The death of Her Majesty the Queen, announced a short time ago, is a seismic event for the United Kingdom and a profound emotional shock that will be felt by millions.
It was, of course, always an inevitability, as it is for all of us. And in recent months the Queen had obviously become increasingly frail.
Nevertheless, it felt unthinkable that one day she would no longer be with us. We allowed ourselves to imagine that she would go on for ever. For so many of us this evening, this feels like a personal bereavement. Something of priceless value has been torn from us, and we feel devastated.
The Queen was most deeply loved by millions, who showed their profound feeling for her and for what she meant to them when they came out in their hundreds of thousands to cheer her at her Platinum Jubilee celebrations earlier this year.
It’s not just because her reign lasted for an astonishing 70 years, the longest in the country’s history. It’s because she was the constant, still centre of the nation, always reassuring, always a beacon of optimism, always felt to be somehow embracing all of us.
She was the symbol of consistency, the link between the generations, the rock to whom we were tethered as the storms of the world raged around us. She was always there. Now she isn’t. And we feel devastated.
She held the country together because of the way she effaced herself to become the quintessence of duty and selfless service to her people, a symbol of unity and true inclusion. We watched the way she conducted her great office — her calmness, her strength, her fortitude, her kindliness and humility — and we felt soothed and reassured that, in looking at her example, we were gazing at ourselves as a nation in the mirror she held up to us. She loved us with a deep devotion; and in return we loved her.
Never have those qualities she embodied been more needed than they are now. It’s impossible not to feel that her passing marks not just the loss of a unique public servant and a great soul, but also the loss of a Britain that belonged to a different era — a Britain of strength and resilience, a Britain of self-restraint and grounded pragmatism, a Britain of true tolerance and gentleness, a Britain whose passing we also most deeply mourn.
The Queen was the embodiment of that Britain. Her death is a source of the deepest grief.
May her memory be a blessing.