May 12, 2014 17 Comments
I think it is mostly that we have had it too easy, and we have been encouraged to do only what is necessary, not what is right, or to do our duty. We, and our countries are much the poorer for it. We have often talked here about the generation that won World War II, and undoubtedly shall again. But their older brothers and fathers were perhaps of even sterner stuff. That generation that fought the Great War have nearly been forgotten, and they shouldn’t be. They may well have been the real ‘Greatest Generation’.
In truth the British casualties in the Great War compared to the population at somewhat less than 2 % wasn’t all that horrible, in the American Civil War the ratio was about 3.5% and many estimates of the English Civil War were about 4%. But soldiers come from the working class while in the Edwardian model, the officer corp came from the educated upper classes, and do remember the divide was much wider then than now. The British army lost roughly 12% of its effective soldiers, but and here is the kicker, it lost roughly 17% of its officers, Eton lost more than 1000 alumni, 20% of those who served.
Those men were leaders, who took their duties seriously, they died leading their men. They were quite likely the best of Britain, for instance UK wartime Prime Minister Herbert Asquith lost a son, while future Prime Minister Andrew Bonar Law lost two. Anthony Eden lost two brothers, another brother of his was terribly wounded, and an uncle was captured, Rudyard Kipling lost his only son. We’ve seen this before but let’s look at it again.
Noting as I have before that all three of them were convinced Jack wouldn’t return, and very aware that he could have honorably avoided field service, they all thought that it was his duty.
A hard word, duty is.
At the same time, a fourteen year old girl was helping her family prepare the family home for use as a convalescent hospital for wounded soldiers, and she too would lose a brother in the war, Fergus was killed at the Battle of Loos in 1915 and another brother was on the missing list before they found out he was a POW. Fergus’s death badly affected her mother and she picked up the slack, to the point of even keeping the house from burning down, with some help from the soldiers.
house castle of course, was Glamis and the girl was the Lady Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon. After the war she was one of the most famous and popular of debutantes. But she never in the course of a very long life, lost her bravery and her sense of duty. And we are far better off for it. Because she in fact married the King’s younger son, Prince Albert, and after the abdication in 1936 she became the queen.
And we very famously saw that sense of duty, now to the United Kingdom when she said, when it was suggested that the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret should be evacuated to Canada because of the threat of invasion,“The Princesses will never leave without me. I will not leave without the King and the King will never leave,” Of such attitudes are leaders made.
And her attitude never changed. The £ Daily Mail spoke of this saying:
Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother’s death was much like her life – full of dignity, grace and the minimum of fuss.
Right up to the end, she showed the same stoicism and pluck that she had displayed through thick and thin for more than a century.
Nothing typified her resiliance more than her insistence last month on travelling 100 miles by helicopter to her daughter Princess Margaret’s funeral. Despite weakness caused by persistent illness, she went against the Queen’s wishes to attend and hid her feelings behind the palm of her hand as she carried out the saddest duty of all – watching a child laid to rest.
For death was something that Queen Elizabeth had never feared. Her steadfast faith, learned at her mother’s knee and which had sustained her through the dark days of the abdication crisis, the Second World War and her husband, King George VI’s premature demise, kept as firm as ever as she prepared to meet her Maker.
Her bravery had always been legendary, shrugging off the excruciating pain that necessitated two hip replacements in her mid and late 90s and the constant discomfort of a leg ulcer that refused to heal. When most people half her age would have thrown in the towel, there she was going about her duties as if she had not a care in the world.
No one to whom she chatted had the slightest inkling of the effort behind the twinkling blue eyes and golden smile as she mingled charmingly among her people. Once in a blue moon, she did confess to occasionally getting slightly tired, but quickly added that the affection that she received from the people she met, from whatever walk of life they came, ‘recharges me, gives me back my strength’.
Queen Elizabeth was born in the reign of Queen Victoria on a summer day so hot that the tar melted on the roads and working horses had to wear straw hats. She was the ninth of Lord and Lady Glamis’s ten children and her arrival on August 4, 1900, prompted so little interest that her grandfather, the Earl of Strathmore, failed to note it in his daily diary.
I easily think we can all respect that as a life lived in duty to one’s people, and it would be a very good guide to those who think they should lead our peoples today. And yes, the title of this piece was one of her favorite mottoes.
I also think that I don’t say much more than the truth if I were to call her “The Queen Mother of the Free World” because her courage and steadfastness had very much to do with it being the Free World.