For seven decades, Queen Elizabeth has been a constant in public life, the Head of State of the United Kingdom and leader of the Commonwealth and the only monarch most Britons have known in their lifetime.
Now, the reality of her mortality looms large as doctors issued a statement over her health and senior members of the Royal Family, led by Prince Charles, travelled to Balmoral, the Queen’s favourite residence set in the rolling hills of the Aberdeenshire countryside in Scotland.
The very fact that doctors issued a statement on the 96-year-old’s health is unusual, with Buckingham Palace officials normally reluctant to comment publicly. Certainly, her health has declined noticeably since the death of the Duke of Edinburgh in April 2021.
On Tuesday, the Queen met incoming Prime Minister Liz Truss, with no video footage released by the Palace. Still images showed her visibly weaker, her hands noticeably coloured a deep purple.
On Thursday, however, along with the statement from the doctors, Prince Charles and his wife, Camilla, along with Prince William and other relatives, travelled by private jet north to Aberdeen.
For the latter half of the 20th Century and now two decades into this one, Queen Elizabeth has been a constant, a central figure on the world stage, a monarch who accepted Truss on Tuesday as her 15th Prime Minister. That’s a club that stretched back to Sir Winston Churchill.
Continuity and stability
But the institution of monarchy is one that exudes continuity and stability.
Political and civil leaders of every stripes on Thursday offered best wishes for her recovery and return to good health. But there is also a feeling too that we are in a process now that has an inevitability none can avoid.
The Royal Family has endured for centuries, and the House of Windsor has overcome challenges and tribulations down through those generations. Since 1952, when she became Queen at the age of 23, she has been a constant, a reminder of the stability that underscores the UK and the Commonwealth.
Since her coronation, Queen Elizabeth has always been determined to be of service to the British people. She has, remaining stoic in the challenges since the loss of Philipp, the Duke of Edinburgh just weeks shy of his 100th birthday.
Her official engagements have been trimmed back, with Prince Charles taking on more of a public and leadership role.
The obvious deterioration in recent months of her health, the growing frequency of missed or cancelled public engagements, and growing concern now confirmed by the statement from the medical professionals, signals that this Elizabethan era is reaching its inevitable conclusion.
The Commonwealth is a body that represents one-third of the world’s population. For now, the Queen remains comfortable at her favourite residence, a place where she has been since July. Now, surrounded by close family, she rests and is in good hands.
In a social media post this afternoon, British Prime Minister Truss said “the whole country will be deeply concerned with the news from Buckingham Palace. My thoughts — and the thoughts of people across our United Kingdom — are with Her Majesty The Queen and her family at this time.” That is a sentiment shared too by billions around the world now.