IN MY ORBIT: Five Lessons Learned From Queen Elizabeth II

AP Photo/Scott Heppell

“The world is changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air. Much that once was is now lost. Because none now live who remember it.” — The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of The Ring.

Queen Elizabeth II lived to be 96 years old and was the reigning monarch of England for over 70 years. I am well aware that I was privileged to witness living history, but many people, especially the younger generations, neither understand nor appreciate this fact. When you become old enough to witness the end of an era, it is both sobering and a bit frightening. When you’re young, you take life, and the world around you, for granted. It is the wisdom of years that helps you understand that some people and some moments, as well as those people within those moments in time, will never come again.

Solomon referred to it as a vapor, and it is true. It dissipates quickly, and once that moment is gone, it’s done.

There will never be another monarch like Queen Elizabeth II. It is no small feat to live and die well, and the Queen managed to do both. By “well,” I do not mean perfectly, because no one is. But Queen Elizabeth embraced her life as a monarch fully and pursued it with full faculty and purpose, as well as deep humility. Queen Elizabeth most certainly lived her life well, and she managed to do so in front of a watching world.

By no means do I consider myself an anglophile. Beyond the Royals being a topic of political, cultural, and historical conversation, their every move and step was of little consequence. However, I did observe Queen Elizabeth’s life and rule, because her life and rule was of great consequence. It left an indelible mark. Queen Elizabeth embodied values of a generation that are now lost to us. Unless we pay attention and choose to carry them forward, they will forever be lost.

A Steadfast Commitment.

Queen Elizabeth embodied Commitment, first to her country, then to her family.

When she was 21, and before she ascended to the throne, Elizabeth Alexandra Mary made this promise to the people of England:

“I declare before you 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.”

She kept that promise. I have no doubt that part of that fierce commitment was because she had witnessed the lack of fidelity and commitment exhibited by her uncle, King Edward VIII. First, in his abdication of the throne which made way for her father to become King George VI, but Edward also actively colluded with the Nazis against England. This type of branding deepened in her the importance of honoring one’s commitments, but how dishonoring them can upend generations.

Queen Elizabeth II and Prince Philip were married for 73 years before he died in April 2021. They were the longest-married couple in royal history. But it was not just the longevity of it, but the partnership and enduring affection that no doubt strengthened the union.

In a 1997 speech to mark their 50th wedding anniversary, Queen Elizabeth II referred to the Prince as her “strength and stay all these years.”

A marriage as long as theirs most definitely had its difficulties, especially with family members and children embroiled in scandal and divorce. Yet, their love for each other, and commitment to their family was enduring until death.

A Towering Dignity.

Queen Elizabeth embodied a real dignity and grace. It wasn’t pretend or practiced, it was in her marrow.

Whether you dislike the concept of the “stiff upper lip” or the stoicism that Queen Elizabeth embodied under the most tragic of circumstances, the fact that the Queen was able to stand strong and move forward in the face of countless tragedies is an admirable trait. Over the last 15 years, I have lost two sisters, two close cousins, a dear nephew, and a dear friend. A hat tip goes to Queen Elizabeth and how she handled her most painful moments, as it gave me a window on how to handle mine.

In this current age, with people crying for safe spaces and becoming triggered over incorrect pronoun usage, Queen Elizabeth’s dignity and grace are refreshing and frankly needed.

A Staunch Duty.

Queen Elizabeth’s sense of duty was unparalleled, encapsulated beautifully by the AP:

Through 15 prime ministers, from Winston Churchill to Liz Truss. Through Britain’s postwar deprivations, crippling labor unrest and Brexit. Through the messy divorces, embarrassments and scandals of her family. She endured through it all — a reassuring anchor in a fast-changing world.

When King George VI took the throne, he invested to Princess Elizabeth royal duties in order to prepare her for when she would ascend to the throne.

As George settled into his new role as King, he began assigning some royal responsibilities to his eldest daughter. When she was just 14, Elizabeth gave a now-famous radio broadcast to British children who had been evacuated from their homes due to World War II. As soon as she was eligible, she joined the war efforts as a mechanic in the Auxiliary Territorial Service, and in 1942, George made Elizabeth an honorary colonel in the Royal Army’s 500 Grenadier Guards.

Perhaps the ultimate sign of his trust, however, was the responsibility King George VI granted Elizabeth after she turned 18: While he was away on a tour of the Italian battlefields, she was named a “counselor of state,” which allowed her to represent the U.K. when her father was abroad and unable to do so.

This created a bond between the then-princess and her King father. A bond that she has honored not only in her own dutiful allegiance to her role as Queen of England, but in homages to her father even after his death.

According to Hello! magazine, the Queen keeps her Christmas lights up at Sandringham Estate until February 6, to commemorate King George VI’s death.

The story behind “The King’s Speech” that George VI delivered on the advent of England’s entry into World War II has been dramatized in the film of the same name. In watching the dramatization of these events, we too often forget that Queen Elizabeth lived through the actual events and the speech, and carried the pain and the triumph of those moments into her own reign.

Queen Elizabeth as a dutiful monarch and daughter honored her father and her country’s armed forces on the 75th anniversary of VE Day on May 8, 2020:

Exactly 75 years ago, King George VI made an historic address to his nation as Britons took to the streets to celebrate the end of World War II in Europe. And today, his daughter Queen Elizabeth II spoke of “pride that we are still a nation those brave soldiers, sailors, and airmen would recognize and admire” in an address to mark the milestone anniversary of VE Day.

The speech, which was recorded in the White Drawing Room at Windsor Castle, was played as part of the BBC’s VE Day commemorations at 9 p.m. in the UK—the exact time the King spoke in 1945.

A photograph of King George VI in his Admiral of the Fleet uniform with RAF Wings was on the table next to the Queen during the broadcast.

As a Princess, the Queen was also part of the war efforts, serving in the British Armed Forces as the first female member of the Royal family to do so. Princess Elizabeth actively served as a mechanic in the Auxiliary Territorial Services. But aside from the cap she wore during her time of service positioned on the table next to her father’s picture, the Queen made no mention of it.

Because part of duty is not to draw attention to yourself, but to the country and countrymen and women whom you serve.

An Unwavering Faith.

Queen Elizabeth embodied an unwavering faith in God and exemplified that this was a necessity in her ability to lead, and something that would never go out of fashion.

As the Queen, she was considered the head of the Church of England, but her role went beyond ceremonial to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Upon the death of Prince Philip in 2021, Evangelical Focus discussed the critical faith of both the monarch and her consort:

[The Queen] has also shared her faith in books, like in The Servant Queen and the King She Serves, published by the Bible Society, HOPE and the London Institute for Contemporary Christianity (LICC) in 2016, where she said she is “very grateful to God for His steadfast love. I have indeed seen His faithfulness”.

Mark Greene, executive director of the LICC and co-author of the book, pointed out that “the Queen has served us with amazing consistency of character, concern for others and a clear dependence on Christ. The more I’ve read what she’s written and talked to people who know her, the clearer that is”.

The legacy media antiseptically spotlighted this pivotal aspect of the Queen’s life, but Queen Elizabeth’s faith was the crucial anchor in her role as monarch of England.

A Life Lived to the Fullest.

Queen Elizabeth reflected an embrace of life’s fullness. From her pack of Corgis who were her constant companions, to her horses whom she attended to with loving care, to the grandchildren and great-grandchildren whom she embraced with joy.

Personally, I believe Queen Elizabeth knew she was not long for this world, so, she spent her last days not in resignation, but in celebration. One friend, The Right Rev. Dr. Iain Greenshields described his last moments with the Queen:

The Right Rev. Dr. Iain Greenshields, who was a guest of the queen’s at Balmoral Castle last weekend, revealed that in spite of her health becoming increasingly poor, Elizabeth was the “life and soul of things.”

“She was speaking very personally to me about her time there way back when she was a child. She was talking about her horses from the past, naming them from 40 years ago, people’s names and places.

“She was quite remarkable. For someone of her age, to have the memory she had and genuinely laughing and very much enjoying having her family and the whole occasion. She was great company.”

While Queen Elizabeth’s death leaves a great void, she leaves behind the weight of history and the indelible mark of true greatness.


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