The good steward

12 September 2022

As a country we are reflecting on the life and contribution of our remarkable Queen, who died last week after seven decades as head of state. There is much to reflect on. She reigned at a time when history itself sped up, with change marked in months and years rather than decades and centuries.

A lot changed in the 70 years Elizabeth was on the throne. Where it was previously aloof and distant, the monarchy has become more personal and open, with a greater emphasis on its focus on charitable work and doing good. And the Queen deserves great credit for that.

The Britain she inherited from her father was a colonial and world power, seven short years from a world war and still under rationing and compulsory national service. It was a world of demob suits and powdered egg, where gay men were chemically castrated and imprisoned, abortion was illegal and 18 years before equal pay for women would be put into law. Indeed, women civil servants had only recently had the requirement to resign on marriage lifted. Discrimination on the grounds of religion, race, sex, sexuality and class was not just legal, but accepted.

The Crown, as the power of the state in our daily life, is ever-present. It is His Majesty’s government and loyal opposition, His Majesty’s Customs and Excise, the Crown Prosecution Service and it is the monarch to whom the armed forces swear their allegiance. The Royal Arms are behind the judges in their courts, and the banknotes and stamps bear the monarch’s portrait.

But there is an individual at the heart of this – a living, breathing human being with thoughts and flaws, beliefs and views, loves and prejudices. The late Queen’s art, it has been so widely said, was the flawless way she brought her personality to her work in a role that demands utter neutrality, continuous dignity, complete selflessness and being always in the public sight. In short, she was our good steward.

Meet the author: Andrew Corbett-Nolan

Chief Executive

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Prepared by GGI Development and Research LLP for the Good Governance Institute.

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