By Vivek Pattanayak in Bhubaneswar, September 10, 2022: Queen Elizabeth II, Her Majesty, the Queen of United Kingdom, and the British Island passed away after reigning for eight decades leaving behind a legacy of the continuity of constitutional monarchy of Great Britain intact free from any uncertainty.

Prince Charles succeeded her to be the King of the oldest parliament democracy of the world.

She was known for her great dignity, impeccable humility, and constitutional propriety. For the prolonged period of her reign, she was known as the symbol of unity of the British nation. As the Head of Commonwealth of Nations, she enjoyed ample respect and affection among the people across the member countries irrespective of race, religion, region ethnicity, language, sects, caste, creed, faith, and belief.

The Heads of the States and governments, sovereigns, princes potentates, religious heads , writers, scientists, scholars , artists, musicians, dancers , actors and actresses, sportsmen and women and athletes paid visits to her and met her when she was inside or outside the Buckingham Palace and inside or outside the country. She visited more than one hundred countries.

Remarkable thing about her reign was she provided political stability to Great Britain no matter which political party formed the government following whatever political, economic, and social policy. She was unmoved by crisis, internal, regional, and international. Her prime minister was Winston Churchill, the acclaimed hero of the Second World War in UK, the arch conservative who was against India’s independence. She saw during her time dismemberment of the British Empire where the sun never set, nationalization of steel and coal and also their denationalization.

She saw three prime ministers who were women starting with Margaret Thatcher, the Iron Lady who led UK to a magnificent victory in the distant Falkland war, Teressa May, the unfortunate leader during post Brexit mayhem and now Liz Truss after a long-drawn contest against a candidate of the Indian origin.

Britain also participated in the Korean War, involved in the Suez crisis, apart from the first and second gulf wars and Kosovo war and war in Afghanistan. Her son, Prince Andrew was in the Falkland naval operation and grandson, Prince Harry was in a spell in the long-drawn NATO war against Taliban.

She had seen accession of Britain to the European Common Market later known as the European Union. She also saw contentious Brexit. More importantly she saw the unprecedented global financial crisis of 2007-08, and famously told the economists, according to Lord Desai

“How is it that nobody could foresee this crisis.”

The British monarch is a constitutional head of a country which is governed by unwritten constitution based on conventions, customs, landmark statutes of Parliament, usages and principles of natural justice and writings of eminent jurists.

Such is the tradition of the country that although the real power lies with Prime Minister and his cabinet, the civil servants and police can be trusted to enquire into maleficence of political leaders including Prime Minister and Ministers as was seen during party gate scandal .

Many landmark reforms have taken place in Britain during her reign, most striking being local autonomy given to Scotland, Wales, and Northern Island. Reform of House Lords creating Supreme Court who could decide major constitutional issue was undoubtedly in line with modern trends. When Boris Johnson was unwilling to convene the Parliament after he prorogued the legislature, the Supreme Court unanimously issued direction to him to advise Her Majesty to reconvene the Parliament.

One has to remember this monarchy in Britain has gone through tumultuous history which witnessed beheading of the king during civil war. The unfortunate monarch was Charles I during the Stuart dynasty. After this bloody revolution, Britain became a Republic for a brief period under Oliver Cromwell. After restoration of monarchy, Cromwell’s body was interred to be hanged in public as his act was considered as an act of treason against the British monarch.

The British monarchy also went through another period of turmoil when during the Glorious Revolution James II abdicated under duress and exited the kingdom throwing the Great Common Seal into the Thames River before moving to France crossing the English Channel.

The British have seen how the power of the monarchy have been curtailed and limited from the time of Magna Carta, evolution of power of nobility through House of Lords and that of people mostly bourgeoisie class through the House of Commons.

Interestingly in spite of its aristocratic past the English hosted the great revolutionary philosopher, Karl Marx who spearheaded communist movement in Europe. No wonder the country had developed strong labour unions and became birthplace Fabian socialism. Over time Labour Party established itself as a force to be reckoned with bringing Attlee to power.

From the “Court of Star Chamber” the courts of law have emerged which defended “rule of law” to quote the language of Dicey. The ancient Roman law of habeas corpus was revived in Britain when the servants of king detained innocent citizens and subjects under the King’s unjust fiats.

Although the British King was first to question the Papal authority in Europe, making himself the head of the Church of England, he respected Archbishop of Canterbury. How Becket showed his indomitable courage to fight against the king who was his friend when he became the archbishop demonstrates the magnificent sequestering of power, secular from ecclesiastical.
This is a remarkable story which religious chiefs and political authorities across the world must remember. Morality is above law. Ethics is more fundamental than law.

Let us not be under delusion that the Queen was merely a figurehead. Apart from the routine responsibilities which are discharged in the name of Crown as Ivor Jennings, a great constitutional expert had said that sovereign has right to advise, right to encourage and right to warn.

Not that Kings have not tried in the past to usurp power even with evolution of parliamentary form of government with cabinet under the prime minister being accountable to the legislature. In the mid- eighteenth century being encouraged by the mother Princess Augustus, who urged George III to exercise power by saying, “George Be a King ,George Be a King”, he used power directly known as Personal Rule which provoked the Parliament to pass a resolution “ King’s power has increased, it is increasing, and it must be curbed”. The American independence movement started during the kingship of George III which is attributed to the misrule of colonies during King’s Personal Rule.

In the thirties of the 20th century British monarchy came under public gaze when Edward VIII abdicated in favour of his younger brother George VI, the father of Queen Elizabeth II. Edward VIII wanted to marry Ms. Simpson twice divorced. This sparked controversy among the tradition bound British of the inter-war period who had not fully transited from the Victorian morality.

The British monarchy by the end of the last century came under cloud when the fairy-tale marriage of Charles and Diana ended in a divorce and there was upsurge of emotions mostly among the young when Diana’s life tragically ended in a car crash in Paris.

Greatest achievement of Queen Elizabeth II was when she continued to remain above all these controversies by her remarkable ability to adjust with the changing time and social environment. Till the last she worked tirelessly, patiently, and dutifully in the interest of nation and its tradition without being ruffled by unfortunate turn of events during her time concerning the nation or her family.

Smooth transition in monarchy as exhibited with accession of Charles only confirms the age-old saying King is dead but long live the king. Kingship is permanent.

Here kingship should not be understood in a narrow sense of king or queen, position around a person. Kingship means eternity of State as an institution of governance. A king may come, and a king may go but nation or country or State remains.
All countries who have followed democracies must remember that it takes years to build institutions and it takes individuals to destroy them.

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Ranglal Jamuda

Good morning Sir !
Thanks a ton for sharing your valuable thoughts.