‘She’s always been the queen’: Locals with British ties reflect on Elizabeth II’s legacy
Richards said while most Brits were likely prepared for the eventuality of the 96-year-old’s passing, given recent health problems and her impressive longevity, the moment’s arrival is no less significant.
BRAINERD — People across the planet mourned the Thursday, Sept. 8, death of Queen Elizabeth II, the longest-serving British monarch whose reign spanned more than 70 years.
Dina Richards, a Brainerd native living in England, counts herself among them. From the Gravesend, Kent, home she shares with her English husband Chris, Richards said her social media feed is filled with friends posting tributes to the queen.
“It’s really strange. It’s like, I don’t quite think people really know how to even grasp it,” Richards said during a phone interview. “I would say the majority of people, not just here but probably around the world, have only known Queen Elizabeth as queen, you know? She’s always been the queen. … She’s been described here as ‘everyone’s nan’ — ‘everybody’s grandmother.’”
Richards said while most Brits were likely prepared for the eventuality of the 96-year-old’s passing, given recent health problems and her impressive longevity, the moment’s arrival is no less significant. Elizabeth’s son Prince Charles ascended the throne immediately upon her death, becoming King Charles III. Britain’s national anthem will become “God Save the King” and currency and stamps will be changed to feature Charles’ portrait.
“When we listened to the new prime minister’s speech tonight, she was very, very pragmatic about it. She said, yes, we loved her and she will be missed, but you know, because the way our system works, we are now under King Charles III, which sounds even weird for me to say,” Richards said.
Richards is optimistic about Charles assuming the monarchy, noting she admires his longtime charity work and feels he may be the most down-to-earth member of the royal family to sit on the throne.
“He’s probably dealt with more regular people than any royal ever has,” she said. “So I think he’s going to do well. … I’m hopeful about Charles. I really am. But I think it’s gonna take a while before people get used to it.”
Richards said she thinks the queen’s diplomacy skills will live on in people’s memories as one of her most admirable qualities — someone who was a constant figure for Brits over the decades as momentous world events took place around her.
“It’s this continuity to the country — no matter what else happened, through the ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s, ‘80s, ‘90s, everything, she was there,” she said. “And all the things recently, with COVID and everything, it just seemed like the world was falling apart but still, she was there. … She was just like this glue that held the whole country together through everything.”
Terry McCollough, former Dispatch publisher, has a family that hails from Ireland and England. His mother lived in Belton Village in the English Midlands. Born in England, McCollough had dual citizenship.
Thursday afternoon, he noted Queen Elizabeth’s speech on her 21st birthday when she dedicated her life, whether it be long or short, to the people of the British Commonwealth. It was that service and sense of duty, through so many years and standing fast through World War ll, that made such an impression. Through changing times, the queen remained a constant and devoted to a life of service. McCollough said she was surely her father’s daughter.
“There will never be another one like her,” McCollough said. “What a remarkable woman.”
Richards saw the queen in person once when attending the Beating Retreat in London, a celebration of military music and precision drill featuring a horse parade and royal pageantry. As a former high school marching band member, Richards said it was a neat experience made even neater by Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip driving right next to her and Chris, waving from the backseat.
And of course, Richards said, the queen’s fashion sensibilities were unmatched with her brightly colored ensembles and signature hats.
“She did have a cool fashion sense, I always thought,” she said. “Everything matched perfectly all the time. And I don’t think anybody can pull it off like she did, honestly.”
CHELSEY PERKINS, community editor, may be reached at 218-855-5874 or
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