Working it out
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First published in the Career Opportunities Column in the Gleaner newspaper, Jamaica, on February 23, 1994, to mark the 5th visit of Her Majesty the Queen to Jamaica and to recognise her remarkable career. It is a flashback and is followed by a Tribute in written after her passing, in recognition, respect and thanks for her life of service.
Imagine a job description which reads “Head of State Required, Job for Life”. “Ideal candidate must be royal heir to fulfill traditional role of Monarch; to serve with unwavering dedication and commitment Great Britain and Northern Ireland and other Realms and Territories; and as Head of the Commonwealth and the Church of England. Rigorous state and public duties involved; long working hours; extensive travel; large amounts of correspondence and official documents, to be tackled; continuous public engagements; strict adherence to protocol. Must have a sound knowledge of constitutional history and a keen grasp of world affairs and Government; be able to endure short holidays and constant public scrutiny”.
On June, the second 1953, a young woman, Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor, aged 25 years old, married with two children, later to be known as “The Queen” took the on the most challenging and arduous job; when she solemnly swore the Coronation Oath and become the fortieth British monarch, since William the Conqueror and custodian of a thousand-year-old institution, sometimes referred to as “The Family Firm”.
She has served The Firm well and has worked successfully at the job for more than forty years; maintaining an impeccable record of adherence to duty and winning the admiration and respect of people all around the world for these qualities, above even her royal status. Even those who consider the monarchy an irrelevant and anachronistic institution, cannot fault The Queen’s work performance; and although in recent years she has faced serious family crises and an onslaught of critical media and public scrutiny and in her own words “An annus horibilis”, she still remains an enigmatic figure, at once distant, yet very familiar and the embodiment of traditional values and consistence in a world of change.
If we were to dispense with the pomp and pageantry and royal aura, which surround The Queen, it may not be surprising to find that we are still left with the compelling fascinating persona of a strong, courageous, confident and capable woman.
She has been a working mother and wife (long before it was fashionable, or acceptable) and has managed to balance the burdens of a demanding job, with raising a family and maintaining a private life. Something which many working women are still trying to tackle.
She has managed to give the Monarchy, a dignified, but human face; providing a role model of family life and what some observers interpret as “unpretentious middle-class values”. She is the greatest public relations figure for her nations and subjects; completely professional and as adept at receiving world leaders, as in mingling with the common folk, in her famous “walkabouts”
She has tremendous political knowledge and is one of the most experienced heads of state. During her reign she has received 9 Prime Ministers: Winston Churchill, Anthony Eden, Harold MacMillan, Ale Douglas-Hume, Harold Wilson, Edward Heath, James Callaghan, Margaret Thatcher and John Major.
Every Tuesday evening, The Prime Minister visits and briefs The Queen on current affairs and matters of State. She has done this for four decades. as well as a host of other official obligations and duties. She must sign every act of parliament, before it can become law; and in a daily routine which starts at 8:00 a.m. each morning, she is presented with her “boxes” and must sort through them and address large amounts of official correspondence, as well as some personal letters.
To come down with the flu, or any illness and take a day off could cause great disappointment to those expecting a scheduled visit. So, to avoid sick leave, or absenteeism. She must be disciplined in her habits and must maintain her health and stamina to cope with the physical and mental strains of her job.
She must always do and say the right thing and is briefed on every detail of her visit and programme; knowing who she will meet; what she will do and the protocol involved. In the course of her duties, she has graciously received and put at ease an endless array of strangers.
She has faced danger to her person and family; starting from when she was an adolescent at thirteen, when World War 11 broke out and her home was a target for bombing; through the assassination of her kinsman Lord Louis Mountbatten in 1979; to the incident in 1981, when a young man jumped through the crowd, during The Trooping The Colour and fired six shots (which later turned out to be blanks) directly at her. Amid the panics and screams of onlookers, the young man was apprehended. The Queen remained seated on her horse, with remarkable control and courage and gave permission for the procession to continue.
Some may say that The Queen was born and raised for her job and that she did not earn it through a process of promotion. She was in fact, the daughter of a king, who was not raised to be King; but who did not shirk his responsibility, when his older brother abdicated. The Queen was then ten years old and proved to be no shirker herself; when later on World War 11 broke out and she requested a commission in the Auxiliary Territorial Service , as a Mechanical Transport Driver.
She was privately educated and given training, with a bias towards the study of Government, Imperial Affairs and Constitutional History.
During her reign, she has witnessed the dismantling of the largest empire on Earth and has expressed keen interest in the continuity and future of the Commonwealth, despite the misgivings of others.
It is a well-known fact that she is a first-class horsewoman, loves her Corgis and enjoys relaxing in the company of her family on weekends and on vacations.
It is perhaps now obvious to the readers of this column , that I have been researching The Queen’s Life and work; and am among those, who admires her. Not for all the glories of her office and status, but as a remarkable woman of our times; who has brought excellence to her job and continues to inspire people al over the world to ideals of dignity, pride and service.
May I take this opportunity to wish Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth the Second , a most warm and pleasant reception in Jamaica on the occasion of her fifth historical visit.
IN RECOGNITION, RESPECT AND THANKS FOR THE LIFE AND GREAT SERVICE OF HER MAJESTY QUEEN ELIZABETH 11
IN 1994, I wrote an article titled “The Working Queen” on the occasion of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth’s fifth historic visit to Jamaica. It was no secret then, as it is no secret now, that I am an admirer of The Queen and will continue to be, as I have been in her living years and at the hour of her death and beyond. I have republished that article on my website www.jobsandcareersjamaica.com and Facebook page, in homage and respectful, remembrance of The Queen, but I also wanted to give a current and heartfelt recognition and tribute to this remarkable woman, much respected Queen and exemplary Servant Leader.
I never met The Queen, but saw her on several of her visits to Jamaica, at relatively close range, both as a youngster and as an adult. My interest and lasting admiration of The Queen was piqued and developed, due to some fortuitous situations. I was born in 1953 the year that she was crowned, to a beloved mother Hilda Marie Hamilton, who greatly respected and admired her Majesty, up to her own death last year at the age of ninety-seven. Indeed, she was a contemporary of the Queen and only one year older than the Queen herself, at the time of her passing. My mother lived more than half of her life during the colonial period, before Independence and was a great admirer of Norman Manley, but still maintained a sincere love and respect for the Queen, which she shared with me.
The first school I attended was the Queen’s School; an all-girls, Anglican High School which was founded in 1954 and named in her honour, a year after her coronation. Our emblem was the Tudor Rose and we sat in classrooms, in a row known as “The Beast Block” with symbols of the Heraldic Beasts on the doors. Our Motto was: “Virtute et Sapientia Floreat”, which translated from Latin into English is: “May she flourish in virtue and wisdom”
I always saw the Queen as a woman of virtue and wisdom, not because of her royal status, or high office, but because even as a youngster I discerned a pure spiritual beauty, kindness and intelligence, which emanated from her; in her eyes, her smile and her gracious, meaningful gestures. Though she bore herself regally and was met with a sense of awe for being “Her Majesty the Queen,” she managed to convey a genuine affection for people, connect with them in a warm, familiar way and won respect through her serenity, dignity and natural grace. These observations have been borne out by what I have researched and read about The Queen from biographers and from the accounts of ordinary people and people from all walks of life, who met, or were presented to her in the course of carrying out their own duties, or encountered her by serendipity.
My first recollection of seeing The Queen at quite close range, was as a student. If my memory serves me well, I was lined up with other students of the Queen’s School, in our grey uniforms, red berets and blazors, on which we were wearing our Tudor Rose emblem. I cannot remember the year, but my recollection was that we were at the National Stadium and she was being driven around, inspecting rows of students from different schools, who were there to greet her. She must have noticed our outstanding uniforms, red berets and Tudor rose emblem, stopped and made some remarks, while we stood to attention. I felt very proud, especially, as I was a member of The Queen’s School and I am sure she had inquired and was told that the school was named un her honour. It was only a brief encounter, but to me it was as though time stood still and she was speaking directly to me. The last time I saw her Majesty in Jamaica, I was standing near Tom Redcam Library, with others who had turned out to see and greet her . As she was passing, she acknowledged our greeting with her distinctive royal wave. I was struck by her flawless skin, lovely sparkling eyes and beauty. The people, who like me, had lined up to see her, were cheering and shouting “God Save the Queen!” I remember as a humorous aside, that they were painting the side of the road white, only minutes before she drove by; and one little man noting that some police, including inspectors were on bicycles and motorbikes ahead of her motorcade, noted with glee : “Yes the Queen, put Yu back pon di road inna yu uniform” It was as much a comment poking a little fun at the officers, as it was an expression of pride in the occasion and the discipline and protocol required.
I think Jamaicans, who admired the Queen then, as I they do now, saw something special that went beyond the fact that she was “The Queen” and our Head of State; by virtue of the fact that the leaders of our Independence Norman Manley and Alexander Bustamante opted for us to remain a Westminster model parliamentary democracy after gaining Independence. As a constitutional monarch she has never interfered in our political process, but has given us a sense of stability and continuity, especially during our fledging years as a nation and the turbulence of our political upheavals in the seventies. Not everyone may see it this way, but for me she represented something above partisan politics and self-interest, as she did for her own country of birth and the United Kingdom and Realms she served, right up to her death.
I will not try to take on her detractors in this tribute, save to say that even they can, or should be able to see the special qualities of leadership and humanity, she brought to her role; the respect she commanded worldwide because of her unwavering and demonstrated sense of duty; her ability to connect with her subjects of all ages, races and creeds and the simplicity and servant leadership that were hallmarks of her royal service; often using them to deal with complex situations and bring members and leaders of her Nation, Realms and the Commonwealth together to find common ground and opportunities for collaboration. Great Leaders like Nelson Mandela, Barack Obama, Jamaica’s own Norman Manley and Bustamante, Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi and countless others expressed their respect for her, because of these qualities.
Narendra Modi Prime Minister of India had this to say on her passing
“I had memorable meetings with Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II during my UK visits in 2015 and 2018. I will never forget her warmth and kindness. During one of the meetings, she showed me the handkerchief Mahatma Gandhi gifted her on her wedding. I will always cherish that gesture”
Her exemplary dignity, integrity and virtue have been acclaimed worldwide and made her one of the most revered, respected and influential leaders of all time. Yet she was never intrusive, never defensive and simply got on with her duties, even in the face of criticisms and attacks against her royal person and office. Her mantra: “Don’t complain, don’t explain” helped to keep her above the fray and confrontations; and out of the reach of petty people, mischief makers, critics, anti-monarchists and political activists. She was never in denial however and knew just what was going on, with perhaps more insights into world leaders, world affairs and diverse personalities and characters, more than anyone else on earth. The sovereign who reigned for seventy years (the longest serving in British History) had no doubt seen it all; having met and advised 15 Prime Ministers and 13 out of the last 14 US Presidents, numerous Commonwealth and world leaders, statemen, kings and queens, royals and ordinary men, women and children, from all over the world. Not to be forgotten is that she started and carried out her role as a working queen, while also being a wife and mother, at a time when few women held high office, or were called to meet the challenge of balancing both a private and public role.
Our own Prime Minister, Andrew Holness and many of our young leaders, were not even born, when The Queen ascended the throne and are relatively recent players, or students on the stage of history. No matter what their views, especially in their contemplations and plans towards becoming republics or engaging their constituents, they would do well to take a leaf from the Queen’s book and learn from her example of respect for people of all walks of life and those she led; and her wise disposition to listen, learn, lead with humility and practice servant leadership. Indeed, often signing her name: Your Servant Elizabeth.
In her biography of the Queen titled “Elizabeth” biographer, Sarah Bradford starts her first chapter “Destiny” with a quote from a televised interview with The Queen in which Her Majesty was quoted verbatim, as follows:
“In a way I didn’t have an apprenticeship, my father died much too young – It was all very sudden, kind of taking on and making the best job you can. It’s a question of just maturing into what you’re doing and accepting that here you are and its your fate. I think continuity is very important. It’s a job for life”
She was a young wife of twenty-five years old and mother of two children, when she was thrust into the role of Monarch, on the death of her Father; and so, her life’s work (career) began without a period of apprenticeship, or in-depth training for the role. So, we might well ask: How did she make it as a working mother, wife and queen and leave such as successful mark on history?
I only recently came to recognise, what I believe was her secret for success. Quite apart from being endowed with a kind and thoughtful personality and the humility to listen, learn and lead; she was a spiritual woman, who believed deeply that she was ordained by God to serve and to honour her coronation oath (which she took seriously) an to do so to the best of her ability, with Christlike love, devotion and servant leadership.
In an age, when it is not popular and often politically incorrect to talk about faith and conviction, the Queen did so anyway, without preaching to us, or dividing us by religious dogma, or challenging other religious views. She simply professed her faith in thought, word and deed and made it clear that her life was founded on and guided by spiritual principles. This I believe was her source of serenity, strength, courage, commitment, love and self-less service.
But what have I said in this tribute that many have not said before and in the many expressions and outpouring of love, respect honour and gratitude for her life and service? Perhaps that is the very point: that the narrative of her life and work has been consistent; and this is borne out over and over, by multitudes of people from all walks of life, who all have similar testaments that speak of this remarkable woman, servant leader and monarch, who “long reigned over us” and won our love, respect and gratitude.
I therefore wish to express my personal thanks and say (what I also wrote in the Official Book of Condolences, in Jamaica, at Kings House:
“Well done thou Good and faithful servant” Thank you and Thank God for your life of exemplary service and love.
“ May angels sing thee to thy rest and may your example and good works live on in your heirs and all whose lives you touched”