On being … truly majestic

By Ingrid Sapona

Every now and then, this column is about a milestone of some sort. Usually the milestone involves me or someone in my immediate family. Today, however, I’m writing about one that has nothing to do with me or my family – and yet it has captured my attention to a degree that, frankly, I can’t help but write about it. The milestone I’m talking about is the fact that Queen Elizabeth is now Britain’s oldest serving monarch. This past week she surpassed Queen Victoria who reigned for 63 years and 216 days.

I’m not what you’d call a monarchist. (I realize that’s not a term that comes up much in the States. Trust me, here in Canada it does.) I don’t really care one way or the other whether the queen is officially Canada’s head of state or not. To me it’s just a fact – much like the fact that Toronto is on the shore of Lake Ontario. Indeed, most of what has me so in awe doesn’t really have much to do with her as queen – it’s more about the qualities of her as an individual.

First of all, I can’t imagine doing any job for 63 years, much less one you didn’t choose. Of course, I understand she’s got the ultimate job security – but it’s not about her ability to hold on to a job. It’s about her being willing to do it for so long. I suppose, like any job, some aspects of it have evolved a bit over time, but probably not as much as most jobs. And, there’s absolutely no room for her to reinvent herself, as so many of us want to do – if not at mid-life, then in retirement.

It seems that whenever people talk about the fact that she’s been on the throne so long they simply chalk it up to her sense of duty. But where does that sense of duty come from? And, how remarkable that she would put duty above all else – from a very young age and for so very long. Her uncle Edward, after all, wasn’t willing to put duty first. I’m not sure many of us would. In a world where we’re taught we can have it all, to the extent we have a sense of duty, it usually is just one among many factors influencing our actions.

The other thing that I find particularly remarkable is how she keeps her thoughts, opinions, and moods to herself. Despite her title, she is human and so she must have opinions about people and events. She also must have days when she’s irritated or grumpy about something. You’d think that in more than 60 years of being in the public eye, someone would have reported seeing her in a bad mood or heard her say something disparaging about someone or something. Hell, in the digital era, it’s even more surprising that there’s no photo or tape of her saying or doing anything that might raise an eyebrow. (The same cannot be said of her children and grandchildren, that’s for sure!)

Mind you, not everyone finds it admirable that the queen keeps her opinions to herself. One commentator I heard this week criticised the queen as being a bad role model for girls because the behaviour she models is simply to show up and keep your mouth shut. Hmmm… I don’t really see it that way. I see her as behaving with dignity and aplomb in whatever situation she’s in. Those are qualities I think are worth emulating, regardless of gender.

It’s so easy to see the queen as being some figure from a fairy tale, rather than as a real person. And, though as a little girl I may have fantasized about being a princess – and maybe even a queen – somewhere along the way I got over that. Now I see her title, and even her wealth and status, more as a burden than benefit and I wouldn’t change places with her for anything.

Just think about how much the world has changed in the 63 years she’s been on the throne. She has had to strike a balance between the need to uphold traditions of the monarchy with the need to ensure it evolves to fit the times. If you think you have a hard time coping with the pace of change in today’s world, imagine how much harder it would be if you bore the weight of hundreds of years of history on your shoulder. 

Though I have nothing in common with the queen in terms of her lifestyle or stature, I admire her immensely. To me she exemplifies equanimity, graciousness, and steadfastness – qualities that I think we could all use more of.

© 2015 Ingrid Sapona


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