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Remembering Her Majesty The Queen

Written by
Image of Hilary McGrady
Hilary McGradyDirector-General, National Trust
National Trust Director General-Hilary McGrady wears black and sits at a table signing a condolence book, with a photo of Her Late Majesty The Queen smiling in a pale blue hat and coat
Director-General Hilary McGrady signing the condolence book for Her Late Majesty The Queen at Sizergh, Cumbria | © National Trust Images/Annapurna Mellor

In recent days and weeks we have all been trying to come to terms with the news of The Queen's passing. It feels intensely personal, but also part of a shared history that we’re living through together.

Constancy, service and duty

Her Majesty leaves a deep impression on our everyday lives; her presence was a point of constancy in our fast-changing world. I have heard from a lot of staff, volunteers and members in recent days about their sense of loss and their personal reflections on Her Majesty’s reign.

We can take inspiration from Her Majesty’s deep sense of duty and service. These virtues inspire our public life every day and I see this across the Trust in our great tradition of volunteering, of welcoming and serving others, and working hard for a common purpose.

Reflecting on the second Elizabethan age

Many have also reflected on the extraordinary span of time and change that The Queen led us through.

The second Elizabethan age has been a momentous period, during which the United Kingdom has seen widespread change and transformation. Her Majesty's reign encompassed the space race and the birth of the internet, Sir Winston Churchill's last premiership and our first female Prime Minister.

Much of this change can be seen through the places now in the care of the National Trust, many of them visited by Her Majesty.

On Coronation Day in 1953, Sir Paul McCartney had yet to move into 20 Forthlin Road. The Birmingham Back to Backs were still a thriving community – and the debate about the future of the country house was very much still live.

Her Majesty The Queen, followed by The Duke of Edinburgh, waves to visitors, with the pillared rock formations of the Giant's Causeway and the sea behind them
Her Majesty The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh at Giant's Causeway, County Antrim, Northern Ireland in 2016 | © National Trust/Brian Morrison

Landmarks of a long reign

It's possible to chart landmarks of the era through the places now cared for by National Trust staff and volunteers. Divis, in Belfast, is now open for all to enjoy – a testament to the Good Friday Agreement, as well as cross-community working in Northern Ireland. The Cold War structures on Orford Ness in Suffolk are no longer in use, although Russia of course looms large today in foreign policy.

Over The Queen’s reign we have seen significant shifts in land use, with growing cities and major changes in the way we farm. These in turn have shaped our landscapes and increased pressure on our natural world, and a growing environmental movement has responded.

Large stretches of England, Wales and Northern Ireland’s coastline are now protected for everyone thanks to our long-running fundraising campaign Operation Neptune, which had the Duke of Edinburgh as its senior patron. The 21st-century response to climate change is also reflected in the dozens of buildings in the Trust’s care now powered by clean energy, rather than coal or oil.

We have seen so much progress. Changes to who we are as a nation and how we live, from healthcare to the world of work. We’ve seen huge advances in technology, enabling instant communication and connection – as I’ve enjoyed from reading your emails and social media comments in recent days. We’ve also seen the power of mass engagement – people wanting to get involved and make a difference, be that picking up a pen or planting a tree.

Her Majesty The Queen and Runnymede

The Queen’s funeral cortege passed through the National Trust site of Runnymede in Surrey. It is a place long intertwined with the story of our monarchy, as Her Majesty herself reflected while on a visit there to mark the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta in 2015.

Her final journey becomes another profoundly significant moment in Runnymede’s history, and in the history of the United Kingdom.

When we are ready, we will look to the next chapter; our greatest wishes go to our new King. But for now, we reflect on Her Majesty’s remarkable reign.

A rugged coastline in summer with a calm sea

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