“We will all be familiar with the words from the hymn Abide With Me:
‘Change and decay in all around I see,
O Thou who changest not abide with me’.
Well, we are marking and mourning a huge change in our country with the death of our Sovereign and the start of a new reign. A new chapter in our national story.
Some often find it easy, perhaps too easy, to knock or belittle our country. It is worth us all reflecting that in a week when the Prime Minister changed based on the votes of a very small electorate and the position of Head of State passed via dynastic, primogeniture succession there was not a riot, demonstration or brick thrown. Not many countries, perhaps none, could say or expect the same.
“Let’s go back to that hymn line quoted above. I am totally convinced that the depth of shock and sadness felt by the country is because the length of our late Queen’s reign led us, falsely and unfortunately, to believe that she would always be there. A constant. Unchanging. She would ‘changest not’. As the Speaker of the House of Lords said last week, ‘we closed our eyes’ to the prospect of change necessitated by mortality.
The vast majority of our fellow subjects knew only The Queen. The Queen was known simply by that title across the world. Not a Queen but The Queen. Indeed, the German dictionary has two entries – a queen and The Queen – the latter being our late Monarch. It is sobering to think that, if life spans continue to extend, no one alive today will see, in their own right, a Queen of England. We shall neither sing or proclaim God Save the Queen for many a long year.
“While She ‘changest not’, the world around Her did and at a pace seen neither before or – I’d hazard a guess – will again. From travel and technology to medical advances and social change. In 1957 She spoke of the advent of widespread TV ownership as changing the relationship between Queen and Country. No idea then of smartphones, the web etc. Lifespans were shorter. Something like 72% of occupations available now did not exist in 1952. The role of women in society, commerce and politics has changed (I would argue in some part because The Queen provided a clear and demonstrable example that ‘women could’). The Winds of Change were not yet even a breeze. The Commonwealth a handful of countries. Everest had yet to be conquered and Space travel was the stuff of fantasy. Powdered wigs were still worn by Buckingham Palace Servants and divorced people could not be received at Court or attend the Ascot Royal Enclosure.
“The sheer unrelenting pace and scale of change might have made The Queen seem of the past. A relic of a bygone era. Out of date and out of touch.
She never was.
Through often invisible or imperceptible evolutions she kept Herself and the Monarchy responsive to, and relevant for, each and every of the seventy years we were blessed to call Her our Sovereign Lady. How fortunate we were to live in this second Elizabethan Age. We of course declaim God Save the King, but not before we pray for the repose of the soul of Elizabeth our Late Queen. May she Rest in Peace and rise in glory. If anyone deserves to, She most certainly does.”
Simon Hoare, MP