By: Emily Shanmugam
People around the world reeled in shock upon learning of the sudden death of Queen Elizabeth II, who passed away at Balmoral Castle in Scotland on Thursday, September 8th. Undoubtedly, her passing marks the end of a long era since, for many, the Queen was a timeless icon and the image of the British monarchy.
Having served for over 70 years, Queen Elizabeth II was the longest-reigning monarch of Britain, stepping into the role in 1952 at the age of 25, amidst much political upheaval. She witnessed many changes during her lifetime, but she remained a pillar of stability throughout the era. She is the only monarch of Britain that many can remember, making her almost inseparable from a modern view of the United Kingdom.
In order to understand more about the Queen and her significance to some of the students here at Graceland, I spoke with Hannah Marshall, a junior from Cheltenham, England, on the subject of the Queen’s death. I asked her how she felt upon hearing of the Queen’s passing: “I knew from watching the news, as I was on FaceTime to my mum in England the exact moment the nation found out. I was really emotional, more than what I thought I would have been. Even though I had never met her, she was a huge inspiration to many people. It was sad to know that in my lifetime it will forever be kings now.”
Since Graceland hosts many international students, including from Commonwealth member nations, it was important that such a significant moment be commemorated in some way. So, on Monday, September 19, Graceland students were invited to dress in black and participate in a moment of silence to remember the Queen, while footage from her funeral streamed across the globe. When asked how she felt being at Graceland rather than at home for such a momentous event, Marshall said, “It was sad not being at home. However, I do not live close to London, so my family didn’t go into London or anything for the funeral. I watched it on the news and would FaceTime my mum for some updates. I feel that the help from Diana Jones to make the day of the funeral something to remember at Graceland was a really nice touch for all of those affected in the Commonwealth.”
In addition to being the British monarch, the Queen was closely tied to the Commonwealth, an association of 56 independent nations. The Commonwealth has its roots in the British Empire, as many of its members are former colonies of Britain. Today, the Commonwealth member states exist as separate entities of equal status, but they help one another and share a set of goals and values. One of the Queen’s main roles was to serve as the Head of the Commonwealth and lead the organization toward achieving its objectives.
On her 21st birthday, the Queen (then Princess) vowed that she would serve the Commonwealth for the entirety of her life: “I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.”
At age 96, she was still keeping her promise, carrying out her duties to the UK and the Commonwealth with the same determination, focus, and dedication. As Marshall put it, “The Queen accomplished many things, both negative and positive; however, she still worked for the country right up until her death, which is an inspiration for sure.”