The nation, indeed the world, has spent the last couple of weeks mourning the loss of Queen Elizabeth II. She was the longest-serving British monarch, reigning for more than 70 years, a feat that is unlikely to be surpassed by any future monarch in either our lifetime or that of the next generation.
Princess Elizabeth became Queen in 1952, far earlier than anyone had anticipated at the time. Taking on the role of head of the monarchy at such a young age would have been daunting for anybody, but the young Queen eased into the job far better than anyone could have expected. Over the intervening years before her sad death on 8th September 2022, she became a leading light, a constant, the voice of reason, compassion and understanding for so many.
So, who was Her Majesty the Queen, and how did she inspire people, particularly young children and adults? What did she enjoy most away from her formal duties? What lessons can we, and should we, learn from this greatest of monarchs?
Who was Queen Elizabeth II?
Queen Elizabeth II wasn’t just monarch of the UK; she was also queen and head of state of 15 Commonwealth countries, including Australia, New Zealand, Canada and Fiji. She also held two religious titles – Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor of the Church of England. Her faith was extremely strong, and she took this role very seriously, probably more so than many of the UK’s former kings and queens.
Throughout her reign, she saw many changes across the world; economic, social and technological. Who would have thought that decades into her reign, we would be witnessing royal podcasts? But while she was a figurehead for the country and Commonwealth and met many world leaders, some notable and some not as notable, as well as countless celebrities, she continued to lead and inspire generations of young and old people. She was admired, respected and loved by many globally.
An inspiration to many
If we consider the definition of inspiration – “being mentally stimulated to do or feel something” – it doesn’t really give us a full picture of how much the Queen inspired people. But if we think about how a person can give us the inspiration to create and achieve something, to give us the confidence and determination to change direction for the better, or the ideas and drive to solve a problem, then we have a better understanding of just how inspirational the Queen was.
With just a few words of kindness and an imperious interest in what you were doing or trying to achieve or had achieved, she put you at your ease. She was intelligent, and her extent of knowledge across multiple topics was rarely matched. If we think back to the beginning of the Covid pandemic, her short address inspired the nation to be stoic, steadfast and patient. She united people in a common battle for the good, just as she had during World War II.
It was quite usual for people to lack confidence and be in awe of the Queen before meeting her, but with an encouraging smile and words, she put you at ease. Her love of horses and horse racing knew no bounds – you can count on one hand the number of times she missed the Derby or Royal Ascot in her seven decades of reign. But that wasn’t the only sport and sporting people she inspired.
Becoming Head of the Commonwealth in 1952, her unwavering support of the Commonwealth Games was inspiring. Many athletes from many countries will remember how she took an immense interest in every sport and supported not just the successful athletes but those coming up through the ranks.
Who can forget her words as she hailed the Lionesses’ historic Euro 2022 victory as “an inspiration for girls and women today, and for future generations”. Indeed, generations of fans, young and old, boys and girls, were inspired by their win, which, when supported and championed by the Queen, added more depth and power to their achievement. So many young people and children not only felt more confident to play a game they loved but empowered, too.
Initiatives, like the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Activity Fund, are specifically set up to bring communities together through sport and activity and boost opportunities for everyone at every level in sport. She was patron of the Jockey Club, the FIA, the Royal & Ancient Golf Club, Rugby Union, the All England Club and the British Olympic Association. In fact, she was patron of more than 400 organisations, many of which were sports and recreational-based. She regularly maintained contact and visited them to follow and support the organisations, inspiring the younger generation to work hard and follow in the footsteps of their heroes.
Lessons to be learned from the Queen
For children and young adults, indeed for many people, there are so many lessons to be learned from the Queen; duty, loyalty, commitment, leadership, dedication, honesty, calm, support, friendliness, kindness and more. She supported over 600 charities, and she was renowned for the way she cared about children, the elderly and home-grown causes.
She showed immense strength and resilience through good and hard times, and she was always a good listener. As much as duty was important, her family was also as important. She wasn’t just a monarch; she was also a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother, hosting annual weekends and holidays in Balmoral and Sandringham that were filled with laughter.
Her love and devotion to her family, her subjects of all ages, young and old, her nation, the Commonwealth and her duty to serve were and will be unmatched. As we mourn her passing, our thoughts are with those she’s left behind in their sorrow.
Sports for Schools is a social enterprise that works with top athletes from around the UK and Northern Ireland, visiting primary schools to inspire and encourage kids of all abilities, and teachers, to be more active. Our mission is to Activate, Educate, Motivate and Innovate schools and parents through a series of events and workshops. If you’d like your school or parents to get active, get in touch with us and see how we could help you inspire our next generation.