Death of The Queen – Rotterdam, September 9 – 12, 2022



A day after we arrived back in our little apartment in Rotterdam from Finland, the British Queen died. 

I’m no fan of royalty and so initially, the death of the British Queen or as I had known her all my life – ‘The Queen’ –  made little impression on me. As far as I’m concerned, royal families (including the one in my adopted country, The Netherlands) are a anachronism and an expensive one at that: the money wasted on a royal family can be better spent on other, more worthy projects – e.g. dealing with climate change or research into alternative sources of energy.

However as I began to scroll my phone and run passed the various news sites around the world – from the France 24 and Deutsche Weld to the Australian, American and British – and took in the reality of how widespread the sense of bereavement was –  I found my perspective changing. Not that I felt any sense of bereavement; rather I began wondering about the reasons for the widespread and obviously so heartfelt outpouring of grief.

Was it because so many of these people wanted to believe in a fairy tale?

Or was it the effect of the media with its trivialising focus on the lives of ‘famous people’ and celebs?


Gradually other aspects of this mass bereavement came into focus.

The Queen had been on the throne for 70 years.

A long time. The changes which had unfolded during that 70 years were almost beyond belief.

As a young woman she had experienced the Second World War and the Battle of Britain; as a newly installed monarch she had met Winston Churchill. She had presided over the dissolution of the British Empire, been there when The Beatles revolutionised pop music, when half of Europe was occupied by Russian troops; she was there during the Korean and the Vietnam wars and later the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq; when communism imploded, South Africa was liberated; she met countless world leaders. If one was serious about documenting the changes she witnessed this list would probably be many times longer.

She was institution, one which outlived most other institutions and at the same time, she was above politics and politicians and causes and controversies; she adapted to the changes and most importantly, she provided a deeper sense of stability, a  psychological anchoring, which gave people a feeling of something solid in the midst of all the changes – many of them positive but also, especially over the last decade, very much the opposite: economic crisis, Covid, the invasion of the Ukraine, global climate change. In a world where the news was overwhelming negative, where optimism and hope were in ever shorter supply, she was there.

People from at least 3 generations and many walks of life had been familiar with her presence even if like me only from the peripheral vision.

When I was a kid growing up in Australia, which was still very much a British colony, we sang the British national anthem: God Save The Queen in the mornings in the assembly yard; the portrait of a young Queen Elizabeth hung at the end of every corridor and in the headmaster’s office. At the picture theatres – as we called them then – we all stood up as the British national anthem was played and an image of the young queen on a horse and lines of marching grenadiers appeared on the screen (similar like today in Thailand, with the exception that the Thai king is a dictator backed by the army and one of the wealthiest men in the world – worth at least 20 billion dollars, money ripped off from the Thai people, most of whom are desperately poor). The Queen was on our money – which was then pounds, shillings and pence. The Queen was ubiquitous in a country still very much a colony of Britain. Educated Australians spoke British English.

As I entered adolescence and began rejecting the world I had inherited from my parents’ generation – the Queen was quickly relegated to a part of an outdated time period, something utterly irrelevant to my life and as far as I could see, everyone else’s.

But I was wrong.

Evidently many people thought that the monarchy was in some way relevant to their lives. 

All my life, there had always been ‘The Queen’.

When she died, I realised that the timeless institution – had a name. 






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