I suspect that the death of Queen Elizabeth II hit so hard for many for two main reasons.
The first is that the Queen was a stable and steady presence for almost the entire post-war era – there was a sense of certainty and strength in the values she brought to public office, at a time when the only certainty seemed to be change itself.
The second is that, in the deepest recesses of our minds, we somehow imagined he could stay with us forever – an indestructible force that always bounced back from adversity both personal and national.
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The queen, through the way she conducted her life, inspired affection and loyalty in people from all walks of life. My mother used to tell me how, as a nurse during the war, she was inspired by Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret who lived in London during the Blitz. how the future monarch got her hands dirty as an army engineer. and how it fueled her generation’s confidence that Australia too could prevail in the Pacific during the darkest days of the war. And this was coming from a rural, working-class, Catholic woman of impeccable Irish parentage who would normally be expected to have little interest in the British monarchy.
Australian politicians are supposed to be very tough. But I remember my first meeting with the Queen at Windsor Castle feeling like an anxious schoolboy. I knew she would be well informed. And, as expected, it did not disappoint. She was ready to discuss my new government’s approach to everything from climate change (where she was already ahead of the policy curve) to her future as Queen of Australia.
But as I spoke to her about my late mother, I quickly saw her human side as she was genuinely moved by my mum’s affection for a distant monarch forged in the hard years of war. Prime ministers should not say much about their meetings with the monarch. I do not intend to betray that tradition here. But there is one anecdote I can safely share that also shows her sense of fun rather than just her Edwardian duty.
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While the Queen and I chatted over lunch at Buckingham Palace about the state of the Commonwealth, our husbands focused on another of her great passions: dogs. So when Thérèse expressed a desire to meet the Queen’s famous corgis, it didn’t take long for Her Majesty to give the signal that prompted this golden blur of dogs – at least six or seven of them – into the sumptuous dining room beside her. private apartments.
As the corgis were introduced to us, Therese remarked to the Queen that one of them looked a bit different from the others. His Majesty put down his glass of Dubonnet and, with a knowing smile, admitted the dog’s dubious pedigree, saying that the dog’s mother was “a hopeless trollop.” The whole table burst into raucous laughter.
Queen Elizabeth’s seven-decade reign saw monarchies collapse around the world. Indeed, many expected her to be Britain’s last monarch. On the contrary, through consistency of character, personal courage, an old-fashioned sense of duty now lacking in much of modern political life, and the quiet, steady strength of her faith which was fortunately free from American grandiosity and extravagance, Elizabeth managed to anchor a nation and a Commonwealth during an extraordinary time of global change. And for that we will miss him. She was one of a kind.
• Kevin Rudd is a former Prime Minister of Australia