A frequent observation of the past week has been that the Queen’s death came as a shock. Despite her advanced age and obvious frailty when appointing Liz Truss as PM, none of us expected a gentle handshake in Balmoral to be her last official act.
The constant presence of Her Majesty over the past seven decades seemed as firmly rooted as the thousands of red pillar boxes around the nation, carrying her initials cast in iron. She seemed a permanent fixture, until suddenly she was not.
We must all now adjust to King Charles on the throne, a reworded national anthem, the prospect of new coins and stamps, and the gradual appearance of new regal initials on police badges and other official seals. HMRC and many other departments of state are suddenly renamed, beginning with ‘His Majesty’s’, as we unexpectedly find ourselves in the Carolean age (hastily learning that Carolus is the medieval Latin form of Charles).
Tributes to the Queen’s long life have arrived from all corners, including from the institutions and associations of the property sector.
One of Her Majesty’s greatest accomplishments must surely be the strength of the connection she forged in the minds of ordinary people around the world. The miles-long queues of those wishing to pay their final respects tells us how many felt a strong personal bond.
Of course, the Queen had a particular connection to the property sector. The Crown Estate, owned by the monarch, commands real estate assets worth £15.6bn at the last count, bringing in net profit of £312.7m. The phrase ‘pre-tax profit’ doesn’t apply, given that corporation and capital gains tax are not payable, with earnings sent to the Treasury and a proportion handed to the monarch.
The portfolio includes 10m sq ft in London, with the crown one of the West End’s largest property owners, holding assets around Regent Street and St James’s.
The late Queen was also associated with an incredibly long list of significant new buildings. As Simon Allford, president of the Royal Institute of British Architects, observed: “In her 70 years [on the throne], she personally opened (and reopened) an impressive list of buildings, with foundation stones and plaques recording her presence in almost every continent.”
Vast numbers of people have also taken comfort or inspiration from the annual Queen’s Speech at Christmas, with many listening together as a family.
Speaking in the Scottish Parliament earlier this week, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton singled out one particular Christmas broadcast, delivered in December 2016, in which the Queen relayed the words of the recently sainted Mother Teresa: “Not all of us can do great things,” the Queen recited, “but we can do small things with great love.”
As Cole-Hamilton observed: “The measure of [the Queen’s] example inspired so many of us to fulfil the promise of those words.”
In speeches to parliaments in Edinburgh and Westminster, King Charles has pledged to follow the Queen’s example in dutifully serving the country and its people. The rest of us can try to follow her advice, and simply do whatever we do as well as we are able.