I’ve heard, it brings in tourism and tourist dollars. There’s much to be said for the theater of it all. But politically? Does it make sense, today? I don’t know, and as I’ve said before, definitely not my call. There is strength in unity and there is a cost, as well. Independence is nice, but I won’t pretend that I didn’t think, more than once in 2016-2020, that I wished “Mommy would take us back.” (Jokingly, of course. We’re more alike than not, sometimes, and that’s not always a good thing.)
Hard to say—I notice more calls to abolish the monarchy now than I ever did. Time will tell.
Politically, monarchists will argue that it makes sense to have the consistency of a head of state who is above politics, and point to the divisiveness of republics, especially those who gained their independence from Britain. In theory, the monarch could decline to give assent to a bill, but other than the constitutional crisis in Australia in 1975 when the Governor-General sacked the prime minister, I don’t believe it’s been tested. (I could be wrong here.)