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Commentary: Queen Elizabeth's epic reign, and why the monarchy matters

Queen Elizabeth's epic reign, and why the monarchy matters
Queen Elizabeth's epic reign, and why the monarchy matters 02:40

Historian and author Amanda Foreman offers her thoughts on the passing of Queen Elizabeth II:

During her lifetime, Queen Elizabeth II was often described as a living symbol of stability and tradition. Partly, this had to do with her incredible 70 years on the throne.

But more that, Elizabeth embodied what you might call the spirit of the nation. As a wife, mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother, she was a human being, to be sure. As the Queen, though, she personified the essence and values of Great Britain.

This dual persona was actually created by Elizabeth's 19th century ancestor, Queen Victoria. In her view, she was both a mother to her family and the mother of the nation. And by presenting herself as the country's carer-in chief, Victoria invented a new kind of leadership – one that rose above politics to be a focus for national unity.

It's such a powerful ideal that dozens of countries, from Israel to Switzerland, have adopted a similar government model, separating the civic role from the political.

Queen Elizabeth II.  CBS News

In addition to dedicating herself to a life of public service, Queen Elizabeth believed it was her solemn duty to preserve the monarchy. She tried at all times to maintain a balance between upholding its ancient traditions, while being responsive to the social changes and needs of the country.

Elizabeth signaled how she intended to reign when she allowed television cameras to broadcast her coronation in 1953. It was the biggest television event of its time. Millions, not just a privileged few, were able to watch the unfolding of a 1,000-year-old ritual.

And this is how the Queen continued for the next seven decades: she made the monarchy matter by making it a part of her subjects' lives. She celebrated with them in times of joy, and mourned with them in times of crisis.

And just as families come together to mark the important events in their lives, this week, Britain – and the family of nations – are united in paying tribute to Elizabeth. Elizabeth the Great, Queen of the United Kingdom, Queen of the Commonwealth, Queen of the World.

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Story produced by Julie Kracov. Editor: George Pozderec. 

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