‘The Queen is dead, Long live the King,” a variation of the traditional British proclamation upon the death of a monarch, doesn’t work that way in England, which hasn’t had many queens, but when they do, they really last. Not so much with the kings.

Victoria, 1837 to 1901, reigned for 63 years, 217 days. Elizabeth II, 1952 to 2022, reigned for 70 years, 215 days. That’s a little over 134 years for two monarchs. And the far more famous Elizabeth I (no relation, different family, long ago) was on the throne for almost 45 years. Maybe women are more cut out for this job.

Between Victoria and Elizabeth II, Britain (which must be the only country that has the nerve to call itself “Great”) had four short-lived (or abdicated) kings in just a half-century. The British seem to get more bang for their buck with queens. Victoria oversaw a great expansion of the British Empire. Elizabeth II presided (ceremonially anyway) over the great shrinking of that empire.

As a friend pointed out the other day, the Queen died the same week as Mikhail Gorbachev, who oversaw the disintegration of the Soviet Empire. Both empires were brutal enterprises (despite the British building railroads around the world), so one could argue that Elizabeth and Mikhail were good for the world, though Gorbachev had more to do with liberating the east than Elizabeth did to free the rest. Gorbachev’s “reign” was also short, though he lived into his 90s.

My only connection to Queen Elizabeth is the fact that she became queen four months to the day before my far less heralded birth. So she turned 70 as a monarch, and I turned 70 as a living, breathing entity this year. Other than that, I feel largely indifferent about her and the rest of the British royal family.

In fact, I remain flummoxed by the devotion of the English people to this outdated institution and completely flabbergasted by the number of Americans who are fascinated by something we fought a bloody revolution to overthrow. But whether I understand it or not, it’s clear this kind of thing serves some deep craving in the human psyche. I just hope we grow out of it sooner than later.

But I’m not sure the need is as great for a King as it is for a Queen. Kingship seems to have lost its luster. The comfort food of a Queen Mother may be the more active psychic archetype, though it seems the British didn’t demand much of Elizabeth other than just being there. The constant. Reassuring consistency. The one thing people could count on through the turbulence of the last seven decades.

I suspect many Brits would have preferred Diana taking over after Elizabeth had she survived. Everyone (except Charles) seemed to love her. Nobody seems terribly excited about King Charles III. That could change, but maybe this indicates a deeper seismic shift in favor of matriarchy over patriarchy. Look at the number of nations now led by women. Even Pakistan had a female head of state for a time. The only country that seems dead set against it is the Misogynistic States of America. Yet even here more and more states have female governors. It’s only a matter of time before we have our first woman president.

If so, it’s a good seismic shift and may be arriving just in time. Queen Elizabeth was anything but a dynamic leader, but dynamic leaders like Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, Kim Jong-un, Jair Bolsinaro and Victor Orban look more and more like the autocratic clown corps. Joe Biden’s steady persistence and quiet competence, on the other hand, is looking quite a bit better these days than governing with your hair on fire, like his predecessor. And the Brits just showed Prime Minister Boris Johnson the door in favor of the much less “dynamic” Liz Truss (another Elizabeth!). So maybe quiet, competent steadiness is valued whether it comes in the male or female (or someday trans) variety.

“Strong” male leaders have a long history of self-destructively mucking things up. Their egos are too big for their own good … or ours. However long Charles’ tenure lasts, if the British monarchy hasn’t imploded by then (not such a bad thing), then the next king might prove a better fit for this ceremonial role. William, after all, is the son of Diana.

Maybe he’ll be known as William the Non-conqueror.

Back in this country, meanwhile, I’m hoping women will become a force to be reckoned with in the midterm elections, in the wake of the Patriarchy overturning Roe and itching to go after contraception and same-sex marriage and whitewashing our educational system and preventing gun violence prevention and limiting voting and supporting Big Lie candidates who want to overturn elections.

Women, I dearly hope, will show us just what truly dynamic leadership looks like. After all, it’s the Queen that rules the chessboard.

Then we can heartily proclaim, “Poisonous Patriarchy is dead! Long live Merciful Matriarchy!”

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