It is always hard to say good bye to family and friends, knowing you may not see them for a long time – if ever. That used to be the case when people emigrated, before the improvement in travel and, more importantly, in communication, enabled us to keep in touch, even though not necessarily face to face.
For those of us who have lost those dear to us – and that is the case for many, the pain of loss in more acute, especially if we lose our life partner. Under those circumstances, it involves a complete life change; we enter a new phase of life, learning to live alone, without the one who knew us intimately, often after many years. Something shifts, and we will never be the same again.
Over the past few days we have witnessed a unique part of history; the life of our Queen, whose reign lasted for seventy years, has come to a close and with that the Elizabethan Era has also come to an end. Something has shifted; we now have a king and in the history books a page has turned.
Those of us who remember the death of King George VI are struck with the contrast between then and now; we have been able to see every stage of our Queen’s journey, from Balmoral to St Giles, Edinburgh, where the Vigil of the Princes illustrated the pageantry, combined with the love of parent and child, to Westminster Abbey, where the procession of members of the public through Westminster Hall has illustrated the relationship between sovereign and subject. Once again we have witnessed the pageantry, once again the vigils, first of the princes and then of the grandchildren. None of us has ever seen anything like this before.
And today, finally, Our Sovereign Lady, Queen Elizabeth will be laid to rest. After thousands have paid their respects, thousands more watched on screen, her coffin will be placed in St George’s Chapel, Windsor, with that of her husband.
Countless words have been spoken, countless tributes made to the indomitable woman who appointed her fifteenth Prime Minister just two days before her death. However, there are two tributes which, to me, have the greatest significance.
The first was made, not by one of her subjects, but by the French President Macron. He said:
‘She who stood with the giants of the 2oth century on the path of history has now left to join them.’
But the last word comes from our new king’s first speech to the nation. Quoting Shakespeare he addressed his ‘dear Mama’:
‘Good night, sweet prince,
And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest!’