‘Fit memorial to a magnificent life’: Albanese nods to reconciliation in understated service to Queen | Queen Elizabeth II

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For all the talk of the Queen’s longevity and endurance as a monarch, for all the statistics rattled off about how many Prime Ministers she had outlived and the changes she had seen throughout her reign, it was a picture of Elizabeth in her embryonic stage. leadership who took center stage in a quiet, simple memorial service at Australia’s Parliament House.

Two weeks after her death aged 96, around 600 Australians invited to the national memorial were greeted by perhaps the nation’s most famous depiction of the Queen, the 1954 “wattle painting” by Sir William Dargie, which captured her at 28 after two years on the throne. .

The portrait was the focal point as politicians, diplomats and defense personnel came to Canberra to complete the official ceremonies following the monarch’s death: a scene flanked in wattle framing the portrait; a flowery tribute that ultimately proved more popular than expected.

“We gather today around our nation to give Australia’s thanks for an extraordinary life dedicated to service, faith, country and the Commonwealth,” Anthony Albanese told the assembled mourners.

“Amid decades of noise and turbulence, the Queen endured – and so did Australia’s devotion to her, our sense of connection to her,” the Prime Minister said.

'Spirit of Reconciliation'... Ngunnawal Elder Aunty Violet Sheridan welcomes to country address.
‘Spirit of Reconciliation’… Ngunnawal Elder Aunty Violet Sheridan welcomes to country address. Photo: Martin Ollman/Getty Images

Unlike the two weeks of official mourning in Britain, where parades and processions and sports matches were cancelled, Australia’s official service was somewhat more no-frills. A A RAAF flyover was canceled thanks to typical Canberra spring rain; giant video screens set up on the front lawns of Parliament House hosted a smattering of well-wishers.

With untold millions of words already spoken and written since the Queen’s death, Australia’s commemoration had very little to say that had yet to be said. In the past 14 days, Albanese himself has done 25 TV and radio interviews and half a dozen press conferences, each almost entirely about the Queen, always taking care to show appropriate respect and not let day-to-day politics seep into his tribute.

But after two weeks of questions about the monarchy, and especially what it represents Indigenous Australianswaved away as “premature”, glimpses of that debate appeared throughout the ceremony.

The official party – Albanian; the Governor-General, David Hurley; the Leader of the Opposition, Peter Dutton; and others—were ushered into the hall by a native performance troupe, dressed in ceremonial paint and dress. On a stage flanked by Australian, Indigenous and Torres Strait Islander flags, Ngunnawal elder aunt Violet Sheridan spoke of the “spirit of reconciliation” in her welcome to country speech.

Former Prime Minister Paul Keating places a sprig of wattle on a wreath during the memorial service.
Former Prime Minister Paul Keating places a sprig of wattle on a wreath during the memorial service. Photo: Mick Tsikas/AAP

Hurley, who spoke of his sadness and love for the Queen, acknowledged her death had sparked “different reactions for some in our community”, including Indigenous Australians, and said reconciliation was “a journey we as a nation have to undertake”.

This, despite the Queen’s representative describing her as “a point of common contact that could overcome divisions and draw people together”.

Albanese, who opens each speech with an acknowledgment of the country, noted that her memorial was being held “on a continent that is home to the world’s oldest continuous culture”.

“In all things, including our progress towards reconciliation, the Queen always wanted the best for our country,” he said.

The event was not open to the public, to the dismay of the monarchist movement, but a few civilians were allowed to join the dignitaries inside. The only dashes of color in a sea of ​​black were thanks to the red, blue and green uniforms of a few dozen school children who were allowed to join, and a dozen representatives of the army, police and SES.

National memorial service held for Queen as crowds gather for monarchy protests – video

In the end, everything didn’t quite go according to plan. The rain kept spectators (and the jets) away. Despite the tightly controlled running order, a few politicians (we won’t say who) ticked their toes for a while after the service started, while the minute’s silence that Albanese had asked the Australians to observe at 11, was held a few minutes early. in the official service.

A floral tribute led by scout groups, where participants were invited to take a sprig of wattle from baskets swung by young boys and girls to insert into wreaths on stage, was a new and memorable centerpiece of the memorial. But the procession took longer than planned and had to be paused towards the end to allow Hurley to leave before all the mourners had been able to lay their flowers.

Tributes continue on Friday as Federal Parliament holds a full day of memorial speeches. The cutting of politics as usual, suspended for a fortnight, resumes in earnest on Monday. No doubt about buildings, hospitals or otherwill continue to be named or renamed in honor of the Queen for some time to come.

But Albanese, in an attempt at remembrance beyond the symbolic, proposed another gesture.

“Perhaps the greatest tribute we can offer her family and her memory is not a marble statue or a metal plaque,” the prime minister said.

“It is a renewed embrace of service to society; a truer understanding of our duty to others; a stronger commitment to respect for all.

“This would be a most fitting memorial to a magnificent life.”

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