Of course there was an inevitability about it. She was 96, after all, and as the obituaries made clear, had lived a truly remarkable life.
Yet the death of Queen Elizabeth II a year ago on Friday has left a void at the heart of British life that only serves as a reminder of the extraordinary quality of her character.
Yes, the Crown has endured as it has for more than a thousand years. But a year on, the world feels a little less assured without the comforting and colourful presence of the woman Emmanuel Macron, the French president, said was not just “your Queen” but “The Queen”.
As with the deaths of Elvis, JFK and Diana, Princess of Wales, the anniversary stirs up poignant memories of where we were when we heard the news.
But the depth of feeling goes beyond even the loss of those icons of the 20st century. For “The Queen” did not just represent the legacy of the past, she also inspired confidence in the future.
While the King and Queen Camilla have admirably done their best to keep calm and carry on, there is no doubt that the House of Windsor feels a little diminished in the absence of the longest-serving British sovereign since Queen Victoria.
We didn’t know it at the time, but that final photograph of the smiling great-grandmother, leaning on her walking stick with a log fire roaring in the background, would become a lasting memorial of a life spent dedicated to duty until the very end.
She had been happily hosting guests at Balmoral Castle and carrying out official duties in Scotland by bidding farewell to Boris Johnson and appointing Liz Truss as the new prime minister.
When, just two days later, the official announcement of her death came at 6.30pm it was still a shock, despite a disquieting afternoon spent watching notes being passed around the House of Commons and her loved ones racing to the Highlands to say their final goodbyes.
Such was the stalwart nature of a 70-year reign spent barely putting a foot wrong that we hoped against hope she might go on forever. She didn’t just embody a spirit of eternity – she embodied us and everything it means to be British, from Buckingham Palace balcony appearances with Sir Winston Churchill on VE Day to Platinum Jubilee tea with Paddington Bear.
Not just head of state but mother of the nation, even at her lowest ebb following Princess Diana’s death, she spoke to us “as your Queen and as a grandmother”.
From that historic moment onwards, we treated her like a member of the extended family – a font of wisdom and experience to whom we turned in times of triumph and tragedy.
Just seeing her profile on money and stamps was reassurance enough, until moments like her “We’ll Meet Again” speech during the Covid crisis reminded us of the very real power of her unwavering strength and moral authority.
Having outserved 15 prime ministers and 14 US presidents, in an increasingly polarised world plagued by social media-driven oversharing there is much to miss about Her Late Majesty’s political inscrutability and economy with words.
Arguably the last bastion of a wartime generation that selflessly put others first and led by example, we are all the poorer without her even-handed approach to public life. She was that rare leader who not only listened to her subjects but acted accordingly, ever mindful of the importance of conciliation and reconciliation to heal divisions.
As we reflect on a year since the death of Queen Elizabeth II, we grieve for a monarch whose steadfast devotion to Crown, country and Commonwealth was the one constant in all of our lives.