Today I, and millions like me around the UK, woke up for the first time to a world where the Queen was not presiding over our nation.
For 70 years, she provided continuity, stability and a sense of well-being to our nation. Now, seemingly without warning, the landscape has shifted in a way which has disorientated us profoundly. I am sure many feel like I do – bereft and a little lost as we arrive suddenly at a time we knew would come but for which we were not remotely prepared.
It is not an exaggeration to say that the Queen was more than a head of state – over the years she gradually became the mother of our nation. When times were hard or scary, we turned to her, as we would to a parent, and she would be there with sensible, reassuring words, based on her many years of experience.
We can look back at a reign during which she counselled 15 Prime Ministers from Winston Churchill to Liz Truss. As a young monarch, she was there as we recovered from war - a world of rations and bomb-sites. She saw us through the Cold War and the Cuban Missile Crisis; through the industrial unrest and Northern Ireland troubles of the 70s; through recession and the Falklands War of the 80s, through her own family’s tragedy in the 90s; and in the past two decades through war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the financial crisis and latterly the pandemic.
In the midst of the first Covid lockdown, she reassured us that eventually our lives would return to normal - that we would once again be reunited with our friends and families. At time of trouble she made us feel better.
As a young Jewish girl growing up, the Queen punctuated our Shabbat. No service was complete without the prayer for the Royal Family and she repaid us by being a wonderful Queen for the Jewish community.
Due to its longevity and influence the Board of Deputies is considered a “privileged body” with the ability to petition Her Majesty for an audience. My predecessor, Vivian Wineman, had occasion to do this in 2012 when the Queen celebrated her Diamond Jubilee. Vivian was delighted to be able to personally present Her Majesty with a celebratory greeting.
The Queen held a Palace reception in 2006 to celebrate the 350th anniversary of the resettlement of the Jewish community in this country in 1656 following the 1290 expulsion of the Jews. She has also carried out engagements for Norwood and the Council of Christians and Jews, two charities of which she was patron. And in 1997, she unveiled a monument to Raoul Wallenberg, which was attended by President Ezer Weizman, as part of his state visit.
We know that King Charles will continue this wonderful legacy. We were honoured to have him as guest of honour at a dinner to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the Board of Deputies. And in 2019, he called on the Board to help him in staging a reception to honour the Jewish community at Buckingham Palace. It was a telling sign of the high regard with which the Jewish community is held by the Queen and the entire Royal Family.
There are many things we will miss about our Queen. Perhaps the greatest of these was her utter reliability. Her moral compass was strong and true. She would always have the appropriate words for an occasion.
She lived her life as a devoted daughter, mother and wife, regardless of her duties to her country. We loved her wisdom, her unfussy ability to get things done, as well as the mischievous sense of fun she displayed – usually when the cameras were trained elsewhere.
We will remember the Queen with love, with affection and with great respect. May her memory be a blessing.
Marie van der Zyl is president of the Board of Deputies.