Congressman Griffith's Weekly E-Newsletter 9.12.22
Queen Elizabeth II: Icon of Britain, Friend of America
Monday, September 12, 2022 | Kevin Baird (202-225-3861)
The end of the life and reign of Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom truly marks the change of an era in world history.
The span of her reign alone guaranteed her a place in history. When she came to the throne in 1952, the UK’s Prime Minister was Winston Churchill. He said on the occasion, “I, whose youth was passed in the august, unchallenged and tranquil glories of the Victorian Era, may well feel a thrill in invoking, once more, the prayer and the Anthem, ‘God Save the Queen!’”
Little could Churchill have imagined that “God Save the Queen” would be said and sung of the same woman for 70 years, or that the final Prime Minister of the Queen’s reign, Liz Truss, would be born in 1975, over a century after his birth.
She was not just a witness to the momentous events of her life and reign but a participant in many of them. With every gathering of veterans in our towns we can see the passing of the World War II generation, and with the Queen one more departs from us. This royal served the Allied cause as a mechanic in the women’s branch of the British Army. Her role in the war captured the spirit of service and humility with which she later approached her tasks as a monarch.
As the head of state of our closest ally, she was a guest of our country several times and a frequent host to our presidents. Virginia was fortunate to host her on four occasions. As the site of the first permanent English settlement in North America, Jamestown, our Commonwealth is a pivotal link in the Special Relationship between the United States and the United Kingdom.
Jamestown was the object of two of the Queen’s visits. The first was in 1957, also her first visit to the United States as Queen, to celebrate the colony’s 350th anniversary. The Queen and Prince Philip toured Jamestown, greeted a crowd estimated at 25,000, commemorated the Battle of Yorktown, and viewed an original copy of the Magna Carta in Williamsburg.
The Queen’s second visit to Jamestown was 50 years later in 2007 for its 400th anniversary. She began this trip to Virginia in Richmond, where I was honored as the Majority Leader of the House of Delegates to escort her to the chamber for a speech to a joint session of the General Assembly.
The Queen and Prince Philip subsequently visited Williamsburg and Jamestown again. While not her escort on this occasion, I was there along with my wife Hilary. Further, I was allowed to invite as my guests my English history professor from Emory & Henry, Gene Rasor, and his wife, Claire.
The Queen visited Charlottesville in 1976, touring the University of Virginia and Monticello. Thomas Jefferson famously denounced the Queen’s ancestor King George III in the Declaration of Independence and in turn was shunned by the King when he served as the American minister in London. The Queen’s visit to Jefferson’s home and the school he founded certainly shows how far the relationship between our countries had come.
Her other visit to Virginia came in 1991 at Arlington National Cemetery.
Also, one of the Queen’s great interests was horse racing, so she visited Kentucky for the Kentucky Derby. Before it became its own state, Kentucky was once part of Virginia.
The role of the Queen is highly symbolic, but symbolism is important. It is how we show what we treasure. In each of these visits, the symbolism emphasized the extensive shared heritage of our countries, even though we were at odds sometimes. It was the great fortune of the British people that they had someone for so long who was so committed and able to carry out the demands of the role. It was the great fortune of the American people to have had Queen Elizabeth II as a friend.
I offer my best wishes to the people of the United Kingdom and their new monarch, King Charles III. I join them in mourning the loss of an iconic figure in Queen Elizabeth II, a great patriot in her own country and a great friend to ours.
If you have questions, concerns, or comments, feel free to contact my office. You can call my Abingdon office at 276-525-1405, my Christiansburg office at 540-381-5671, or my Washington office at 202-225-3861. To reach my office via email, please visit my website at www.morgangriffith.house.gov. Also on my website is the latest material from my office, including information on votes recently taken on the floor of the House of Representatives.