Andrew Marr's poignant reflection on the life of the Queen

9 September 2022, 13:23

Andrew Marr broke the news on a special LBC show
Andrew Marr broke the news on a special LBC show. Picture: LBC/Alamy
Andrew Marr

By Andrew Marr

We are all being pulled through a vortex of change. A new government. And now a King. In terms of the look, the naming, the feel, of public life everything changes. No more “God save the Queen”.

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In due course, no more of that so-familiar profile on the money and the stamps. No more QCs in the court. And no more “Elizabethans” – we are now apparently “Carolines”.

The country now goes into a period of official mourning of a scale and intensity most of us have never experienced before – perhaps the state funeral of Winston Churchill was the last such. That too will be unfamiliar, as the shock slowly passes.

I did not know the Queen. Any journalist who tells you he did is a liar. Part of her secret was to keep her real self well apart from people who talk for a living. But she is someone I have followed and written about and this is a short reflection about her.

She stood at the still centre of Britain's sense of herself throughout the lives of almost everybody living in these islands today. Her quiet, watchful image has been all round us all the time - On the money and the postage stamps, on the television bulletins, the front pages - and, perhaps most important, inside our heads. She walked and spoke during millions of dreams.

The late Queen was also a living, pulsing cord tying us to our recent history. A girl during the Abdication Crisis which scarred her family and made her father king, as Hitler was strengthening his dictatorship. A military mechanic in the Second World War. A princess on global tour when the huge British Empire was something the country gloried in.

As Queen her first Prime Minister was Winston Churchill and her first American president was Harry Truman. Stalin was in the Kremlin, and she's met every Russian leader – every American leader – every significant world leader, almost – ever since.

She's been across the secrets of the British government through crises of every kind, from when the world teetered on the edge of nuclear war to terrorist campaigns, and the fight to get into the European Union, and the fight to get out again. She's heard the private thoughts, the confessions, of every British Prime Minister.

Whenever they've come up against something daunting, she's seen something before, able to reassure. Politically, she has been a kind of human memory stick available to the British state in a way that no other country has had.

In a humbler way I’ve followed her around on her ordinary weeks, opening hospitals, visiting farmers markets, greeting children and carers all around the country. Strangely perhaps, for the boss of a hereditary monarchy, I think her own Instincts were basically democratic – an old-fashioned Christian version of democracy which sees everyone as inherently valuable.

In Britain we’ve become dominated by preening, pleased-with-itself, celebrity - all those brightly coloured, air-kissing social butterflies fluttering excitedly around one another, all the smirking social-media exhibitionists, the super-rich, the simply “super”.

The Queen expertly dodged those types and went out of her way to meet ordinary folk doing real jobs and helping one another quietly in the shadows, the people who keep the show on the road. I think the country noticed that and I think that was her secret.

These days we’re taught to express ourselves as vividly and strongly as we can. The Queen went in just the opposite direction. She pushed down her personality - the laughter lines around her face tell you what she's like in private - because FOR her it was never ABOUT her. It was always the role, which she believed was given by God. It was always the job. And that is a kind of sacrifice.

The death of the Queen will shake this country in ways it’s very hard to imagine. It will be a kind of emotional earthquake, challenging us to look at who we are. Many of us have had to go through the death of a parent. In the days ahead, this may feel a little like that.

As I experienced myself on LBC, there may be crying.