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A personal view of Queen Elizabeth II passing

As a young child in England during the late 1940s and 1950s, I have two very personal memories with respect to Queen Elizabeth II.

The first is walking home from grade school in 1952 and hearing the church bells ringing continuously for what seemed to be hours. Later I realized that the bells signified the death of King George VI and, at that very instance, a new monarch was proclaimed, that being his daughter Elizabeth.

Some five years later, I was on my way to a dental appointment, but the traffic was horrendous and I was running late. I had to cross the main street in Epsom; it just happened to be the day of a major horse race in that racing town. The street was cordoned off and crowds made it difficult to walk to the other side.

Not wanting to be late for the dental appointment I boldly pushed my way through the crowd and started to cross the street. Immediately a policeman held me back and asked what I was doing. I indicated my dilemma, but he very carefully and politely said something to the fact that her majesty would be appearing momentarily and would appreciate it if I would wait until she passed.

The officer kept me close to him and within a few minutes a massive vehicle passed within a few feet of our position on the street and headed towards the racetrack. I was escorted to the other side of the street and was only a few minutes late for the dental appointment.

In retrospect, these examples have always seemed to me to be quintessentially British. The somber and respectful passing of one monarch to another, and the genuine kindness of the system to a young child who was clueless to what was happening.

With over 60 years being an American citizen and having been completely acculturated to our system of governance, perhaps we could learn a little from the passing of Elizabeth II as to how best to act and relate to change in a compassionate and constitutional way.

The British system of a hereditary head of state may not last another 70 years, but what a wonderful example of how that system operates with such an outpouring of respect and hope.

Bill O'Connor


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