EI to EII
Between the two Queens, Elizabeth I & Elizabeth II, are bracketed Britain’s age of Empire.
The one witnessed the birth of the American colonies and the first embassy to the court of the Mughal king of India; the other presided over the disintegration of Empire, with Barbados being the latest to declare itself a republic.
During the latter’s reign, I saw Prince Phillip lower the Union Jack in her name when Kenya became independent in 1963, and her son Prince Charles – now King Charles III – confer an MBE on me: with quiet irony, I seemed to have slipped from the ecstatic joy of independence to membership of the Empire.
Does this echo Elizabeth II’s reign – moving with steady fortitude from anti-imperial ferment to post-colonial acceptance of new realities? She defined a certain kind of national British character, which in-itself was a product of the height of Empire: duty.
What will the new, Carolean, age bring as the country stands bereft of Empire and isolated from Europe? What new face of duty will King Charles III forge, providing hope and echoing our ambitions?