It certainly wasn’t planned, but it is rather poignant that the funeral of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is taking place on Respect for the Aged Day in Japan. And notable that the Japanese Emperor and Empress are making their first overseas trip, since taking on their roles, to attend the funeral.
Although neither a republican, nor staunch Royalist, I have tremendous respect for the late Queen, for what she achieved for my country and the world during her amazing 70 year long reign. Questions are already being raised as to the future of the Monarchy and its relevance in the world today; King Charles himself has already committed to ensuring it is a better fit and I’m sure with his well-known grit and determination he’ll do just that.
From a personal point of view, I was very privileged to meet The Queen twice during my career being involved in the planning and execution of two State visits. In Zimbabwe in 1991, as Head of the Commonwealth, a role the new King will also take seriously, she attended the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting in Harare. At that time, I was appointed as Liaison Officer between her staff working in State House, and my own team at the British High Commission. So, I saw close-up the detailed preparations that go into such a visit, and the sheer professionalism of Her Majesty and her husband HRH Prince Philip in carrying out those duties. As a member of Her Majesty’s Diplomatic Service, I was amazed when she undertook a series of one-to-one meetings with every attending Head of State, before embarking on the more ceremonial events such as receptions and banquets. Whilst all around her anxiously checked and double-checked every detail of the programme to ensure nothing would go wrong, she just got one with the job, and if something did go wrong just took it in her stride.
Eight years later in Seoul, South Korea another overseas posting for me, and another State Visit for Her Majesty. With trade and investment at the heart of Anglo-Korean relationships, the British Embassy was keen to use her visit to promote UK plc, and The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh did just that highlighting some of our successes and laying the groundwork for future business. I was involved in arranging for Prince Philip to visit and meet British companies working on the construction of the new Incheon airport hoping to be a regional transportation hub for the Asia Pacific.
For both of these visits, the energy and enthusiasm emanating from Her Majesty made her welcome wherever she went, and she certainly earned my respect. Although I do not believe in an after-life, I am happy that today her mortal remains will be laid to rest alongside those of her beloved husband and constant supporter of 73 years. May they both Rest in Peace; an historic example to us all in these troubled times.
And, Long Live the King!