I’ve never personally met Queen Elizabeth II. The closest I’ve ever come to Her Majesty was watching her drive by in an open-back vehicle in the company of her husband Prince Philip. That occurred in early February 1966 when she visited then British Guiana for the first time since her coronation in 1953. The two-day royal visit also marked the first visit of any reigning monarch during 152 years of British colonial rule. For the auspicious event, we showcased the best of our city, our culture, and our hospitality.
Following its independence in May 1966, Guyana joined the Commonwealth of Nations, founded in 1949 and headed by the British Monarch. The independent nation remained tethered to Britain with Queen Elizabeth as the Head of State until it became a republic in February 1970.
When I read the online announcement of the Queen’s death on Thursday, September 8, around 11:30 a.m. Pacific Time, I stopped what I was doing and tuned into the BBC TV news channel. My teary-eyed response surprised me. Such is the nature of my love-hate relationship with the British monarchy. Their fairy-tale lives had captured my imagination as a child. Over the years, I’ve soaked up news of their marriages and births, scandals and divorces, and deaths.
I’ve learned that marriage to a prince does not always have a “happy ever after” ending; living in a castle can get lonesome and alienating; wealth, grandeur, and privilege do not guarantee a happy or fulfilling life.
Despite my conflicting feelings about the painful legacy of colonialism, I have always held Queen Elizabeth II in high regard as a woman, mother, and stateswoman. I marveled at her staying power throughout the seventy years of her reign when dealing with the crises within her family and the challenges of an ever-evolving, political landscape in Britain and worldwide. What strength of character in holding fast to her duty of service to the British people to the very end. At 96 years old, just three days before her death, as is the custom, she invited the newly elected Liz Truss to form a government and become her fifteenth Prime Minister. What a woman!
In her tribute, Liz Truss described Queen Elizabeth II as “the rock on which modern Britain was built.” Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson referred to her as “Elizabeth the Great.” How fitting!