Good Queen Liz

The world, and Britain, is a poorer place without Her Majesty the Queen.

As basically everyone in the world already knows, Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland has passed away at the age of 96, after seven decades on the throne.  With her also passes the last living official representation of the Greatest Generation and England's finest hour - yes, as a teenager, Her Majesty personally served her country in uniform, doing her bit to combat Hitler by repairing army vehicles.

Countless articles and books have been and will be written on the Queen's sense of duty, her loyalty and patriotism, her general good sense and decency.  Your humble correspondents, alas, never had the opportunity to meet such a living icon, but we have no reason to doubt the many stirring and even tear-jerking testimonials to her kindness, generosity, and what might best be termed Christian charity.

As an individual, we can reasonably conclude that Elizabeth Windsor was about as good a human being as one could expect to find anywhere, much less in the corridors of power.  The world is, without question, a poorer place for her passing; each day in which she resided in one of her many palaces was a gift.

But to truly evaluate a head of state, it is not enough to appraise their personal character, which to all appearances was sterling.  There have been many personally decent people who were terrible leaders, and not a few ghastly human beings who led their nations to historical greatness.

It's difficult enough to judge an American president, who holds office for a handful of years, without at least a few decades' distance; how can you approach a hereditary monarch of ten times the tenure?

Character Standing Alone?

For one thing, the metrics are different, and far harsher to the royals.  Over the last few decades, America has come to the somewhat sad conclusion that the personal character of its rulers is of no great consequence.  Bill Clinton revealed this to the world: as a man and a human being, he is a bounder, a cad, a dishonest reprobate - but as a President, he's generally considered to have done a tolerably decent job.

Indeed, America's had worse, though it didn't know it at the time: JFK was a much more unrestrained skirt-chaser than Slick Willie, at the very least a panderer and procurer that Bill never was.  He wasn't that great of a president either, but at least he had the self-awareness to recognize his own failures and work to improve them, which is more than can be said of many others.

If we little concern ourselves with the leader's character, we couldn't care less about the failures of their family members. Our entire elite structures famously worked to prevent America even hearing about Hunter Biden's corruption and depravity before voting on his father.

With royalty, though, one's family is part of the job by definition.  Few children of presidents ever amount to anything much, and that's fine, but by definition, from the moment the doctor slapped his royal rump, Charles and his siblings were destined for high ranks whether they were suited for them or not.

Do we even need to detail how grievously deficient the upbringing of King Charles III and his brother Prince Andrew were, particularly when it comes to the treatment of women?  About the best thing that can be said about Andrew is that he has not been convicted of either pedophilia or rape.  Charles is perhaps a few notches better, but it can fairly be said that the only reason he sits on the throne today is his mother's longevity.  If she had instead passed away, say, thirty years ago, the British people would never have tolerated as their King the man who treated Princess Diana so shabbily.  Time, apparently, does heal all wounds - or at least most of them; it's an open question as to how his sons view the replacement of their mother with now-Queen Camilla.

Of course, as long as there have been kings, there have been royal mistresses and affairs; it's only recently that we even know about them to disapprove.  Charles' forebears mostly flaunted their liasons without fear; Henry VIII famously swapped off wives at need, to some political turmoil but ultimately no real personal cost, and arguably for the long-term betterment of his nation by giving them Queen Elizabeth I as his successor.

Which brings us to the core job of a modern royal, to represent the symbol and soul of the nation to all their subjects.  This is profoundly different from the job of any elected politician, whose job is to present a party political platform and implement their policies.  In the current structure of British governance, the Queen or King must do none of that - whoever is elected, and whatever bills may be passed, official royal support should not depend on the personal views of the individual royal.

Queen Elizabeth performed this constitutional duty with flawless perfection.  Even now, with more public appearances and political actions than more than a handful of other persons in all of human history, it is nearly impossible for anyone to declare what her political views actually were, or even if she had any!  In doing so, she allowed her people to make the choice, and, ultimately, to be the true sovereigns of her land.

Was that for the best?  We may soon find out by way of contrast: unlike his late mother, King Charles III has very decided and widely-known views on a host of very pressing and very public political subjects, from an admirable preference for classical public architecture to a catastrophic view of so-called climate change as fully woke, and as corrosive to liberty and mass modernity, as that of any Hollywood celebrity.

Even when it came to the ultimate in royalty-affecting political issues, the Scottish independence referendum of 2014 which, if successful, would have seen there cease to be a United Kingdom to be Queen of, Her Majesty made no public pronouncements of her view on the topic.  Charles, in contrast, has gone so far as to declare that the world needs to go on a 'war-like footing' to act on climate change.  He knows exactly what that means, no doubt, from his mother's wartime stories about ration cards, government control of industrial production, and most of all, a complete ban on fuel for private motorcars.  Shades of what we see now in British policy, no doubt to their new King's fervent private applause as traditional Western liberties and comforts go on the bonfire!

Queen Elizabeth II reigned for longer than most of her subjects have been alive, but she did not rule, nor except in the very most subtle of ways did she attempt to steer those who did.  As such, the normal gauges of success as a national leader simply do not apply to her - and how fortunately!

On her coronation, the British Empire, though somewhat diminished, still girdled the globe; on her death, not even the British Isles themselves are solidly within her dynasty's grasp, and everything else save some irrelevant scraps is a fading memory.

For any normal ruler, this would be a damning record, but not for her, as the nation did not consider her to be in command of the decisions that led England to what it no longer is today.  Charles certainly feels quite otherwise; if England chooses to go ahead with the far-leftism he's argued for all this time, will it matter if he never says a word about it following his taking the throne?  Everyone will know his views, and when the inevitable and easily-predictable collapse comes, he and his dynasty will bear the blame that his mother avoided.

There are those who said that one driving force behind Elizabeth's long life was her clear-eyed recognition of her son's unsuitability for the role, and her desire to make his reign as brief as possible so as to give her grandson William a fighting chance of restoration.  Perhaps in fifty years, we'll know whether Her Majesty was ultimately a successful Queen or not.

Regardless, she'll be remembered for her life of goodness and devotion to duty - and perhaps that's enough for any mortal.

Petrarch is a contributing editor for Scragged.  Read other articles by Petrarch or other articles on Foreign Affairs.
Reader Comments

An excellent piece, which made a great deal of sense to our family members in London.

September 15, 2022 5:39 PM
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