The epitome of servant leadership

Back in 1970 Joni Mitchell was half a century ahead of the environmental curve when she complained that developers were putting the trees in a tree museum and replacing them with a parking lot.

Her plea that ‘you don’t know what you got ‘til it’s gone’ came to mind when the shock news filtered through about the Queen’s passing. Will we ever learn what happened between Tuesday and Thursday? She may look frail in the photos, but you don’t hold forty minute audiences with an outgoing and incoming prime minister unless you are in reasonably robust health. It seems that her decline was so sudden that only Charles and Anne were with her while the other senior royals arrived too late.

For most of us, Elizabeth was the monarch for longer than we’ve been alive. With my parents and elder brother both long gone, she was the one constant in my life. Easy to take for granted. Easy to underestimate.
In a celebrity obsessed world that uses the term ‘legend’ in the context of soap actors, what word can suffice to describe the towering global figure that Elizabeth became? For my answer to that question, I turn to the aspect of her life that has predictably received the least attention in the flood of obituaries – her Christian faith. To me, she represents the nearest thing to Godliness that I’ve seen on earth.

I don’t say that to deify her – her humility would baulk at such a suggestion. But she did spend seven decades as the embodiment of servant leadership, an approach modelled by the one she regarded as King of all Kings – Jesus Christ. In an increasingly cynical, secular and superficial world she represented continuity and substance, backed by the twin rocks of her marriage and her faith.

Hard to imagine now, but the establishment had its doubts about Elizabeth’s choice of a penniless Greek prince – she trusted her own judgement and their 1947 wedding provided a tonic to post-war Britain and arguably began the era of the Royal Family as celebrities. What a shame that her children’s marriages would prove to be less robust.
It’s easy to poke fun at our constitution and our method of doing government. The anachronism of the House of Lords, essentially robbed of its power over a century ago yet still able to be a thorn in the side of an over-zealous government. The monarch giving a speech at the opening of each Parliamentary session and signing each act into law, yet having no power of veto and no presidential ability to write executive orders on a whim.

And yet, somehow it works. Would you rather have the system that divides America to the point where serious people are talking about an increasing risk of civil war? Do you side with the Gen Zers who want to live in a socialist or communist regime? Modern day Moscow and Beijing are great examples of where that road leads.

Every living Prime Minister has commented on the value of their weekly meetings with the Queen. Imagine the historical context from discussions with fourteen of your predecessors! Imagine the nuanced advice that comes from someone who lived through a world war, Suez, the death of Empire and the Good Friday Agreement. An agreement that involved shaking the hands of the people who sanctioned the murder of Lord Mountbatten. Forgive us our sins as we forgive those who sin against us.

As Liz Truss made her speech at the Downing Street dais on Thursday evening, the shock was palpable. Her first audience with Elizabeth II would be her last. Her eulogy was solid and workmanlike, if inevitably bested by Boris’s more personal and emotion charged first response. He is, lest we forget, a professional journalist and writer first and a politician second. So it’s hardly surprising that he was able to connect better to the nation’s feelings than the Truss team’s speechwriters who were served a late afternoon curved ball.

Suddenly, a £150 billion energy subsidy had become yesterday’s papers. And the rest of her momentous programme is put on hold until after the funeral. I suspect her newly appointed front bench team will welcome some thinking and planning time without the spotlight of day to day Parliamentary sessions to endure.

A new monarch and a new prime minister in the same week. The word ‘unprecedented’ has been overused in the energy crisis, so perhaps ‘historic’ would be a better choice. Don’t you think it’s interesting that Liz Truss is going to accompany King Charles III on his tour of the four corners of the UK? This could be clever politics – it positions her as a stateswoman at the forefront of history, and introduces a double act that provides a new beginning for post-Brexit Britain.

My only concern is that both are fully paid-up members of the WEF. We need a Great Reset, but not the one Klaus Schwab has in mind. We need the re-launch of belief in free market capitalism, we need investment to grow our productivity and we need a population to rediscover the Protestant work ethic so exemplified by Her Majesty until 48 hours before her passing.

But those are battles for another day. This week is all about celebrating the life and work of one of the greatest women who ever lived. Her first and favorite Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, is often regarded as the Greatest Briton of all time. Move over please, Winston, and make space alongside you for someone born a Brit who would go on to stride the global stage in a very different but equally effective way.
As programme after programme reminds us of her achievements and her quiet contribution, maybe we do know what we’ve lost. It’s just hard to believe she’s gone.

May she rest in peace.

And may we get used to singing God Save Our Gracious King. Until next time.