The Ridley community is deeply saddened by the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on September 8th, 2022.
We have been inspired by her dedication to a life of service, leadership and kindness. Her legacy will live on in the hearts and minds of our community and the world. Along with the rest of the Commonwealth, we mourn this tremendous loss. Our flag is lowered to half mast in her honour and memory.
Earlier this week, Headmaster Kidd shared his heartfelt reflections on this monumental event in Chapel. We share them with you below.
On Thursday morning, just after lunch, we heard the news that Queen Elizabeth II had passed away at her beloved Scottish home, Balmoral Castle. It was one of those historic, “where were you?” moments, and I know that I will never forget where I was — standing on the shores at Camp Onondaga watching a strange student competition known as ‘greasy watermelon.’ It was there, in the warm sunshine, I was approached by Mr. and Mrs. Bett asking if I had heard the news – the Queen was dead. Like so many people around the world, not only British and Commonwealth nations, but also informed citizens from around the world, I was surprised to find myself instantly flooded with so many strong feelings of shock and sorrow. I had to pause — I was literally stopped in my tracks. It seems strange to consider now. I knew that she had been ill, and I also knew that she was 96 years old. And yet, like so many people around the world experienced, the news was jolting and filled me with sorrow. It choked me up. In the days that followed, this common response has received more than a few reflections.
Perhaps the news triggered a flood of sorrow from memories of recently passed loved ones. I thought of my aging parents — my mother shared a birthday with the Queen and they are ardent monarchists.
Perhaps it was an unsettling epiphany that a constant star in our lives ceased to exist; that a very important thread connecting us to our past was now severed? Perhaps it was that her death represented the passing of an era. Some have said she was the last of the great leaders of the 20th century — her name, her image, and her legacy is ubiquitous, from the coins and bills in your wallets to the highways we drive on and the schools, hospitals and institutions we attend.
Or maybe it was the melancholic and very personal recognition that this very public family had just lost their matriarch — their great grandmother, their grandmother and for King Charles and his siblings, their mama.
My explanation is that this feeling is a very complex sadness — part nostalgia, part anxiety. I am most certain the Ancient Greeks had a name for this feeling that we moderns can’t quite define — a realization that with the passing of her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, we experienced the passing of some part of our collective humanity — the best part of our collective humanity, the parts that we seek to recreate and adopt. Perhaps in her, we sensed the very best of us, embodied and manifested in a life and a reign of 70 years as monarch, sovereign and head of state for millions of people around the world.
As French President Emmanuel Macron quipped to the British people, “To you, she was your Queen, but to us, she was The Queen.” I think what he meant was that she was The Queen – the pinnacle of human values that we so admire. She was values in action – values such as duty, service, humility, dedication, stoic resolve and calm leadership.
At the age of 25, with the death of her father, King George VI, she was called to the throne; called to lead not only a nation but through her redefinition of the role, to lead an entire commonwealth of nations, including Canada (less than a century old at the time). Her life was the history of the 20th century — WWII, post-war recovery, economic austerity, unrest in Northern Ireland, the independence of former colonies such as Hong Kong and most recently Barbados, wars in Argentina and the Middle East, and most recently, COVID.
I have a chapel homily on the topic of death and funerals (I’ll save it for the darkest day of the year, just to cheer you all up). In it, I admit that despite the pain of loss and mourning, I sometimes enjoy attending funerals and finding myself inspired by the eulogies — the uplifting insights into lives well lived. Indeed, when a great person passes (whether a famous Head of State or a close relative), we have an opportunity to learn, to marvel, and hopefully, to emulate the best aspects of their lives, the values that informed their actions and how they chose to spend their time on earth. As King Charles noted in his address to the nation — “In our sorrow, let us remember and draw strength from the light of her example.”
So, what can we learn from the light of Queen Elizabeth’s example? Duty, service, dedication to the task she was called to, humility.
On multiple occasions, facing crisis, she reassured us that all would be well. “Keep calm and carry on” was a British government wartime message and was not coined by the Queen, but nevertheless, these five words of Stoic advice very much capture the dignity with which she lived. As a 14-year-old, amid the darkest hours of WWII, she delivered a radio address to her British people, that was intended to reassure the children of Britain. Boris Johnson reflected on this moment in his tribute to the Queen in parliament on Friday:
“She said then: ‘We know, every one of us, that in the end all will be well.’ She was right.
And she was right again, in the darkest days of the COVID pandemic, when she came on our screens to tell us that we would meet again.
And we did.”
In the last few weeks, it is now clear that the Queen was slipping away, her life energy no doubt sapped by the loss of the love of her life, her late husband Prince Philip. But in one last act of service, duty and dedication, last Tuesday, she rose from her bed in Balmoral to preside over the departure of outgoing Prime Minister Boris Johnson and to greet her new Prime Minister (her 15th), Liz Truss.
In a special session of the House of Commons on Friday, British politicians and leaders took turns paying tribute to the Queen, capturing what she meant to the British people and to the world.
The Prime Minister, Liz Truss remarked:
“Her late Majesty Queen Elizabeth II was one of the greatest leaders the world has ever known.
She was the rock on which modern Britain was built. She came to the throne — at just 25 — in a country that was emerging from the shadow of war. She bequeaths a modern, dynamic nation that has grown and flourished under her reign.
The United Kingdom is the great country it is today because of her. The Commonwealth is the family of nations it is today because of her.”
Sir Keir Starmer, the leader of the Labour Party noted:
“She did not simply reign over us; she lived alongside us, she shared in our hopes and our fears, our joy and our pain, our good times and our bad.”
And then, Sir Lindsay Hoyle, the Commons Speaker, remarked:
“Over her reign she has seen unprecedented social, cultural, technological change, through it all she has been the most conscientious and dutiful monarch.
But whilst she understood the unescapable nature of duty, which sometimes must have weighed upon her heavily, she also delighted in carrying it out, for she was the most devoted monarch.”
This week, in tribute to her Majesty the Queen, our flag will fly at half-mast until sundown on the day of her funeral, which will occur on Monday, September 19th. The Government of Canada has declared 10 days of national mourning. On Saturday past, the Government of Canada and Governor General Mary Simon issued a proclamation of King Charles III’s ascension as Canada’s new sovereign and Head of State.
And finally, once again in UK Parliament on Friday, Conservative MP Iain Duncan Smith concluded his tribute to the Queen with these words:
“If the House will indulge me, I want to quote a W.H. Auden poem with a few changes:
Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drums
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.”
She was our North, our South, our East and West,
Our working week and our Sunday rest,
Our noon, our midnight, our talk, our song.
We thought that love would last forever: we were wrong.
May God bless her and keep her, and hold her in our hands, and may we bless the royal family.”
I ask that you join me in a moment of silence, honouring the life, the leadership, and the very human values embodied in the actions of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II.