Peter Horrocks of the N1 Editorial Board writes that the death of Queen Elizabeth II is an emotional time for all Great Britain.
By Peter Horrocks
As the news of the death of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth came through, I was counting out some pound notes to pay a workman. Something that is an everyday activity in Great Britain suddenly felt completely different.
The Queen’s face is on each note and has been for every year of my 62-year life. I thought – they will have to change all these notes now she has passed on. It was an emotional moment. A mundane detail but a symbol of how The Queen (in the UK she is always just “The Queen”, not Queen Elizabeth) is woven into every aspect of life in this country.
I thought back to when I met the Queen at the BBC headquarters, when I oversaw the BBC’s news for the world. She was already well into her 80s but was sprightly, amused and well informed. We had the idea that she should tour the BBC newsroom and appear suddenly, live, behind the news presenters, who then appeared shocked to see her.
Her Majesty went along happily with the visual joke and was prepared not to take herself too seriously.
But she also cared deeply for the serious symbolism of her role. As she chatted with the BBC’s journalists from around the globe, we spoke about how both the Queen and the BBC symbolised the best of Britain to the world.
I recall travelling the world as Director of BBC World Service. In any taxi in the world, faced with the barrier of language, I could guarantee to get a reaction by mentioning either Manchester United or “The Queen” (accompanied by a hand gesture indicating a crown).
That fame around the world and the devotion to her in the UK are based on her personal qualities. She has always put service ahead of self. She has been a source of stability and continuity in an era of immense change for the UK and the world.
She was born into an era when the British Empire still existed, when her country literally ruled over a quarter of the population of the world. But she adapted, along with her country, to lead by example not by command.
She saw that what British people see as their values – fairness, open-mindedness, a care for the wider world, modest, unflamboyant – was the way to communicate to her subjectsand to the citizens of the world of what matters most.
Her passing will be a shock to the people of Britain and many around the world. It is an emotional time for myself and all of us in Britain.
But it is a time of reflection that can provide strength and comfort for a life of dedication and a source of inspiration for the future.
Peter Horrocks is an adviser to the N1 editorial board