Queen Elizabeth II was a one off and a gem that shone more brightly than any of the jewels in her crown, says Mark Dolan
We will never see her like again, but her legacy will be with us forever. Thank you Ma’am. May you rest in peace
It’s this programme’s first time on air, since the deeply sad news of the queen’s passing, so I hope you’ll forgive me for saying a few words.
This shy humble woman was thrust into the spotlight at the age of 25. Incredibly, the first prime minister who reported to her as monarch, was Winston Churchill.
It was 1952, and this young Princess, was now being briefed on a weekly basis, by a giant of British politics and public life, Churchill himself.
Britain was still dealing with the economic, military, infrastructural and societal fallout, from the Second World War.
The country was healing, whilst seeking a new role, in a changing world. Queen Elizabeth II would become the face of a new, postwar Britain.
She was to be the glue, that held this country together. On her watch, prim and proper 1950s Britain, edged its way out of rationing and austerity, into the swinging 60s and modern housing developments, the white heat of technology, motorways, new towns, shopping centres, the Beatles and the contraceptive pill.
Elizabeth was on our bank notes, for the multiple financial crises, of the 1970s, including the winter of discontent, and that humiliating moment in 1976, when Britain faced near bankruptcy, and had to go with its begging bowl, to the International Monetary Fund, to borrow billions.
She was on the same bank notes, that saw an economic boom in the 1980s. The first prime minister that really challenged her authority, was Mrs Thatcher who thought she was the Queen too, and they were thought to not get on.
She was here for the entirety of our relationship with the EU – forty-seven years. And she was our monarch, when full sovereignty was restored to these islands, when we completely left on the first of January 2020.
She was the pandemic Queen of course, continuing where possible, to perform her litany of daily duties, in spite of the Covid restrictions. And she had to mourn the loss of her beloved Philip, at the height of the pandemic.
You’d need a heart of stone, and the absence of a pulse, to have not been moved, by that now famous photograph of our late Queen, sitting all by herself, in St George’s Chapel, at Windsor Castle. On Monday, she will return to Phillip’s side, when she too, is laid to rest, in Windsor.
Duty and protocol were been the abiding themes of her reign. The Queen was strong, and principled, she was tough, firm. She was a woman of substance but she was elegant and feminine too.
No one rocked a dress, hat and coat combo quite like her Majesty. And she had a stunning smile. What can I say? She always looked like a queen.
And she was box office too. Around the world. Most countries have to muddle along with elected heads of state who are normally clapped out ex-politicians, or tired public figures.
The person representing the US was one of the most globally recognised people on the planet.
When she visited France, she wasn’t staying at the George Cinq, she was in the Elysse Palace. When in Washington, she wasn’t put up in a five star hotel, she stayed in the White House.
Whilst being resolutely apolitical, she was in her own way, a canny political operator, dropping occasional hints about what she thought.
When the Scots were in the throes of the independence referendum campaign, she simply hinted to them, to consider how they voted very carefully indeed.
Talk about an iron hand, wrapped in a velvet glove. And that summed her up. Authentic, elegant, and discreet, all sustained, by the quiet, firm and relentless power of her character.
And whether it was the Harry and Meghan soap opera, Prince Andrew’s scandals or Charles’s divorce, she handled all of those things, in the way that she handled everything else. With down-to-earth common sense, a steady determination and a stoic, very British instinct, to keep calm and carry on. In the end, what does a head of state do?
They represent the nation. And with her humble, no-nonsense, fuss free commitment, she was the very definition, the epitome of Britishness itself.
She personified our history, our culture and our values and she lead by example, as she listened to her Roberts radio every morning, sat next to her ring heater, eating her cornflakes, famously stored in Tupperware.
Strangely majestic, strangely down-to-earth, what an impossible mix this woman was. And what is her legacy?
Well she’s been a solid figurehead through wars, economic crises, natural disasters, health emergencies, terror attacks and much more.
And she has been a consistent, steadying force, at a time when our country and society, has changed dramatically.
Britain is now a bold, creative, confident nation. A beacon of diversity and an economic and cultural powerhouse. All on her watch.
And I think her greatest legacy, is the monarchy itself, and it's continued existence.
The Royals remain stubbornly popular, no more so than now, as you can see in this live pictures, as thousands of people – of all backgrounds - queue outside Westminster Hall to pay their respects.
The crowds that queue for hours to see their Queen’s coffin, could not be more racially diverse. The faces of our country - they come from every race, every faith, and none.
Our people. Her people. When they tell you, this country is a racist hellhole - please don’t believe them.
And with the international soft diplomatic power our monarchy provides, and with the billions it brings in tourism, as well as being an integral part of Brand Britain, the Queen leaves the institution in even better health, than she found it.
Her great achievement is that there is still a royal family. In the wrong hands, they'd be long gone by now, and we'd have some faceless elected president.
God forbid. The Queen has given us so much, and we will never repay her. And she gives Queen Victoria, William Shakespeare and Winston Churchill, a run for their money, as our greatest ever Briton.
She was both ordinary and extraordinary, all at the same time. A one off and a gem that shone more brightly than any of the jewels in her crown.
We will never see her like again but her legacy will be with us forever. Thank you Ma’am. May you rest in peace.