By Abdu Rafiu
Everything was in the superlative. Joe Biden said of her: “A stately woman of unmatched dignity.” The outpouring of affection wrapped in grief. In genuine grief. To a clergyman: “She represented the finest of our generations.” That was his summation of the quality of the being of the Queen. There was repeated mention of and indeed, emphasis on her selfless service. The Very Reverend, Dr. David Hoyle, the Dean of Westminster where the funeral took place said of her: “…we gather from across the nations, from the Commonwealth, and from nations of the world, to mourn our loss, to remember her long life of selfless service…With gratitude, we remember her unswerving commitment to a high calling over so many years as Queen and Head of Commonwealth. With admiration, we recall her lifelong sense of duty and dedication to her people.” The Archbishop of Canterbury upon admonishing Queen Elizabeth to “Go forth, O Christian soul, from the world in the Name of God the Father Almighty Who created thee; in the Name of Jesus Christ, Son of the living God…” supplicated that her path may lead her to “Thy dwelling in the Heavenly Jerusalem.”
Former United States President, Barack Obama, recalled his first meeting with Queen Elizabeth 11, describing her as a woman of “extra-ordinary generosity” He said: “The first time that I met the Queen was visiting London…she could not have been more kind or thoughtful to me and Michelle. Michelle and I were lucky to know Her Majesty the Queen. Back when we were just beginning to navigate life as president and First lady, she welcomed us to the world stage with extraordinary generosity. It was sort of generosity and consideration that left a mark in my daughters’ lives that’s still there. The Queen was an excellent listener, she had a genuine curiosity, although she was impatient to get to the point…The combination of a sense of duty and a clear understanding of her role as symbol for a nation and as the carrier of a certain set values combined with a very human quality of kindness and consideration; I think that’s what made her so loved not just in Great Britain but around the world.”
A retired General who called her Mum broke down in tears recounting his interaction with Queen Elizabeth. He said: “My whole being wanted to be there,” that is at the funeral. From the clergy to dignitaries and from dignitaries to the ordinary people. They were united in grief and love over memories they shared of the departed monarch! The Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, referred to what he called the Queen’s warmth and affection and her 70 years of accumulated wisdom. “Few leaders receive the outpouring of love we have seen for her…Leaders of loving service are still rare. But in all cases, those who serve will be loved and remembered when those who cling to power and privileges are long forgotten… We will all face the merciful judgment of God: We can all share the queen’s hope which in life and death inspired her servant leadership. Hers was “service in life, hope in death.” Laudatory words such as “She represents the hope of the present and the future,” filled the air waves.
Correspondents’ notepads carried words, phrases and sentences noted for their robustness of language. Consider the following for example in describing the funeral: An extra-ordinary day; a historic day; record breaking moments. The most colourful in the world. Unforgettable! Many were at the funeral to learn the meaning of service. Many consider her as our forever queen! The most colourful in the world. A Queen for all Ages. The Dean of the Westminster Church, Dr. Hoyle said: “We now honour her extraordinary grace and strength. She lived through long years of changes with us and was utterly steadfast. Her integrity and her dignity have seen us weather the most serious national and international storms. She set at the heart of our national life her own character: a devotion to the principle, not power; to service, not self. She believed in a common life governed by justice and law, she had profound faith and a real hope. It is that character, and not mere personality, which we honour today.” A clergyman said she led the nation in 70 turbulent years. She was uncomplicated and profound in faith. Her duties in this world were fulfilled …and she was headed for “her dwelling in Heavenly Jerusalem.” She was a passing glimpse of history filed away forever. The Dean of the Westminster church said the funeral was in remembrance of an extra-ordinary life in service. She was the last of two guiding figures. There was special relationship between the Queen and the public. Her calm and dignified presence gave confidence. Some of the ordinary mourners were reported to have described her as “a bridge between generations; one monarch, 15 PMs” She would be remembered for showing to the Britons, “where we live, how we live and who we are; and one whose “era brought about mass consumerism.”
The queen’s eight grandchildren kept vigil over her coffin. Two of them, Princess Beatrice and Eugene paying personal and moving tributes to the Queen said: “Goodbye our dearest Grannie. It has been the honour of our lives to have been your granddaughters and we are so very proud of you.”
The newspapers were at their beats at the state funeral. Los Angeles Times described it as “an exercise in tradition, respect and national unity rarely seen in modern times.” It went on: “The largest bell at Westminster Abbey tolled in the note of D once a minute for 96 minutes, starting around 9:20 a.m. London time and marking each year of the queen’s 96-year life. Later, Heathrow Airport suspended all flights for a half-hour so no air traffic noise disrupted the two minutes of silence at the end of the state funeral.” According to an online report, some of the eight ballbearers had to be recalled home from Iraq when the passing away of the Queen was announced. The major newspapers used the pictures of the coffin on which were flowers and pall bearers generously, allowing the photographs to speak by themselves. The headlines were in subdued solemnity, with many editorialising. The Financial Times, for example, adopted a quote from the Archbishop of Canterbury’s statement: “People of loving service are rare in any walk of life. Leaders of loving service are still rarer;” The Telegraph: “An outpouring of love;” The Sun: “God bless the Queen;” on the front page and on the back: “We sent her victorious;” The Mirror: “Until we meet again” at the bottom of page one; ” Times of London: “Carried to her rest;” The Express: “God rest our Queen” on the front page and “God save the King” on the back page; and The Guardian: “The final farewell.”
It is to be expected that many would be wondering why the Queen’s funeral was so special, so unique that it attracted such huge crowds from many parts of the world who wanted to pay respects. An online report said that queue in Edinburgh was about 14 kilometres long. In London area it was put at 3.5 miles long, people moving one after another. The figure together with that of those who lined the route on Monday rose to 5 miles of people waving and dropping flowers at the flag-draped and lead-lined coffin being driven past. Those not along the route had filed calmly wanting to catch a glimpse of the queen lying in state before the queues were closed on Monday morning. Audience throughout the world was estimated at 4 billion. There were public viewing centres mounted for those who could not make it to Winsor. Joe Biden described the funeral as “the biggest state funeral for decades.” A correspondent television correspondent said it was the largest gathering of world leaders ever seen; an “unprecedented gathering of world leaders.” What was it that pulled such multitude to bid the queen farewell? A correspondent said she had a special relationship between her and the public. Her calm and dignified presence gave confidence, he said. Across many people simply said: “Thank you,” as the casket was being driven to King George chapel.
In 1952 the then Princess Elizabeth was crowned the Queen after the Act of Settlement of 1701 was invoked. And the text of the proclamation read to anoint her Queen goes as follows as contained in the work Government in Great Britain, The Empire and The Commonwealth by L.W. White and W.D. Hussey: “Whereas it has pleased Almighty God to call to His mercy our late Sovereign Lord King George V1, of blessed and glorious memory, by whose Decease the Crown is solely and rightfully come to the high and Mighty Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary.
“We, therefore, the Lords Spiritual and Temporal of this Realm, being here assisted with His late Majesty’s Privy Council, with other Principal Gentlemen of Quality, with the Lord Mayor, Aldermen, and Citizens of London, do now hereby with one Voice and Consent of Tongue and Heart publish and proclaim, That the High and Mighty Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary is now, by the death of our late Sovereign of happy memory, become Queen Elizabeth 11 by the Grace of God, Queen of this Realm, and Her other Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith to whom Her Lieges do acknowledge all Faith and constant obedience with humble Affection, beseeching God by whom Kings and Queens do reign, to bless the Royal Princess, Elizabeth 11 with long and happy Years to reign over us. God Save the Queen.
“By the Royal Titles Act, 1953, the royal title of the United Kingdom now is: Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith.”
When Prince Charles assumed office, he was proclaimed the King immediately, within barely 48 hours, without allowing any vacuum on the Throne. This is part of the reform Queen Elizabeth 11 brought about during her long reign. All the rigmarole is boiled down. During Barack Obama’s visit, the secret service had advised in advance his wife Michelle to sit in front of the car conveying the Queen. Obama was to be in another vehicle. When the convoy was to set out, the Queen noticed that Michelle was going to sit in the front. She objected and invited her to sit by her side at the back, describing the regulation as awkward and outdated.
There are 13 Queens in the world today, although with only one as Head of State. The remaining ones are Queens by marriage and are consorts to the Kings. The only world renowned Queen was Queen Elizabeth 11. This position is an invitation to contemplation in the light of higher knowledge—In The Light of Truth. Why were nations and peoples falling upon themselves to obtain a mere nod from the queen of England? I will start from the Name: Elizabeth Alexandra Mary. Each human being is the name he or she bears. In other words, there are no accidents in our appellations no matter how much thought or calculation goes into coming up with a name for a new born child. It must strike us that in the name are contained Elizabeth, Alexandra and Mary! What radiations does each of the names sought to bring to bear on the Queen, and then a combination of them to give her life direction? (Food for thought!). When the question is thrown into our face: What is in a name? Of course, everything is in a name even when a man bears Mr. Green or Mr. Brown. Otherwise, why do we all take umbrage at our names being mis-spelt or wrongly mispronounced? Even Mr. Stone will protest making light of his name or when it is wrongly spelt. Do we know the tones that ring out of a name and the rays it emits? There is a picture and conception arising from a name. The name rings deep down each human being. I recall in his first coming on 31 December, 1983, Buhari wasted no time in firing letters to editors that he was not Mohammed Buhari but Muhammadu Buhari! Do I need to say more? (Food for thought!). In what vibrational waves of numbers did Queen Elizabeth swing—her birthday, the number of years which is 70 she spent on the throne which most say were glorious. Many testified to her life of selfless service, warmth, grace and strength; that she was a bridge between generations. And what with the crest of the waves under which she exited from this earth on 08 September, 2022! The premonition she had which made her to journey to the quiet of her holiday resort, Balmoral Castle in Scotland!
A highly esteemed lady sent this to this column at the weekend: “The Queen! What a queen, what a life! What a departure! What an endowment of Grace from Above!”
The funeral was with the unaccustomed colour, polish, orderliness, precision, artistry, beauty, uniqueness in march synchronisation, and grandeur, waving of flags, and class, all blowing the mind.
(The exploration of the Queen’s life to be concluded next week).