What an honor it was to file past the casket of Queen Elizabeth II today and to even set foot in that great hall in the Palace of Westminster that dates back to 1097. My trip to London was a resounding success.
It Was Worth The Wait: Farewell To Queen Elizabeth II
Everything worked out on this trip. If you’re still hoping to file past the Queen, let me offer this advice: bring a jacket and gloves. I looked at the lows in the forecast and thought it would not be too bad…but the coldest part of the day was around 4:00 am and it was quite chilly to be standing outside, even in lines that were frequently moving.
I want to again offer great thanks to all the thousands of people who mobilized a plan that has been ready to precisely execute for many years to honor Queen Elizabeth II and allow the hundreds of thousands of her subjects and her admirers to also pay tribute. The system worked well.
Once you reach the front of the line, just outside Westminster Palace, you go through airport-style security. My bag was permitted through, but very carefully checked by hand and again by a metal detector.
I was also patted down. Liquids of any kind are not permitted. I had some 0.5oz hand sanitizer in little packets from Virgin Atlantic that were taken.
Once past security, there was a final short queue to enter Westminster. Ushers solemnly nodded as I entered via a side door onto the landing of the grand staircase that moments later you will walk down to pay your respects to the Queen. In my case, I got to stay an extra couple of minutes because there was a change of guard (this occurs every 20 minutes…try to stand like a statue for longer than that…).
I was delighted that there was total silence. Everyone was respectful. No selfies or pictures. The woman in front of me broke down in tears when she saw the casket. Many bowed or genuflected as they walked by. The jewels on the crown sitting on top of the casket glistened in the light.
It was a beautiful tribute to a woman who performed her duty for so long, so well.
As an American, I hold Queen Elizabeth II in such high regard not because she was my Queen, but because she dedicated her life to public service and distinguished herself from her peers (indeed, so many of her family members) by reflecting the spotlight off herself and by being that still, quiet, yet strong voice of continuity that spanned 15 prime ministers and the evolution of the British Empire to The Commonwealth of Nations.
Elizabeth II stands in a unique position as having been groomed almost her entire life to be Queen. When Edward VIII abdicated in 1936, Elizabeth was 10 years old. As the firstborn of George VI, she was next in line to the throne and even her youth was centered on preparation for what was to come. The words on her 21st birthday remain so prescient:
“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. But I shall not have strength to carry out this resolution alone unless you join in it with me, as I now invite you to do: I know that your support will be unfailingly given. God help me to make good my vow, and God bless all of you who are willing to share in it.”
We live in such a “me first” generation (and admittedly, I can be guilty of this too), obsessed with self-gratification, personal autonomy, and a decadent lifestyle. Our celebrity-obsessed culture fills a void that the monarchy, in a much more benign way, helps to fill. As C.S. Lewis quipped:
“Where men are forbidden to honour a king they honour millionaires, athletes, or film-stars instead: even famous prostitutes or gangsters. For spiritual nature, like bodily nature, will be served; deny it food and it will gobble poison.”
It still hits me that Queen Elizabeth II was on the throne before my mother was born. That her reign was longer than many people live. And as her annual Christmas messages reminded us each year, she stood as a beacon of strength and familiarity in a world that was indeed changing so fast.
Why do I like the monarchy and all the religious trappings of that tradition as an American? Because it reminds us that there is something bigger and greater than ourselves.
“Grief is the price we pay for love.”
For the rest of my life, I’ll look back on the last 24 hours with great appreciation and admiration. I shall be up early to watch the funeral on Monday and in the meantime, invite you to reflect upon the unique honor we all share to live our lives in service to others, as Queen Elizabeth II did.
Now I’m going to sleep: