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A lifetime of service

The Queen on the royal yacht Britannia in 1972. Lichfield Archive/Getty

It was undoubtedly her choice, says Max Hastings in The Times, that the Queen died at Balmoral, “of all Royal homes the one she loved best”. There among the “wet labradors and crackling fires, tweeds and tartans, loving servants and beloved animals”, protected by miles of “mountains, heather and fast-flowing waters”, she came as close as any sovereign could to “being herself”. Who could grudge her those last weeks of peace, far from her subjects, after a lifetime of service? “She is only a child,” said a tearful Winston Churchill on hearing that her father had died, leaving her Queen at just 25. Thereafter, she displayed a “maturity and dignity that grew into a wisdom” which earned her the “respect of the world”.

At her coronation in 1953, Hyde Park became a “thrilling military encampment”, teeming with horses and warriors from all corners of the commonwealth. What was she thinking, we all wondered, as this “tiny, uniquely lonely human being” waved her gloved hand from that “clumsy golden coronation carriage”? Even then we could see she represented something “good, clean, decent”, in a “dirty and messy world”. Her death almost 70 years later makes us feel the “smallness of politicians”: a change in prime minister seems a “mere ripple on the pond of the nation’s affairs”. The news of her passing sweeps over the British people in a “great wave of shock, loss, uncertainty and even fear”. We shall soon join in saying “Long Live the King”. But first, a few precious moments to bid farewell and give thanks for Elizabeth II. “For seven decades, God indeed saved the Queen.”