The End of an Era: Community Reflects on Death of Queen Elizabeth II


Jorge Orvañanos, Staff Writer

Last Thursday, Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom (UK) and 14 other Commonwealth realms, died at the age of 96 at Balmoral Castle, the monarchy’s official summer residence in Scotland. Having ascended to the throne in 1952, she served as Britain’s longest reigning monarch for 70 years and led the nation through post-World War II reconstruction, the decolonization of Africa, the Troubles in Northern Ireland, withdrawl from the European Union, and far more.

World Languages teacher Dr. Jillian Davidson, who grew up in the UK and lived there until 1990, believes that The Queen was an integral part of the structure and framework of British life, she said. “90 percent of Britons, including myself, were born during her reign and she therefore represents one of the few consistent aspects and constants of British life,” Davidson said. “Brits were beginning to think that she was an eternal part of the fabric of British Society.”

Similar to Davidson, Anna Kim (9) felt that The Queen had a sense of immortality, she said. “I was shocked because it felt like there was something so permanent and stable about her,” Kim said. “Her passing is symbolic, like the end of a whole generation.”

“Even though [The Queen’s death] wasn’t a surprise, it was one of shock, because she has been the only British monarch I’ve known my whole life,” History Department Chair Dr. Daniel Link said. 

Link was walking into his G period Global Cold War History class when he found out about Her Majesty’s passing. “My thought was that since this news has just broken, it’s probably a good idea to give the students some time to think about it and discuss their reactions,” he said.

Milo Mandelli-Valla (11), a student in Link’s G period class, enjoyed the in-class discussion about The Queen’s passing as it gave him time to reflect, he said. “I knew that she had been in bad condition for some time, in addition to her old age,” Mandelli-Valla said. “While the news was sad, it was not totally unexpected.”

On the day of The Queen’s passing, during the 11th grade I period grade meeting, students took 60 seconds of peace to reflect on Her Majesty’s legacy.

Davidson, like Link, chose to host an in-class discussion about The Queen’s legacy. “I think students needed to talk about her death rather than remain silent for a minute. Her death wasn’t tragic, she died at the age of 96.”

Davidson incorporated in-class discussions about The Queen’s passing into her Latin classes, she said. “In my eighth grade class, I talked about The Queen’s last photo in front of her fireplace at Balmoral Castle, which has a Latin phrase on it. ‘Nemo me impune lacessit,’ meaning ‘No one provokes me with impunity.’”

Malcolm Furman (12) enjoyed having time to reflect and discuss The Queen’s death in his English class. “I was not surprised by her death. I know that the royal family had been called into her Scotland residence due to health concerns, so it was not surprising that she died shortly thereafter,” he said. “At the same time, I realized the importance of this moment in the history of not only the UK but world politics and international relations.”

Kim believes that despite The Queen being the sovereign of a foreign nation, her passing will have a global influence, she said. “I think it was all over the news because of how influential and respected she was, not just in her country but around the world. Even though she was The Queen of another country, I still cared because she was one of the few world leaders who seemed like a calm and steady presence. I can’t think of anyone in the US who is like that.”

Davidson believes that The Queen’s death will not have a major effect on the school community. However, she thinks that Her Majesty’s passing will open up many discussions about her leadership and legacy. “Beyond acting as a springboard for the discussion of public service, duty and leadership, colonialism and post-colonialism, and to compare her style of leadership with recent or current world leaders, I don’t think it will truly affect the HM community.”

Like Davidson, Link believes that The Queen’s passing may bring up discussions about the British Empire and its legacy of colonialism, even if those events occurred prior to Her Majesty’s reign, he said. “I think that these are really important questions that the UK needs to grapple with in relation to its Commonwealth partners. So I think that there’s the potential for some real reckoning here around a number of issues related to colonialism.”

Mandelli-Valla thinks that there are more pressing and urgent matters than recognizing Britain’s role as a colonial power, he said. “I think that while claims about Britain’s role as a colonial power may be legitimate and may have validity, there is no reason to bring them up right after the death of such an important figure,” he said. “I also think that it is unfair to blame all the wrongs associated with the British Empire on one person.”

Link acknowledges that The Queen reigned during a period of major transition for the UK, which was starting to move out of being an Empire when she took the throne after World War II, he said.

Following the dissolution of the British Empire in 1949, the Commonwealth of Nations was formed from former British colonies. According to the Commonwealth Website, the group represents an equal partnership between nations and races that has no resemblance to the British Empire of the past.

Davidson believes that The Queen did an excellent job in transforming a dying Empire into a fellowship of equal nations through the Commonwealth, she said. “[The Queen] was actively anti-Apartheid and fought Prime Minister Thatcher on this issue,” Davidson said. “She actively promoted peace in Northern Ireland during the Troubles and was the first British monarch to visit the Republic of Ireland.”

Nonetheless, Davidson acknowledges the role the British Empire played as a colonial power prior to Elizabeth’s reign, she said. “I do think King Charles should pay reparations and give back the crown’s jewels and diamonds since they are stolen goods and an offensive remnant of British Imperialism.”

Furman believes that the British monarchy serves to provide stability in the British constitutional system and preserves the continuity of government, he said. “Whether you agree with her rule or the throne upon which she sat, there is no denying the role she had in forming the national identity of and unifying the UK.”

Link recognizes that many Britons feel that the monarchy is anachronistic and outdated, while others argue that the monarchy connects the past to the present and plays a symbolic yet crucial role as the head of state within the UK, he said.

“I don’t really consider myself a monarchist, but I am a fan of Queen Elizabeth II. I feel a strong sense of ending and think she deserves our respect and gratitude. If it weren’t for her qualities, the British monarchy might not have survived,” Davidson said. “At a time when it is so difficult to place your confidence in leaders around the world, The Queen earned our confidence and admiration.”

The Queen recognized her role as sovereign as a ceremonial head of state, with no executive or government power, in her 1957 Christmas Address, in which she said “I cannot lead you into battle, I do not give you laws or administer justice but I can do something else, I can give you my heart and my devotion to these old islands and to all the peoples of [the Commonwealth].”

The Queen devoted seven decades of her life to public service. “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,” she said during a 1947 speech on her 21st birthday.

Davidson believes that much of the nation’s future will be decided by The Queen’s successor, King Charles III, and how he reshapes the monarchy, she said. “I don’t foresee any change in the US-UK relationship, since the relationship is determined by heads of government rather than heads of state.”

As the UK mourns the loss of their Queen, her funeral procession has already begun, as her coffin traveled from Balmoral Castle and returned to London on Tuesday morning. Her Majesty’s state funeral has been scheduled for this coming Monday.