When I was a 10-year-old in my cold English boarding school, I learned in History that ‘the sun never sets in the British Empire’.
It’s something that stayed with me when I first met the Queen, as a young girl in Buckingham Palace.
My father was there to receive a medal for his services to that British Empire.
Liberal deputy leader Sussan Ley says her father was a spy employed by the late Queen and the British Empire
He was an intelligence officer (spy) who worked for Queen and Country and had done his part to make the sun shine over Her Majesty’s vast empires, including Australia.
An empire on which the sun never sets is a phrase reserved for the great empires of world history.
The Persian tyrant Xerxes I coined the phrase before invading ancient Greece to expand his conquests and fighting the legendary King Leonidas and his 300 Spartans.
But it was not only the ancients and the British who laid claim to the world empire.
The Spaniards and the United States also participate.
In 1897, a magazine article titled “The Greatest Nation on Earth” boasted that the sun never sets on Uncle Sam.
Ms Ley writes that it is ‘absolutely right that we mark a historic moment’ such as the passing of the long-serving English monarch
But as the sun sets in the second Elizabethan era and we bid farewell to the beloved Queen Elizabeth II, what are we here in Australia to do with all this talk of Empires and Realms; of kings, queens and associates?
For in reality, this vast, sun-burnt land seems a world away from notions of empires and kings.
To Australians, Earl is just another name, like Mick or Steve. And you rent a marquis for a 50th.
You might ask yourself, why should I worry?
It is absolutely right that we mark a historic moment like this.
It is quite right that we highlight the extraordinary life and service of the late Queen.
Queen Elizabeth’s reign included British Prime Ministers born more than a century apart
We live in historic times and there is perhaps no better example than the life of the Queen.
The second Elizabethan era includes some of the most important decades of human history.
It is difficult for us to comprehend the magnitude and pace of change throughout the Queen’s lifetime.
The Queen’s reign has included Prime Ministers from Winston Churchill born in 1874 to Liz Truss, sworn in just days ago, born in 1975.
Let that sink in.
Not only did she meet Winston Churchill, she held an audience with him.
She saw 15 British Prime Ministers, 14 Presidents and 16 of our own leaders come and go.
The Queen was a bridge between the 19th and 21st centuries, she was a living connection to the trials of our past.
Crowned at just 25 years old, called by fate to an unexpected task, she withstood the winds of change.
The Queen’s 70th Anniversary in the Commonwealth is being celebrated in countries around the world, including Australia
As a member of the greatest generation, she has witnessed the struggle to defeat the Nazis and their fascism.
She saw the rise and fall of communism and experienced the specter—and prospect of—nuclear Armageddon.
She helped the monarchy through a world that was rapidly connecting and digitizing.
She deftly led the Commonwealth as it democratized and evolved.
Unbelievable that she never ceased in her service.
In the final years of her reign, she kept her people together during a pandemic.
Ms Ley says that even in her death, the Queen was able to unite people in a way that is becoming increasingly rare
In her last hours of service, she said goodbye – and welcomed – yet another British Prime Minister.
For 70 years she gave unfailing public service to the people of the Commonwealth.
Indeed, her contribution did not stop with her death. Because even now she still brings people together.
The seemingly endless lines of mourners streaming through Westminster Hall reflected an amazing gathering of people of all ages and all stages of life, of all backgrounds and all ethnicities.
Such moments of national unity seem much harder to find in modern times.
As much as we wished the sun would never set on the Queen’s incredible life, she has set.
Over the past few days, we have rightly thought about her contribution.
Even as Australia goes its own way, we must not forget the great contribution the Queen has made, argues Ms Ley.
In the months and years ahead, Australians will reflect on what all this now means for the future of our country and how we want our national affairs to be handled.
These weren’t questions the Queen ever tried to hold back from us.
During the Republic’s last referendum, Her Majesty made it very clear that she would always respect the wishes of Australians and the decisions we make.
As the sun rises on a new king and a new chapter, we needn’t be afraid to have those important national conversations.
Nor can we forget the incredible role the Queen played in bringing us all together.
As the Archbishop of Canterbury said at her funeral, the Queen kept her promise of lifelong public service.
Its contribution, and the solidarity it generated, was such as to interrupt the commitment of any Republican.
But once we’ve highlighted her contribution, I know Australia is big enough and old enough to take a fresh look at this debate in our own Australian way.
While there will be many points of view in that debate, we can all agree that Her Majesty’s personal impact has been global, colossal and overwhelmingly beneficial.
Sussan Ley is deputy leader of the Federal Liberal Party and was a minister in the governments of Abbott, Turnbull and Morrison