Gibraltarians mourn their Queen
News of the Queen’s death on Thursday night was deeply felt in Gibraltar.
We have grown up with the Queen as our monarch and head of state, both as individuals and as a community forging a modern identity over the past seven decades.
Young or old, monarchist or republican, few could fail to acknowledge Queen Elizabeth’s remarkable life and reign, her sense of duty and dedication to her country and her people.
Amid the flux and, often, turmoil of politics and current affairs in the UK and the wider world over 70 years, she was a figurehead that transcended party politics and provided stability and continuity rooted in discipline and tradition, but also in personal experience, wisdom and discretion.
Vice Admiral Sir David Steel, the Governor of Gibraltar, described her as “a beacon of hope and kindness” not just in the UK and Commonwealth, but around the globe.
In the Queen, a 96-year-old woman who served her country selflessly throughout her life, we could all find inspiration and a role model.
She was often described as the “nation’s granny”, but it was easy to forget that she was a real granny too, and a mother and great grandmother.
As the world mourns her death, we must remember too that a family is grieving the loss of a loved one.
But she was also the head of the British family, and in Gibraltar, with our history of complex, often troubled relations with our nearest neighbour, that perhaps resonated deeper than in many other places.
This community has repeatedly reasserted its wish to remain British, and it was Queen Elizabeth II, whose reign spanned two generations of Gibraltarians, who embodied those values and institutions that we have made our own, and which we wish to maintain even as we carve out a new, more positive post-Brexit relationship with Spain and the wider EU.
For many Gibraltarians, she personified Britain.
Queen Elizabeth visited Gibraltar just once in her lifetime, in 1954, and it was a visit that drew an angry response from Spain and was a key element in the lead-up to the border closure in 1969.
But that visit also remains seared in the collective memory of this community, who since 1954 has yearned for her return.
Politics, alas, did not permit that, but to those who knew her, including Sir David, who once served as Her Majesty’s Aide-de-Camp, say she always kept a watchful eye on Gibraltar.
She herself said as much earlier this year.
When the Royal Gibraltar Regiment received its new colours at Windsor Castle last March, the flag was presented by Prince Edward, her youngest son.
But it had first been approved by the Queen, who watched the proceedings from a window overlooking the central courtyard in Windsor Castle.
When Prince Edward and his wife Sophie, the Earl and Countess of Wessex, later visited the Rock, Queen Elizabeth sent a message to the Gibraltarians.
In the year of her Platinum Jubilee, and just months before her death, she reaffirmed the close ties between Gibraltar and the Crown.
“Over the years I have watched Gibraltar prosper as a multi-cultural and multi-faith community, proud of its rich history while dynamic and forward looking,” Queen Elizabeth II said.
“In my Platinum Jubilee year, I am delighted that my son and daughter-in-law have the opportunity to visit Gibraltar again, and I am pleased that they will represent me at my Birthday Parade in Casemates Square, taking the salute of the Royal Gibraltar Regiment to whom Prince Edward presented new colours at Windsor earlier this year.”
“I am grateful for your continued allegiance and loyalty, and I am pleased to reaffirm the close ties that have existed for so long between the Crown and the people of Gibraltar.”
“My thoughts and prayers will remain with you for your future happiness and prosperity.”
Last night, Gibraltar’s thoughts and prayers were with the Royal family as we all mourned the loss of a unique woman whose life has left an indelible, positive and enduring legacy in this community.