The Life and Death of Queen Elizabeth II. Reading Comprehension.
Read this text about the life and death of the Queen Elizabeth II of England and answer the questions below to check vocabulary comprehension.
Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor, better known as Queen Elizabeth II, died peacefully at her Scottish residence Balmoral. Her passing marks the end of an era not just for Britain and the Commonwealth but the whole world, which changed so much during her reign. Between when Elizabeth took the throne aged just 25 and her death at 96 she saw the premierships of 14 American Presidents, 15 British Prime Ministers as well countless other heads of state. She was described as bringing a sense of consistency and stability to the world as she reigned over politics ostensibly without partiality or favour. Her reign of 70 years makes her the longest serving monarch in British history and the only royal that most Britons have ever known on the throne. Appearing on everything from currency to stamps, she is quite literally the face of Britain and a fundamental part of British identity.
Elizabeth was born in London in 1926, eldest daughter of parents who would go on to become King George VI and Queen Elizabeth following the abdication of King Edward the VII. Elizabeth was mother to four royal children. Charles, the first born and heir to the throne, became a divisive figure in Britain. Often considered to be an eccentric, famous for talking to plants, Charles’ popularity was diminished by his divorce from his first wife Diana, who had become an enormously popular figure in Britain (perhaps due to the fact that she seemed somewhat more relatable than the rest of the royal family). Charles and Diana’s children, the princes William and Harry would go on to become the faces of the next generation of the family. The royal grandchildren showed, relative to the rest of their family, a level of expertise in navigating life in the public eye and communicating with the public while keeping the more sensationalist elements of the press at a distance. Elizabeth’s second oldest, Princess Anne was famous for her equestrian pursuits, even winning gold and silver medals in European horse-riding championships and competing in the Olympic Games. The second youngest of the royal children was Andrew, who despite a career in the British Navy, became a focus of scandals following his divorce and accusations of inappropriate sexual behaviour. The youngest, Prince Edward leads the most private life of all of his siblings, preferring to avoid the glare of publicity.
Perhaps most remarkable during her reign, was the decline and end of the British Empire. At the time of her coronation, the British Empire was unrivalled in scale. Such was its global spread that it was often said that “the sun never sets on the British Empire”. By the time she died, Britain had no empire to speak of, but retained a handful of small “overseas territories”, generally islands, around the world.
As soon as she became Queen, Elizabeth and her husband Phillip set about on a tour of 13 primarily previously colonial countries to establish herself as head of a “Commonwealth“ which she said “bears no resemblance to the empires of the past”. This position in the commonwealth was to mark a change in perspective for Britain and a route to finding its new role in a world in flux. That is not to say that during this time Britain was not involved in strife. War with Argentina in the Falklands and violence related to Northern Ireland were notable conflicts, as were subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The role and place of the monarchy in general also changed enormously in Elizabeth’s reign. The royal family saw their popularity dwindle and become increasingly controversial, rocked by a series of scandals: The family’s reaction to the death of Diana left a bad impression on the public, many of whom saw the royals as out of touch and unfeeling. The extent to which the British taxpayer should fund the royal family created much debate about the value of and need for a monarchy at all.
Further scandals regarding accusations of racism towards an expected royal baby and Andrew’s involvement with notorious sex offender Jeffrey Epstein did much to undo the public relations efforts that had been done by Elizabeth’s grandchildren and other younger members of the family.
Having lived such a long and storied life, it is unsurprising that there is no real consensus on who she was, either as an avatar or as a real person. To many she was a sovereign icon, to others a colonialist and oppressor. To many British citizens she represents a calming matriarchal figure, who lived her whole life in the public eye, yet fought to keep herself somewhat distant and impartial. To international spectators she may be an experienced diplomat, travelling far and wide to secure Britain’s place in the world and to readers of celebrity magazines she may be a good humoured grandmother with a bold taste in hats and handbags and a penchant for corgis. The reality is that being at the intersection of so many historic events and debates means that Elizabeth was likely all of this and more, being simultaneously a person and an icon, but also embodying a role.
Perhaps it will only be possible to see Elizabeth clearly at some future time, through the lens of history. The changes caused by her passing will be, as much as anything, a reflection of who she was. The reaction of people all over the world will reflect their perception of this multifaceted woman and her relevance.
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