Autumn Brewington at the Washington Post explains why Queen Elizabeth II has fascinated people all over the world, including Americans.
LONDON — To understand the scale of events involved in laying to rest Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II, consider some of the preparations both visible and invisible here: Hundreds of foreign leaders have arrived from capitals elsewhere — and agreed to be transported not in their typical luxurious vehicles but crowded shuttle buses. Representatives from 23 royal families will be seated ahead of government dignitaries at Westminster Abbey, per royal protocol, which differs from diplomatic protocol, which is just one of the many elements of logistics planning being hashed out in an area of the U.K. foreign office dubbed “the Hangar.” Before troops began rehearsing at 2 a.m. last week, royal gardeners started prepping the streets four hours earlier — among other things, pouring thousands of pounds of sand to ease the passage of the gun carriage ferrying the queen’s coffin.
My Post colleagues William Booth, Anthony Faiola and Karla Adam dive here into the question of why the world is fascinated by Queen Elizabeth. There are lots of other royal families, they note. Yet people aren’t similarly enthralled by the king of Belgium, the sultan of Brunei “or the ‘bicycling royals’ of northern Europe — interesting and colorful as they may be.”
My take? The queen’s funeral is a reminder to millions of the relentless passage of time and how one mortal spent it: Her parents were the last emperor and empress of India. She was on the cover of Time magazine at age 3. She was raised not to show emotion, certainly not in public. She was born in an era when women did not wash their own hair, in a class where a nanny was a more regular presence than a parent. She was also taught to be humble; when as a child she remarked about crowds waiting outside for a glimpse of their royal presence, her grandmother Queen Mary ordered young Elizabeth to be taken home by a back door.
She was an upper-class Englishwoman — happiest in the countryside with her dogs and horses — who made a straightforward commitment to her role. The extraordinary thing is how long and how consistently she kept it.
I think that the fascination and connection comes from the fact that she had something that has nothing whatsoever to do with her royal status, her finances, or her place in history. It’s because she had class.
Class has nothing to do with income or position in society. I have known people all my life who had that immutable and enigmatic quality; people who couldn’t rub two dimes together at times or who didn’t have a list of degrees from elite universities. But they were able to give me that sense that they had it, and whether we’re talking about Her Majesty the Queen or Elizabeth Windsor, she had it.
Class is something that we expect from our leaders, be they monarchs or presidents or the mayor of our hometown. It is a quality that gives us confidence about their role in our lives and the trust that we’ve put in them. We’ve had presidents in my lifetime who had that quality — Barack Obama and Jimmy Carter come to mind — and those who did not. Class is something that is comes naturally; you can’t buy it or rent it, although many have tried.
I think Americans have been paying attention to the coverage of the queen’s passing and the ceremonies that have followed because she had qualities that we want to see in ourselves: the ability to make others feel welcome and good about themselves. It may seem like a small thing, but a lot of times, that’s all that matters.