Hail to the Queen

Hail to the Queen has been a familiar refrain in Virginia for in the 70-year reign of Queen Elizabeth II she visited the Commonwealth of Virginia more than any other state. After all, the designation of Virginia as a Commonwealth stems from the fact that the Virginia colony was part of the British Empire before declaring its independence in 1776. And Virginia was named for Queen Elizabeth I who was known as the Virgin Queen.

Two of the four trips that brought the Queen to the Commonwealth stemmed from her appreciation of the 1607 landing of Englishmen at Jamestown. In October 1957 she came to Jamestown for the 350th anniversary of the English landing at Jamestown Island. In addition to visiting Jamestown, she visited the College of William and Mary whose name is of course taken from British royalty. She stayed overnight at the Williamsburg Inn located in Colonial Williamsburg which was the capital of the royal colony of Virginia.

Fifty years later she returned to Virginia for the Jamestown 400th anniversary. On this trip, she stopped first in Richmond where she visited the Capitol and spoke to a Joint Session of the General Assembly. I was honored to be present in the audience for that speech. While her presence was truly impressive with all that goes with royalty, I was most impressed with what she had to say. While she talked about the white English settlers, she gave equal time to the legacy of Jamestown that included the enslaved people and the indigenous people in the colony. You can view her speech at https://youtu.be/ohBwWM-Yue0

In July 1976 Queen Elizabeth II visited Virginia on her trip to celebrate the U.S. Bicentennial. Among her stops in the Commonwealth were Monticello and the University of Virginia, the home of and the university founded by the brash Virginian Thomas Jefferson who in the Declaration of Independence had some not-very-nice things to say about one of her predecessors, George III. Queen Elizabeth's grandmother, Queen Mary, was royal by birth; her great-grandfather was King George III. In May 1991 Queen Elizabeth II visited the White House and on that trip set foot back in Virginia by visiting Arlington National Cemetery.

Those who study the history of the Commonwealth of Virginia will miss her periodic appearances in our midst and her keen observations of the meaning of our joint history even until her death. Her steady presence, calm demeanor and unflappable manner were sources of inspiration and hope throughout the world. King Charles III has an incredibly big role to step into. He will not be able to match her style, but hopefully he has learned from her good sense. No one would design a government with a constitutional monarchy; only a reading of history can help one understand why they continue to exist. Those who hold positions that replaced the monarchy could do well to learn from Elizabeth II on bringing people together. She earned the respectful salutation, Hail to the Queen!


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