The Queen of Duty: Why this American is a Fan of the Queen

Crossposted on the Apt. 11d, Newsletter

For the whole series of blog posts about the Royal Family, tag: royal mess. To start from the beginning, start here.

A few years ago, I battled insomnia by reading the gossip blogs late in the morning. At that time, the blogs were awash with salacious nuggets on the Agents of Chaos – Harry, Meghan, and Andrew. (I even wrote a series of blog post about those stories. Start here.) At the same time, HBO’s The Crown was prime time viewing in our house. And in the midst of all that drama, I became a late-in-life fan of the Queen. 

I live in a country that shrugged off hereditary titles and became the home of common immigrants — folks like my grandparents and great-parents: Diomede Iafolla, Robert Emmet McKenna, and Giovanni Pompilio — who could improve their lives with hard work and brains. Before that, my Irish ancestors were cruelly exploited by the English. Crowns, curtesies, titles, and privileges should grate against every fiber in this American. But rather than be repelled, I became a fan.

I’m not a royalist. I am glad that we don’t have any dusty royals in our country. (I’m hoping that Britain’s two black sheep leave soon.) I am simply a fan of Queen Elizabeth. She’s a throw-back to values that are in short supply today. 

(I wrote this essay using the past tense. While the Queen is still with us, she’s very ill and will mostly likely be unable to continue with her work.) 

By all accounts, Elizabeth never wanted to be queen. By a fluke of history, she was thrust into that role. Uncomfortable in ballgowns and crowns, she would have been happier with a scarf over her granny hair and in the field with her dogs and horses. But destiny put her in that role, so she did it. 

Her job was to cut ribbons outside of new hospitals, call attention to good causes, wave her hand and smile at important occasions, remind the big nations about the little parts of the world where the English once ruled. She was the living embodiment of England, an anthropomorphic symbol of a nation. She was our Bald Eagle, American flag, Abraham Lincoln’s top hat, and Statue of Liberty. All that waving and strutting might seem silly, and perhaps it is, but it was her job, and she did it. 

Most importantly, she did her job without ego. Even though her face is on everything from currency to tea towels, Elizabeth wasn’t a modern celebrity. She didn’t talk about herself in her speeches. Instead she talked about the nation and the English people. She didn’t share her private moments, her personal grievances, her sadnesses. She separated herself from her job as Queen, like a split personality. In a world of Instagram Influencers, it’s refreshing to see public figures doing very public jobs without feeding off the adoration. 

Weirdly enough, the Queen and the values that she embodies are the very essence of a functioning democracy — a monarchist stabilized a democracy. Democracies are reliant on certain values, including hard work, duty, service without financial gain or celebrity adoration, honesty, and obedience to laws. As any ancient political philosopher will tell you, democracies die when people stop caring about those values. We need more Queen Elizabeths to keep our nations strong, and fewer Steve Bannons

In these uncertain times, we need that rock of old fashioned values to keep our democracies strong. 

Queen Elizabeth is a feminist role model. She’s always been a woman in a man’s world. Shaking hands with world leaders and having tea with the most accomplished citizens. And as she aged, she continued her work without face lifts or tummy tucks. She’s a grandma and looks like one. She is the most well known female leader in the world. 

Going forward, we will certainly hear more about Elizabeth’s work ethic and unique role in history. There will be lots of speculation about whether Charles and William can continue her legacy. Many will wonder what should be done with the less admirable members of the British Royal Family. CNN, which is on in the background as I write this essay, has been on the Queen Death Watch all day. 

I hope the coming tributes to Elizabeth will inspire a new generation of young people to embrace political life, to value honesty and hard work, and to just do the job without worrying about camera angles. Our democracies need this dose of old fashioned values.

5 thoughts on “The Queen of Duty: Why this American is a Fan of the Queen

  1. 70 years in the role, 15 prime ministers and 13 American presidents and duty done until the very end. I think that she did have joy in Phillip, with whatever compromises that might have entailed, and, with no compromise, in the dogs and horses. And I have always loved her clothes, as they evolved through being a young and beautiful woman to being a great grandmother who aged gracefully.

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