Queen Elizabeth II as Matriarch and Symbol
In the world at large, the great news this week has been of the passing of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. Why is this a matter of such importance to us all?
Queen Elizabeth II has been a constant presence in our world for the entire seventy years of her reign. Perhaps we are only now becoming conscious of that reality as we face the final end of all the different forms of her presence. For those of us who live in Canada, or other Commonwealth countries or of course in Great Britain she has been a quiet but continual presence on all our money, our postage stamps, her various addresses and visits in connection with Parliament and our armed forces and in so many other aspects of our public life.
Whether you’re an ardent monarchist or the most fervent republican who ever walked the face of the earth, it’s hard to deny just how much influence Queen Elizabeth II has had as a public figure. As Great Britain, the Commonwealth and the world gets ready to mark her passing, it’s important to make ourselves aware of the remarkable symbolic power she has exerted. In addition to her remarkable personal life, Queen Elizabeth II, as sovereign, participates in what Jungians would call archetypal reality. As a female sovereign, she resonates with deep unconscious aspects of our human experience.
A Stable Presence
Queen Elizabeth II has been an ongoing presence in the fabric of our lives for over seventy years. Through all the enormous life changes which we have all experienced during that time, the Queen has been a stable, positive voice. Regardless of the ups and downs of our collective life, many found the Queen to be a reliable, strong female leader, which is still not a very common experience, even in our “woke” 2020’s era.
The Queen constantly displayed those stable characteristics throughout a great many struggles and vicissitudes in her personal life, something admired by very many people. Queen Elizabeth II had an incredibly strong sense of commitment to her role, which was a very reassuring presence to many throughout her reign. This was embodied in her phenomenal sense of discretion. As Tina Brown wrote in the New York Times,
How we will miss not knowing what she thought! In a time when everyone has opinions, the queen adhered to the discipline of never revealing hers.
Taken in combination with all the symbolism associated with the monarchy, this sense of permanence and stability takes very deep root in our psyche. The Crown jewels, with their abundance of diamonds, those nearly indestructible gems, and all the ancient ceremony associated with rulers from the distant past is meant to connect us to the reality that the monarch is part of something that is an ongoing, timeless reality.
The Impact of the Death of the Monarch
Given this strong sense of permanence and stability, and the impressive way that Queen Elizabeth II embodied this as she carried the Crown, what is the impact when such a monarch dies? Not surprisingly, there is a very deep sense of loss.
For many, the news of the death of the Queen has a deep sense of unreality. Most of us currently alive have never known any other monarch than the Queen. How can someone who has such a presence in our world suddenly be gone? It takes our psyche some time to let in this reality.
When we do begin to let it in, perhaps we find ourselves confronting a deep sense of grief and loss. There is an absence where there once was a vibrant presence. We may resist this reality, and we may even deny that it is a loss or that it has an emotional impact. Yet it affects us both consciously and unconsciously.
Loss, Change, Transition
In our society’s reaction to the death of Queen Elizabeth II, we find some of the key characteristics of how we experience grief and loss, change, and the process of transitioning to new realities. There are deep psychic processes involved when we face the loss of something that has seemed to us to be permanent, even—or perhaps especially—if we have never realized that we felt that they were something permanent in our lives.
The process of grieving the loss of those we love or processing change to things that we feel are deeply important in our lives, is a fundamental part of our journey as human beings. Very often, it plays a key role in the process of /a-midlife-transition, especially in a Jungian context. When processed in a self-compassionate way that is aware of the deep psychological forces involved, in the company of a supportive analyst, it can lead us to a deeper sense of what is permanent and reliable in our lives.
CBC Gem has a documentary on the symbolism of the Crown jewels and the ceremony of the Queen’s coronation that is very revealing as to the use of precious jewels