From the Left



The People's Queen

Susan Estrich on

It feels strange, as an American, to admire a queen, but there is nothing strange about admiring Queen Elizabeth II. It is precisely because of how human she has been, how human her life has been, that a nation of anti-monarchs such as we are should mourn the passing of this great woman.

Because she was a great woman in so many ways, but especially in her later years, when the children were no longer sweet and adorable but difficult and disappointing, when the grandchildren were no longer sweet and adorable but grown up and demanding, when tragedy struck, and then failings and failures, and she maintained her dignity and her humanity.

She did not live a charmed life.

She did not live happily ever after. Death and divorce touched her family, as it does so many. Shame and humiliation to boot.

It was for her, as it is ultimately for all of us, how she handled those challenges, those tragedies, those disappointments, that were the measure of her, the mark of her greatness. She handled them with dignity. With grace. With courage and with fortitude and with loyalty. As a monarch and a mother. She was the queen of the longest-running soap opera in the world, and she made it worth watching. Others behaved badly, gossip as you will, but not the queen. The queen was better.

The internet was alive, sadly, with those blaming Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, for the queen's ill health, for her difficult years, for her passing. As if she were not 96 years of age, with all that brings. As if her son were not Prince Andrew, with all the pain he must have brought on his mother. As if Meghan were the only challenge for this queen, or the most difficult. Surely not. Meghan was a chance almost taken, a missed opportunity, but hardly the undoing of a monarch.

Isn't that just the point? There was no undoing this woman.


I remember overhearing two Brits of a certain age gossiping about the queen at the hairdresser. They spoke of her the way you would your favorite great aunt, respectfully and a little protectively, which explained their ambivalence about Meghan. It was the fierce protectiveness of the queen, however, that was most striking. Who feels protective, even of your favorite politician, itself enough of an oxymoron to give most people pause right there.

And yet so many people felt protective of the queen. And protected by her, at the same time. One president after another. One prime minister after another. She endured.

She proclaimed Diana the "People's Princess," and she was. Queen Elizabeth was the People's Queen.

That she turns out to be mortal is the greatest disappointment of all.


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