Ever since 1997, the first time I visited Britain, I felt a kinship to the country. I studied abroad in Scotland and later lived in London after completing my Master’s degree there. Unlike other Anglophiles, however, I’ve never been enamored of the monarchy. As an American who strongly believes in meritocracy, I find the concept of nobility a bit ridiculous.
In all the years I lived in the UK, I never visited Buckingham Palace or any royal home. It didn’t interest me.
So why do I find myself deeply saddened by the Queen’s death?
Take away the pomp, circumstance and primogeniture, what I see is a remarkable woman who was outstanding at her job. True, she had the job only because of the circumstances of her birth. But plenty of people are handed opportunities and fail to take advantage of them, let alone maximize them.
One need look no further than the British Crown. Edward VIII was a narcissistic fool whose lack of a sense of duty and responsibility paved the way for Elizabeth to become queen. Elizabeth possibly never wanted to be sovereign, but she fully accepted her new destiny, committing herself to public service in an address on the occasion of her 21st birthday.
In the ensuing 75 years, she never wavered. It’s impossible to think of anyone else who held such a role for seven decades and excelled throughout.
She also set the standard for a modern monarchy, one that aims to be a net benefit by reducing its burden on the public purse, and provides a steadfast presence in a turbulent world.
Something I learned from the Crown is the value in having a non-political head of state, an ambassador who cultivates and nurtures a country’s place in the community of nations.
With politics becoming ever more fraught, adversarial and crude, we need that head of state to be the calm in the storm, to remind us of what we all share.
Like many, I’ve always been moved by the peculiar proclamation: “The King is dead! Long live the King!” What those words express is a recognition of something that’s bigger than the person who just died, and the one who just acceded. It’s a recognition of a government’s continuity and a nation’s enduring principles amid change.
I’m not advocating for a monarch, but I think America would benefit from having a head of state. If that person were to offer an iota of what the Queen did, we would all be ahead.
Shana Goldberg may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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