In 1953, my late grandfather — a stalwart Anglophile who worked as a chief clerk in a British shipping company in Singapore — brought my mother (who was then still a toddler) to the Singapore celebrations of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on the occasion of her coronation. Since then, family dinner conversations have often featured tales of the royal family, regaled with relish in a mix of Cantonese and English, but also somehow conveying an almost anachronistic sense of awe and reverence for the monarchy, especially the Queen and Prince Philip. Gradually, I also came to realise that everywhere in Singapore are vestiges of the British empire, intertwined with memories of personal and national significance: when my parents were dating, they used to stroll along Queen Elizabeth Walk to catch the sea breeze; early in life, they lived at Prince Philip Avenue; for many years I was also teaching right next to Princess Elizabeth Primary School. Every time I shared about the Commonwealth essay competitions with my students, I always felt an inexplicable sense of pride that they too could partake in a long and grand tradition that united them with all students across the Commonwealth family of nations.
With the passing of the Queen, it’s the end of an era. But now is not the time to debate the legacy of imperialism or the reasons for our post-colonial preoccupations with the monarchy. Now is the time to honour and remember the late Queen for who she was — a comforting and reassuring presence on the global stage, and a veritable symbol of grace and dignity whose lifetime of service will be fondly remembered and sorely missed by millions across the UK, the Commonwealth, and indeed the world. In the words of poet laureate Simon Armitage, “For generations we will not know such majesty.”
Farewell, Your Majesty: in the words of poet laureate Simon Armitage, yours was “a promise made and kept for life — that was your gift”. Thank you Ma’am — for everything.
𝐀𝐧 𝐎𝐫𝐜𝐡𝐢𝐝 𝐓𝐫𝐢𝐛𝐮𝐭𝐞
𝘍𝘰𝘳 𝘏.𝘔. 𝘵𝘩𝘦 𝘘𝘶𝘦𝘦𝘯
Eliding the gaze of winter, the redolence of majesty Lingers here, the gentle scent of grace and dignity Invoked by hardy Dendrobiums that crystallise the Zeitgeist of generations, all patiently queuing together— A glorious British tradition we too have inherited— Because the world mourns for you, a commonwealth Engendered by gratitude for a reign of devoted service, True to the very end, like petals of a towering spring Heralding your legacy—radiant, resplendent, blossoming.
Ow Yeong Wai Kit