Queen Elizabeth and her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, at...

Queen Elizabeth and her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, at Buckingham Palace after her coronation on June 2, 1953. Credit: Gamma-Keystone via Getty Images/Keystone-France

The reign of Queen Elizabeth II was truly majestic.

Hers was an era of elegant longevity. She became Britain’s longest-reigning monarch in 2015. Winston Churchill, her first prime minister, was born 101 years before her last, Liz Truss. Elizabeth wore the crown for approximately 30% of the history of the American republic. Ascending to the throne in 1952, she led her country into the post-World War II years, and helped manage the shift from empire to commonwealth.

But none of that explains exactly why she and her family were such objects of fascination here in America, the colony that got away.

Part of it was her diplomatic talents. Her grace was on display in 1976 when she visited for America’s bicentennial. In Philadelphia to celebrate July Fourth, the direct descendant of the Revolutionary War-era King George III expressed “gratitude” to the Founding Fathers “for having taught Britain a very valuable lesson . . . In the next century and half we kept more closely to the principles of the Magna Carta, which have been the common heritage of both our countries.”

She lived up to the special relationship that has endured between the two nations.

With national attraction to shows like “The Crown,” national interest in royal weddings, and national obsession over the anguishing melodrama surrounding Princess Diana and Prince Charles, the American fixation with the British monarchy has become a deeply cultural curiosity.

Many Americans have had romantic impulses toward fairy-tale Camelots past and present. And in a chaotic period for democracy here and abroad, the symbol of a nonpartisan head of state can be comforting and unifying. Turmoil in the Queen’s own family — most recently involving Prince Harry and Meghan Markle — underscored her dual role as a mother and grandmother. That, even given the criticism she received for her treatment of Diana before her untimely death, might have made Elizabeth more relatable to many here, as well.

For most Americans, Elizabeth has always been there. Ironically, she wasn’t born to be queen, took the throne reluctantly, then served steadily, a model of duty for the ages. As much as her appearances at every national celebration, her bright pastel coats and hats and ubiquitous matching handbags were reminders of her consistent presence.

Elizabeth’s legacy lies not in her political machinations but rather her inscrutability and, often, tact. Decades ago, she navigated a new role for the monarchy that kept it both present and diplomatic, a remarkable soft power anchored in her celebrity. Yet she claimed a level of perseverant authority through the chaos of the 20th and 21st centuries, from decolonization to Brexit. As the last link to the British Empire, her death also is a requiem for a nation unsure of its identity.

Now King Charles III and British royalty in general are confronting the wider uncertainties facing Britain in the global community. The institution inevitably will change after Elizabeth’s long reign. But for generations past and present, she will always be The Queen.

MEMBERS OF THE EDITORIAL BOARD are experienced journalists who offer reasoned opinions, based on facts, to encourage informed debate about the issues facing our community.

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