Long live Queen Elizabeth II!
Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor was crowned queen of England in June 1953 at the youthful age of 26, following the passing of her father, King George VI.
Her coronation was the first event of its kind to be televised across the U.K. and beyond. Millions watched their new queen take her oath. In many ways, this made Elizabeth the people's queen, from the first moments of her reign.
She assumed her reign during deeply troubled times — World War II was won, but it had also caused the sun to set on the British Empire.
Despite being a figurative head of state, Queen Elizabeth II had a monumental task ahead of her — salvaging Britain's reputation both nationally and internationally.
Her husband, Prince Philip, a blunt man, was always wary of the stuffiness and snobbery of the royal courts.
Upon his insistence, the queen began the gradual modernization of the monarchy while retaining the practices and customs of royalty.
The pomp and extravagance that occurred mostly behind closed doors were made public. There was more interaction between members of the royal family and citizens during events.
The term "the monarchy" was replaced by "the royal family."
During the 1960s, the BBC was allowed to film the royal family at their home. There was footage of the family at a barbecue, decorating the Christmas tree, and taking their children for a drive. It made the royals seem relatable to regular people.
Her Silver Jubilee in 1977, her Diamond Jubilee in 2012, and her Platinum Jubilee earlier this year were celebrated with enthusiasm largely by the general public. There were street parties, free music concerts, and gatherings across Britain. Celebrations following births and weddings in the royal family were also made public.
In April 2006, thousands of well-wishers gathered across the streets of the town of Windsor outside Windsor Castle as the queen performed an informal walkabout on her 80th birthday.
And in November 2007, she and Prince Philip celebrated 60 years of marriage, with a service attended by 2,000 people at Westminster Abbey.
In April 2011, the queen attended the wedding of her grandson, Prince William, to Kate Middleton.
In 2012, during the opening ceremony of the Olympic games in the U.K., she shared the screen with another great ambassador for Britain — the actor Daniel Craig, known as 007 himself.
From a young age, the queen had a fondness for animals. She was an avid horse rider and was regularly seen with her beloved pack of corgis.
She was also an avid sports fan, particularly polo, football (or soccer), and tennis.
All through her reign, she traveled across the world, being Britain's great brand ambassador.
The queen was a patron of over 800 different charities, which made her a fine ambassador for Britain's charitable spirit.
Her Platinum Jubilee was marked with a reception for charity volunteers in the Sandringham area. Charity staff and volunteers were invited to her official 90th birthday party, and the £1.2-million surplus from the event was donated to a number of charities.
Queen Elizabeth was the primary reason for the respect, affection, and popularity of the royal family.
However, her reign wasn't without controversy.
The Suez crisis in 1956, where British troops were sent to prevent Egypt's threatened nationalization of the canal, ended in an ignominious defeat and the resignation of then–prime minister Anthony Eden.
Since the Conservative Party had no mechanism for electing a new leader, the queen invited Harold Macmillan to form a new government, following a series of consultations.
In 1963, when Harold Macmillan resigned as prime minister, Queen Elizabeth appointed the Earl of Home in his place, after consultations.
Both appointments caused controversy because they were done on the advice of just a few ministers.
In 1979, Britain had its first female prime minister, Margaret Thatcher. It was reported that relations between the queen and the prime minister weren't always warm.
The queen reported disapproved of Thatcher's attitude and confrontational style. They also did not see eye to eye on several matters such as handling the commonwealth and sanctioning apartheid South Africa.
There were "scandals" and scandals.
There were the divorces of her children, Prince Charles, Prince Andrew, and Princess Anne.
There was a fire at Windsor Castle, the queen's favorite residence, in 1992, followed by a public debate on whether the taxpayer or the queen should foot the bill for the repairs.
Buckingham Palace was opened to visitors to raise money to pay for the repairs at Windsor. The queen and the Prince of Wales began paying taxes on investment income.
The queen herself also attracted criticism following the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1997. Britain was immersed in inconsolable, perhaps even irrational grief, but the queen seemed focused on comforting Diana's sons in private instead.
Finally, following the public outcry, she addressed the nation, paying tribute to her departed daughter-in-law and pledged to adapt to modern times.
The biggest scandal was her son Prince Andrews's ill-judged friendship with convicted sexual predator Jeffrey Epstein. Andrew was also accused of sexual abuse. The queen suspended Andrew from all public duties.
The relentless shenanigans of Prince Harry and his wife Meghan Markle caused much annoyance to the queen. Markle alleged racism in the royal family and claimed to be a victim.
Finally, the couple announced they were "stepping away" from royal duties. However, their presence still hangs like a sword over the royal family.
A reign so long wasn't without personal losses.
She suffered the loss of her younger sister, Margaret, and her mother, both in 2002. She also lost the love of her life, Prince Philip, in April 2021.
So how will she be remembered?
She was the anchor that steered the royal family and Britain through myriad turbulent times.
She was there at the culmination of the British colonial era and the handover back to the indigenous people.
She was there when Britain suffered terrorism, natural disasters, shocking tragedies, and a pandemic.
She was there during moments of triumph for Britain.
Highlights of her reign can be viewed here:
She worked with 15 British prime ministers, from Winston Churchill to Liz Truss.
She met 13 U.S. presidents, from John F. Kennedy to Joe Biden.
She performed her duties despite ill health and bereavement until the very end. Two days prior to her passing, she met with the incoming prime minister, Liz Truss.
She always followed her mother's advice: "Never complain, never explain, and speak rarely in public."
She never gave a single one-to-one interview either in print or on TV, allowing her work to speak for itself. During her reign, she always sacrificed her individuality and meticulously followed protocol for her role as the head of state. There was never a finger out of tune in her presentation.
According to cultural commentary from The Sloane Ranger Handbook, published in 1983, she had the ability "to sit still."
Queen Elizabeth II was quite simply Britain's most devoted public servant, putting service to her country above all else.
The fact that her role was apolitical gave her the ability to rise above divisiveness and pettiness to become a noble, dignified, and comforting constant in a chaotic and devolving world.
Her death, owing to her ill health, was expected, yet when it did occur, it left a void in the hearts of many across the world.
But it would be gravely unfair to end on a somber note.
The queen led a great life and served her country loyally and selflessly. Her life must be celebrated much more than her death is mourned.