The end of an era: Queen Elizabeth II

The passing of Queen Elizabeth II after 70 years on the throne is extraordinary in some ways. Certainly she could not go on forever; but few alive today remember a time when she was not Queen of England – and, incidentally, Queen of New Zealand among a few other places – and she was one of the world’s longest-lasting heads of state.

Furthermore, her endurance, dedication, steadiness and professionalism have been exceptional symbols of what surely must count, historically, as Britain’s second Elizabethan age. At a time of remarkable turbulence in world affairs, and when the British Empire was winding itself up, she provided a steady hand on the tiller as head of Britain’s government. Symbolic in a way, yes. But she was practical and, by all accounts, both well-informed and wise. She was also able to subtly reform the monarchy, modernise it, and recapture the respect and love of a devoted nation after the low point of the 1990s.

Photo I took of H.M. Queen Elizabeth II in Napier, New Zealand, late February 1986, on Fujicolour 100 asa stock. Unfortunately she didn’t offer me an OBE.

Despite heading out to see the Queen when she and Prince Philip visited my home town in 1986 – where I snapped the picture above during the royal walkabout, as I recall by leaning out of the crowd in an annoying fashion (thus probably doing in my chances of an OBE) – I am not particularly a monarchist. But that doesn’t stop me having the utmost respect for someone who devotes their life to their work and fulfils it with such consummate professionalism and care. think she will go down in history as one of Britain’s greatest monarchs – if not the greatest, by virtue of her steady and careful approach. She did not put a foot wrong.

And now Britain, the Commonwealth and – by practical measure – the world enters a new age.

The Queen is dead. Long live the King.

How I got the Queen’s portrait on the New Zealand Series 7 $20

Back in 2013 I was working at the Reserve Bank of New Zealand, in communications. New banknotes, Series 7, were being developed. I got the job of reporting on the copyright status of the imagery used on the banknotes and raised the issue of updating the picture of the Queen, then on the Series 6 $20. It happened that the Reserve Bank Museum (which I’d helped develop) had an official Diamond Jubilee portrait of the monarch taken specifically for New Zealand, wearing her New Zealand honours. ‘Why not use that one?’ I suggested. ‘Or find out if the palace has one they’d prefer’.

The idea went down well with colleagues, including the team organising the images on the new series, and I got the job of implementing the request – it had to go first to Phil O’Shea, New Zealand’s long-standing Herald at Arms and liaison with the monarchy. Something got slightly lost in translation and it was received as a request to use that particular picture. The Queen thought it was a good idea and conveyed the message that she particularly liked that photograph.

Her approval didn’t come with an OBE or anything like that (it’s unlikely I’ll ever be burdened with a gong) but it was, to me, an example of the consumate professionalism that was such a feature of Britain’s second Elizabethan age.

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2022

One thought on “The end of an era: Queen Elizabeth II

  1. After the sacking of the Whitlam government, I’ve been against the idea of a foreign ‘head of state’ with powers /above/ those of any duly elected Australian. I wish it were possible to remain a part of the Commonwealth AND keep our current form of government but without a Governor General. Sadly, the only alternative seems to be a republic, but the only examples seem to be pretty awful. Anyway, we have entered a new era. Let’s hope it’s a good one.

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