Comment Of The Day: On Queen Elizabeth’s Death (“Friday Open Forum)”

Steve-O-in NJ has some time on his hands, and he made Ethics Alarms the beneficiaries with this Comment of the Day, an excellent overview of the late Queen Elizabeth’s life, reign, and service to her nation.

I enthusiastically second virtually all of it, though I would have liked to see him mention Princess Anne in a positive light. She has been a tireless working royal for her entire adult life, and she has managed to avoid the scandals that tarnished the Royal Family at the hands of her siblings and aunt.

I also agree with Steve that the Queen earned a place in the The Ethics Alarms Heroes’ Hall Of Honor, which hasn’t had a new inductee in a while. I will add his essay to that page as soon as I can.

Here is Steve-O’s Comment of the Day on the life of Queen Elizabeth 1, in today’s Open Forum.


Elizabeth II wasn’t born to be queen. She was the elder daughter of Albert, the Duke of York, second son of the formidable (although no brain-trust) George V, who led the United Kingdom through the Great War and the beginning of the end of empire. His eldest son, known as “David” among his friends, but whose name has gone down in history rarely as Edward VIII, more often as the Duke of Windsor, almost always as the Edward of “Edward and Mrs. Simpson” and without exception as a failure (sometimes even as a potential traitor) lasted no more than a year before he let an unprincipled whore pull him down from his throne and into the shadow of disapproval. Hearing the announcement, the precocious princess, barely 10 years old, remarked to her younger sister Margaret that “Papa is to be king.” Supposedly Margaret said something to the effect of “then you’ll be queen? Poor you.”

C.S. Lewis said once that it’s the princes that have all the fun. He was partly right, although whether that fun actually does some good or is mere self-pleasing is another story. Elizabeth’s father could not have come to the throne at a worse time for him, but also not at a better time for the rest of the world as two years into his reign Hitler moved on Poland and the UK and France moved on Hitler… a day late and a dollar short.

Many wanted her and her mom and sister evacuated to Canada, but, to their credit, they stayed on to look their own people in the eye during the darkest days any free nation has ever seen. Now, much has been made of the fact that Elizabeth was in fact a member of the military during WW2. The full truth is that she was, but only from February 1945 on (although the war still wasn’t a sure thing yet), after she became 18 and decided to personally contribute to the war effort. She had the honorary rank of second subaltern (basically 2Lt) but did later get promoted one step to junior commander on her own merits. She learned to read maps, drive large trucks, and repair diesel engines.

This was not something the privileged sought to avoid in the wartime UK—even Churchill’s daughter served—but it did give her a valuable view of life for non-royals. She did sleep at Windsor Castle though rather than at the camp where her unit was based, for security reasons as much as comfort (never mind cloak and dagger stuff, it only takes one idiot fellow junior officer looking for 15 minutes of fame to do something stupid with major unintended consequences).

With the end of the war (on V-E Day she and her sister mingled with the London crowds, a happy but very foolish thing to do), she took her place as a working royal alongside her parents. In 1947, during a tour of southern Africa, she delivered the speech which included the promise, “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.” The speech had been written by one-time journalist Dermot Morrah, so I’m sure she delivered it as she would have any other prepared speech, but one is left to wonder if she really grasped what she was getting herself into.

In the 1930s she had met then-Prince Philip of Greece and Denmark. She found herself falling in love with him in about 1939, and the two courted mostly by letters, since, as a serving naval officer, Philip was, ah, otherwise engaged until 1945. Truth be told, her family was iffy about the match: Philip was a prince without a kingdom (both Denmark and Greece having been conquered by the Nazis and left in ashes), and his family included some Nazi-connected in-laws. Nonetheless, their engagement was announced in 1947 and they were married November of that year. Philip gave up his Greek and Danish titles, left active service with the Royal Navy (which he had hoped to command one day) and converted to Anglicanism from Greek Orthodoxy. Essentially, he gave up his whole world to be part of Elizabeth’s. Much has been made of his sometimes blunt and less than politically correct manner of speech, but he would spend the next 70 years by and away from Elizabeth, doing endless speeches, events, parades, ribbon cuttings, and who knows what else, as a living symbol of empire and commonwealth, until he bowed out of public duties in 2017 and died four years later.

To describe her life from there to the end would be to describe the history of the UK. She had already been a witness to the Berlin Airlift, the partition of India, the formation of NATO, and the Korean War, so she knew going in that there was no unlimited future of peace nor return to the dreamy green southern countryside of the Edwardian era at hand. The Suez crisis, the withdrawal from east of Suez, the Cold War, the Falklands Crisis, Operation Banner, the Troubles, the Good Friday Agreement, the near- secession of Scotland, the War on Terror, Brexit, all happened on her watch. Throughout, she studiously avoided taking political positions, serving instead as a living symbol that the country could rally around irrespective of party or perspective.

This is a useful thing in time of war or national crisis, and not the easiest or safest thing to do. At least three attempts were made on Her Majesty’s life, although the latest rumor of that, in 2014, I believe, was just that, a rumor. None succeeded, but it can’t be too easy lying down to sleep each evening knowing there are some people out there who want you dead simply because of who you are and what you stand for and rising wondering if today will be the day your luck runs out. or one critical error or omission gets made.

I think what often gets lost on people used to seeing this rock-steady, gray-haired monarch in her colorful suits or dark overcoat is that she was just 25 years old and a mom of two (Andrew and Edward would come later) when she had to assume the throne. It was not supposed to happen that way. George VI was only 56 years old when he died in 1952 of a coronary thrombosis, although the fact that he also had such advanced lung cancer that it resulted in his left lung being removed certainly didn’t help (that’ll teach you not to smoke). In the best of all possible worlds she would have been looking at at least another decade of time as Crown Princess (she was never Princess of Wales since the Principality of Wales only goes to the sovereign’s eldest son) to raise her children and learn her role.

Unfortunately, the stress of WW2 and the fact that her dad didn’t take very good care of himself denied her that. She would just have to learn on the job. This she did admirably, and almost always was there with the right thing to say to boost her nation along when it needed it.

I can’t say as much for her abilities as a parent, or maybe I can. Her children all did achieve great things, although I have to say I’m unimpressed with Prince Edward washing out of Royal Marines training, since other members of the family have served successfully. That said, just pushing for that kind of success is only half the equation. Although she and Philip clearly knew how to conduct themselves in a model marriage, somehow it appears that they were unable to pass that model on to their children. Prince Edward and Princess Sophie are the only couple in the next generation who have made and maintained a stable first and only marriage. Then again, they married for love, not for show nor with needing anyone’s approval. I “get” that with royalty marrying the rules are different, heck, before George V the royal family was only allowed to marry foreign royalty, (Edward VII’s wife, Alexandra, was a princess of Denmark), but I have to say, given that her own marriage was against the odds and met with some disapproval, I wonder if, in supposedly much more enlightened 1981, she could not have found it in her wisdom to allow Charles some leeway and grace in choosing his own partner, rather than enclosing his choices to lead him to Diana, who was not a good match for him and whom he really never loved.

That said, she did wisely not get in his way when he married Camilla in 2005. Still, I think a lot of heartbreak and scandal could have been avoided earlier with a bit more leeway. Not sure what she could have done with Andrew and Sarah Ferguson, because their marriage ran into trouble due to him being away from home so much with the Royal Navy. Andrew was her favorite, but eventually even she couldn’t turn a blind eye to his indiscretions, and, acting as queen rather than mom, effectively banished him from royal life.

I also applaud her for standing up to Meghan Markle’s attempts to usurp the spotlight and elbow her way around the Royal Family the way she elbowed her way around Hollywood. The Royal Family’s role is to be nonpartisan heads and symbols of state, not to be a platform for one woman to launch her brand of wokeness on the world.

Still, she was also astute enough not to refuse royal assent to things like same-sex marriage (proposed, ironically, by the Conservatives), which would have been a major problem. Her motto was never to explain and never to complain, which well encapsulates the UK “stiff upper lip” mentality, useful when dealing with a crisis or a reverse. Of course, she had the luxury of not having to explain anything to anyone. Most of us don’t have that luxury.

Overall, she was a good and faithful sovereign who spent her entire life serving her people. I think the fact that she welcomed incoming Prime Minister Liz Truss 48 HOURS before she died, give or take, is proof positive that, whether or not she really understood what she was promising in Africa in 1947, she eventually came to understand and fulfill that promise as few other people have filled any. For that, as well as for many other reasons, I believe she should be designated a lifetime Ethics Hero.

Oh, and to that American professor who tweeted that she hoped her death was excruciating? 1. Be careful what you wish on others, it has a funny way of coming back on your own head, 2. Better to go down in history as a long-serving ruler of an empire that was of its time and didn’t always get everything right than as a self-righteous asshole who no one will remember except for that one act that made her a self-righteous asshole.

13 thoughts on “Comment Of The Day: On Queen Elizabeth’s Death (“Friday Open Forum)”

  1. I agree with Steve. She represented the UK with grace and restraint. She was a model public “citizen” even if she didn’t wield political power.

    She was harshly criticized for not collapsing in a mass of tears and broken dreams when Diana was killed. That she didn’t cave to public pressure at the time spoke highly of hiw she perceived her role as Queen. And, she stayed out the public scandals Steve eloquently stated.

    As an aside, I saw a bit of the King’s speech today. Oh boy. He will use his position to promote climate change policies. Heaven help us.


    • His new PM seems to be in active opposition to his religious (climate) goals, preferring her country to remain an industrial state with adequate energy supplies. This will be interesting.

  2. Steve, you have given me a new perspective on the Queen. I have never understood the voyeuristic interest in the Royal family nor do monarchs in general engender much favor with me.

  3. … George V, who led the United Kingdom through the Great War and the beginning of the end of empire …

    That isn’t quite the case, except perhaps in the sense that we are all dying from the moment we are born. From at least the middle of the 19th century, for reasons both of cost and of principle, the British Empire was being steered towards the sort of devolution that would have given the effective independence of Dominion status to as many possessions as could be given it in practice – but staying within the structure in allegiance and alliance terms. Between the wars, that was accelerated under the force of circumstances, not by compromising on the objective but by bringing the likes of India and Mesopotamia towards that via the “dyarchy” of Sir Reginald Coupland and Sir Lionel Curtis. This phase also involved reinventing the British Empire as the British Commonwealth. Even as regards Ireland, the British goal was to keep it within the British orbit.

    However, none of that, in and of itself, presaged the end of empire. Indeed, direct rule was even resumed in some places when the Great Depression made self rule unworkable, and Argentina contemplated seeking Dominion status under those circumstances, too. But a combination of factors during and after 1939-45 did produce the end stage that is here ascribed to George V’s reign. These included:-

    – Greater financial constraints, which both made governance harder and made creditor pressures more effective.

    – Internal lobbies against colonialism.

    – U.S. and Soviet pressures against colonialism, much of it stemming from incomprehension that did not seek to be informed.

    Space does not permit me to substantiate these assertions, but anyone who does seek to be informed might want to compare and contrast all that with the French and Dutch post-war experiences and responses to those, in particular to how much less they faced internal lobbies and how much more the outside pressures were made explicit. Then consider the end of the Palestinian Mandate, Mossadegh, the Suez Crisis, and how impractical any of the agendas behind those could have been absent the Pyrrhic Victories of both World Wars. As at George V’s death in 1936, the well founded expectation was that pretty much what did happen would happen – only, a generation later after a sounder tutelage had built a foundation, and with a locked in system of alliances that served all its members and worked in all their interests. Imagine a united and independent India from the 1960s, and African nations emerging in the 1990s, rather than the version of the dodgy car dealer who doesn’t care if the wheels fall off once the customer has left. Oh, and read that 1947 speech in the light of this, bearing in mind that the doom that was then locked in was not yet widely seen – except by those behind it.

    … two [sic] years into his reign Hitler moved on Poland and the UK and France moved on Hitler… a day late and a dollar short.

    That last is not only unkind but also untrue (and a temptation to “tu quoque”). It was well known by the leaders, but a well kept secret, that they needed both to buy time and to use it well. Britain, and maybe even France, needed that extra year. It bore fruit in the Battle of Britain.

    … both Denmark and Greece having been conquered by the Nazis and left in ashes …

    Though Greece pretty much was left in ashes, at any rate by 1945, Denmark most definitely was not. This was partly because Nazi racism liked Danes (which is why Himmler stopped fortifications being built on archaeological sites there in 1945), and partly because it was a valuable agricultural resource close to home. Mostly, though, unlike Holland it wasn’t on the line of advance.

    Also: I do know someone who knew the Duke and Duchess of Windsor quite well, but unfortunately etiquette does not permit me to divulge his confidences, not even how he knew them. However, I may say that the Duke and Duchess of Windsor were more substantial than is made out here.

  4. … two [sic] years into his reign Hitler moved on Poland and the UK and France moved on Hitler… a day late and a dollar short.

    Actually, I would maintain that the U.K. and France were more like 4 years late. Had they reacted forcefully to some of Hitler’s earlier moves (e.g. Rhineland), there’s a decent chance his regime might have fallen. That wouldn’t necessarily have prevented WWII, but maybe it might have prevented the Holocaust? Who can know.

    • Well, it depends on where you draw the line in the calendar – and on other constraints. Although it would have been militarily practical to act like that and to succeed before about 1935, world opinion like that of the U.S.A. might well have reacted as it did over the Suez Crisis and pulled the rug out from under it. You do remember what happened whenever France tried to hold Germany to its obligations by intervening in the Saar and the Rhineland, right? After all, that was the new Germany that was about to host the Olympics; enlightened opinion would have given it a pass, as it did for Nasser, and would never have read what followed as a consequence, any more than U.S. opinion now reads the present Middle Eastern swamp as a consequence of ringbarking European efforts there a generation or two earlier.

      So it was diplomatically impossible to act against Hitler while it was militarily possible, and then the reverse, right up until allied war resources had been built up and Hitler had visibly overstepped.

      • I seriously doubt that the United States would have done anything at all to interfere. Look at the polls Jack published a few days ago — no one in the U.S. was interested in intervening even when most of Europe was actually at war.

        I’m not saying that the Nazi regime would have fallen had the German Army been shooed back east of the Rhine (and remember that they were under orders to retreat if there were such a reaction). However, it could well have resulted in Hitler’s being deposed.

        The Nazis likely would have gone on to hold their Olympics and quite possibly a general European war — but it might well have been not nearly as devastating as actually happened.

        Of course, then when the Japanese attacked the United States, we would probably not have been distracted by Hitler, and could have given them our full attention.

      • It has been fascinating watching the gradual rehabilitation of Chamberlain’s reputation as increaing numbers of historian, especially in Great Britain, conclude that that the “appeasement” was necessary and courageous move by the PM to, as you say, buy time. A recent movie even portrayed that interpretation: Chamberlain knew what Hitler was, knew he, Chamberlain, would be vilified and ridiculed when Hitler broke the deal, and went through with it anyway, even to the extent of proclaiming “Peace in our time!,” because it would allow allied war resources to be built up.

        It certainly makes sense; I wish the evidence was less equivocal.

        • How much, I wonder, is liberal history academics trying to rehabilitate an advocate of peace as they try to pull down the effective… but very politically incorrect… Churchill? Chamberlain was all too much a man of his times, not eager to repeat the Great War, placing too much emphasis on treaties that he only hoped would be followed, and blinded by hope that at some point the dictators would have had enough and stop.

          What he didn’t get, and what a lot of folks don’t get, is that too much success too fast is inevitably going to lead to an overreach. By looking the other way as the USSR swallowed up the Baltic states and took a chunk of Finland and Nazi Germany swallowed up Austria and reoccupied the Rhineland, the UK and France enabled that stream of unbroken success and increased the chance of Hitler going a step too far.

          Of course, it didn’t help that those who came before Chamberlain had put the UK in a place where taking action would have been difficult. The Royal Navy could have been in a much better place if the politicians hadn’t agreed to several stupid treaties that led to the junking of pretty much the whole WWI fleet except the last 10 battleships built, plus the tearing up of the plans for eight new battleships, four of which would have rivalled the Japanese Yamatos. I made a completely wrong on this, but I’m sure that the RAF could have had the new fighter designs out sooner if they’d hustled.

          I’m not saying we Americans are without blame either. We were far from ready when the attack at Pearl Harbor came. We won at Midway as much by luck as anything else. Only then did we start full weapons production. Only then did we build battleships that could sail rings around the Yamato like tigers closing in on a wounded elephant. Only then did we build a carrier fleet twice the size of anything the Japanese had and then some. Only then did we build aircraft that could outrun and outgun anything the Axis could put in the air.

          Peace for our time? Outlawing war? Ha! Churchill said it best when it said that all the appeasers were doing was feeding the crocodile in the hopes that they would be eaten last.

  5. The last paragraph was a perfect ending. Encapsulated my entire thoughts on the matter.

    The self-righteous nastiness and empty moralisations of the professor, who is Nigerian and Igbo (like myself) was a very ugly thing to behold. I cringed, literally, when I read the tweet. But then nastiness like that is stock in trade for her. She makes a living from selling her outrage on literally anything western, white, male, and heterosexual.

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