Duty, Service and Compassion embody what HM Queen Elizabeth II possessed. For me, she was not simply someone who was born into privilege and power. Queen Elizabeth II was special, above all that had gone before her and most likely those to follow.
Queen Elizabeth II famously declared on her 21st birthday broadcast that she would dedicate herself to serving the nation and the Commonwealth for her whole life. I am not sure she knew the path and labour she had set for herself. Seldom has such a promise been so well kept if only others could learn!
If duty, service and compassion did not flow through her blood, the outpouring of love lavished on Queen Elizabeth II after her death would not exist. But, unfortunately, almost no royal, head of state, leaders or individuals receive the out body of love we have seen in the United Kingdom and worldwide.
The Monarchy and The Commonwealth of Nations Legacy
The beauty of living in the United Kingdom is the freedom of everyone to have their own views. The ability to express whatever one wishes to do respectfully. Some believe that the monarchy, in effect, the British Empire stands for something negative.
Being of African descent, I am fully aware of the sea of views towards what the British Empire stood for. For example, those asking why a symbol of colonial rule is being honoured, and some say that the symbol of slavery is being consigned to history.
The Commonwealth of Nations is a political association of 56 member states, the majority of which were former territories of the British Empire. Whilst I understand those feelings, I have my own reservations. For me, the legacy of the British Empire is not at play here. What is at play is a human whose sense of duty was unshakable, someone that offered stability and continuity.
Granted, the lands of the Commonwealth were once ruled by Queen Elizabeth II’s family. However, many years have passed since the rule of the British Empire, and distance has grown. During the presiding days, the love for the Empire was high, but not now. So is the monarchy symbolism or not? Either way, it does not matter to me; to me, Queen Elizabeth II is somebody who is an example of duty and service we should all be happy to emulate.
Colonial rule was the stuff of fairy tales; the mere sight of the Queen or royals was a magical moment. Today those romantic sentiments of the Queen or the royal family have been banished. Today it is regarded as part of the exploitation of the colonies, imperialism. However, I feel this is totally unfair to Queen Elizabeth II. She was one of the first world leaders to declare her support for South Africa’s first Black president ‘Nelson Mandela’. Doing so caused tension between her and Margaret Thatcher (UK Prime Minister at the time when Nelson Mandela was trying to free his people).
Being a British Ghanaian, I was very impressed with the Queen when in 1961, during her visits to several countries around the world, she decided to stop in Ghana. This was very notable, as the British members of Parliament and the public did not want the Queen to take the trip. Moreover, due to rising tensions in the country once it gained its independence in 1957.
Queen Elizabeth II decided that whilst the Royal family’s powers were limited, the monarchy could still have an impact. So this person tried to undo wrong and set about displaying ongoing care and love infused with duty, service and compassion.
For me condoning the death of a queen who embodied dignity and duty in her life does not mean you are condoning colonialism or imperialism. On the contrary, I respect her for being human, not privileged or powerful, but an extraordinary human being.
Duty, Service and Compassion
Queen Elizabeth II was positive and looked for the best in people. The moral fortitude she possessed is unparalleled. There are 26 monarchies worldwide, 12 are in Europe, and 10 (Belgium, Denmark, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Monaco, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, and United Kingdom) of those 12 are led by a royal family.
The royal families in those countries do not have the sense of duty, service and compassion that Queen Elizabeth II possessed. To me, they were born into privilege and do not use their privilege for the greater good of humans. I would levy this against the royal family in the United Kingdom that came before Queen Elizabeth II. Fortunately for us, she decided to make it her business to impact others.
She is right up there with my favourite people that have graced Earth; my mum/dad, Nelson Mandela, Mother Teresa, Muhammad Ali, Mahatma Gandhi, Malcolm X, Andrew Carnegie and now Queen Elizabeth II. These individuals placed duty, service and compassion above their own, and for some, it took their lives.
Above all, Queen Elizabeth II has given stability and confidence; she has shown immense courage over her 70 years of duty, service and compassion.
Lying in State: Westminster Hall
Queen Elizabeth II lying in state continues the tradition in which the body of a deceased head of state is placed in a state building (Westminster Hall). To allow the public to pay their respects.
Westminster Hall is the most ancient part of The Place of Westminster, dating from around 1097. During its long history, it has been all kinds of things; it’s been a courthouse, a market, and a dining room. It’s a vase space with a great sense of history, its oak hammer-beam roof. It’s the perfect grand setting for a monarch lying in state.
I felt an itching urge that I need to pay my respect to Queen Elizabeth II for her commitment to duty, service and compassion. There was no way around it; I had to join the plus 14-hour queue to see her in Westminster Hall. This is the least I could do for what she has achieved.
After joining the back of the queue and walking more than 4 miles over 14 hours, you can sense that you are close as you get to the snake weaving section of the queue close to Westminster Hall. In this section, you are left with your own thoughts. Gone are the getting-to-know people; you are totally talked out at this stage.
As you approach the airport-like security checks, you are beset by the craziest feelings. Making your way through the sea of people, you are filled with moments of excitement, something of an achievement. An achievement of crisscrossing and traversing the streets of London, buoyed by the energy of those around you, all with a shared goal.
All this energy and expectation is replaced with sombre as soon as you place a foot into Westminster Hall, where the Queen is lying in state. You are suddenly filled with solemnness, emptiness, and hollow, indescribably feeling.
You are overwhelmed by a sense of loss, and you are not sure how you should behave. You stand in a previously energetic queue, but now total silence. Everybody takes a moment to compose themselves, collect thoughts and decide what they will do next when they are finally in line with the Queen’s casket.
I personally was filled with sadness, not sure why, as I believe that a person that has lived to 96 years old deserves to have us celebrate their lives. They have done well; we should be celebrating when you apply this to the Queen. This lady came into the world, was entrusted with the throne, and then had to adapt. She has had full innings of family, happiness, sadness, and service. We should celebrate.
When the moment came for me to take the few steps to the side of her casket, I was plagued by emotions. For those few steps, so much went through my head as to what I would do. Finally, I got there and am not quite sure what I did; it is as if someone had taken control of my body.
I found myself standing there, and suddenly my body took over automatically. First, I felt my hands drop to my side as if it was flowing through silk. Then, suddenly I felt my elbows stiffen to pull my forearms down. Then, with my thumb placed on my index finger, I felt my fingers stiffing also. It was as if I were a soldier standing to attention under the command of an officer.
Whilst my arm, hand and fingers were in auto mode, my head and neck also sharpened up. Firstly, the limpness of the neck suddenly stiffened and pulled upwards. Then, engage with the lower part of the head and thrust the head a few centimetres higher. The flab on my tummy sucked in; in a moment, I am sure if I was topless, my 12-pack would have been visible for all to see for the very first time.
My gluteus maximus muscle pulled my bum cheeks so tight that I felt a cramp coming on. This action instructed my knees to lock, tightening my thighs and calf muscles. The feet were the last to move. They shuffled into position as if the whole reconfiguration of my body was an unconsciously implicit action.
In what seemed like a lifetime, it all happened in seconds. I stood like a soldier, and the most logical thing to do was to lower my torso and head by bowing my head to show my little moment of respect to a lady, a Queen who I feel has given us all a life of service and duty.
When we left the hall exit, I regained myself, and my spirit returned to me. At this moment, I felt delighted that I had decided to queue and pay my respects. It was the least I could do for such a remarkable person.
Monday 19 September 2022: The State Funeral of HM Queen Elizabeth II
The first sight of the divisions of the arm forces sent shivers through my body. The divisions of the arm forces looking magnificent, smart, intense and powerful signified the day ahead. The image of the century-old gun carriage (been in the Navy’s care since 1901, first revered for the funeral of Queen Victoria more than a century ago, and has been used since then for King George VI, 70 years ago) to carry the casket of Queen Elizabeth II, is a sight to behold.
From the first step off from Wellington Barracks Parade Grounds by the Scottish and Irish regiment towards Westminster Abby, brought home that this was the final stage of Queen Elizabeth II’s weeklong journey to her final resting place.
The global reach of the Queen can only be appreciated when you consider how she is viewed across the planet. United Kingdom is only the 21st most populated country in the world and the 6th largest economy. However, our head of state is the world’s most famous head of state.
The fact that many people, heads of state, and world leaders wanted to attend her funeral is a great testament to the Queen’s convening power, the soft power and the influence she possessed.
The Queen was born in Westminster Abby, where she was also married in 1947. She was gowned in there 1953 and attended royal weddings and funerals. So her funeral today is part of the reoccurring seasons of death and renewal at a place she knew well.
The scale of the procession was astonishing, with the procession being a mile long. It was estimated that hundreds of thousands would line the streets, with over 4 billion watching worldwide. If this lady was not unique, I am not sure what else a human need to achieve to enter such a category.
For over 70 years, we never knew what Queen Elizabeth II thought about anything. Duty, service and compassion dedication. Thank you for your life and your impact. I am not sure we will see one like that again! Rest in Peace; your work is done!
- BHT Staff, (09 September 2022 ‘Watch: Queen Elizabeth II’s 1961 visit to Ghana’, BHT Staff, [Accessed 19 September 2022]
- Ndileka Mandela, (19 September 2022) ‘What Charles can learn from the bond between the Queen and my grandfather’, The Guardian, [Accessed 19 September 2022]
- World Population Review ‘Countries with Royal Families 2022’, [Accessed 19 September 2022]