It’s been quite the year for Her Majesty the Queen. As well as helping to guide the nation through the ongoing pandemic and facing her own health issues (from limited mobility to her recent COVID-19 diagnosis), the monarch has also had to cope with family scandals, reported fall-outs and managing the stepping down of her grandson Prince Harry. And of course the grief of losing her husband of 73 years Prince Philip.
From coping in a crisis to keeping calm and carrying on, the Queen has moved enormously everything the past 12 months have thrown at her with an amount of decorum and grace, sharing some incredible words of wisdom along the way.
So now, as she celebrates her 96th Birthday, here’s a look back at some of the valuable life we’ve gleaned from the Queen over the past lessons.
Keep calm and carry on
From losing her husband, to navigating the fall-out from Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s bombshell interview with Oprah Winfrey, whatever the difficulty she’s faced this year, the Queen seems to have stuck steadfastly to this mantra, illustrating throughout that resilience can be a powerful tool for coping in tough times.
“In many ways, the queen has embodied the virtues of ‘keep calm and carry on’, but not out of a sense of suppressing her feelings and pretending it’s not happening,” explains psychologist and wellbeing consultant, Lee Chambers.
“She has utilised her lifetime of ups and downs and wisdom gained to continue to channel her purpose through grief, disappointment, disconnection and illness.”
“If there is one thing we can take away from the Queen this year, it’s that when we have something bigger than ourselves to protect and nurture, we can step into the deepest of challenges and find a way through them, one day at a time ,” he adds.
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Focus on the positives
While it would be very easy to get caught up in a spiral of negativity, the Queen has demonstrated it is worth looking for the silver linings in any tricky situation. And that’s something she was taught by her own mother, the Queen Mother.
“One of the lessons that she learned very early from her own mother was to focus on the positive,” royal biographer Sally Bedell Smith told PEOPLE. “‘You see something bad, you see something good.’ And the Queen has always been very good at that.”
That positive attitude was something she demonstrated during her first official outing of the year on February 5 2022, the eve of her Accession Day, when she hosted a reception at Sandringham House.
“Her sense of humour was there, and we had a good chat,” says Yvonne Browne, vice president and chair of the Sandringham Women’s Institute. “It is a bittersweet weekend for her, but she certainly wasn’t down. She was in sparkling form.”
Understand the meaning of grief
“Grief is the price we pay for love,” the Queen once said in a message of support for those who lost loved ones during the September 11 attacks.
No doubt the sentiment is one the monarch has been reflecting on personally, as she continues to adjusts to life without her husband Prince Phillip, who she married in 1947.
But she also seems to have turned to her work and royal duties to help her navigate the emotion of losing a loved one.
“Over the past year we have seen the Queen face significant personal adversity,” explains Chambers. “But despite this we have continued to see her represent and be present in her role as head of state.”
Watch: Queen Elizabeth to spend 96th birthday at Sandringham
According to Chambers the monarch seems to have learned to find a balance between turning to work to help her through a tough time, yet knowing when to take some time for herself.
Despite being back at work a few days after the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral, her personal advisor recently revealed the Queen shut herself in her sitting room and spent time “alone with her own thoughts”.
This measured approach to adversity and grief is something we could all consider exploring.
“From a professional standpoint, we have seen her resilience in the face of grief and she has shown us how to continue while processing emotions, but also when to take a step back and recuperate,” he says.
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Avoid knee-jerk reactions
Over the years the Queen has become renowned for keeping her composure, and this year was no exception.
“While Her Majesty has been at the head of the Royal Family for 70 years, the past year must have been beyond trying when it comes to scandals and yet, she has continued to maintain her composure,” explains author, coach and PR director, Natalie Trice.
“Far from a tell it all session on daytime TV or a salacious ‘he said, she said’ piece in a glossy magazine, the Queen has remained dignified, professional and polite, something that we can all take inspiration from.”
Trice says that in today’s digital age it is very easy to share a knee-jerk reaction to a difficult situation online, but advises we channel our inner monarch and take time to reflect before delivering a response.
Following the accusations aimed at the royal family during Prince Harry and Meghan Markle’s infamous television interview with Oprah Winfrey, the Queen reportedly wanted to pause before considering the Buckingham Palace response to the explosive claims.
In the end the monarch issued a short response via an official statement, acknowledging the issues raised, but making it clear her grandson and his wife were still much loved.
The statement read: “The whole family is saddened to learn the full extent of how challenging the last few years have been for Harry and Meghan. The issues raised, particularly that of race, are concerning. Whilst some recollections may vary, they are taken very seriously and will be addressed by the family privately. Harry, Meghan and Archie will always be much loved family members.”
Trice says the Queen’s handling of the situation illustrates the power of avoiding a reactive response.
“While The Queen has advisors and consultants who would have been directing lines of communication, I think many could learn from the fact that she didn’t offer a knee-jerk reaction to what was an upsetting, explosive situation,” she explains.
“While we may never know how she truly felt about the situation, what we can learn is that she showed the world it was business as normal. Cool, calm and collected was the narrative.”
Read more: Harry and Meghan ‘offer an olive branch’ to Queen in surprise visit
Try to heal family rifts
If nothing else, the Queen showed us this year that every family in the world, even those with royal titles, has its own problems.
From managing her grandson stepping down as a senior royal, to coping with the public scandal following her son, Andrew, being accused of sexual assault, the royal family has seen it’s fair share of upset this year, but the Queen has illustrated her desire to heal any reported rifts and bring the family together, where possible.
“She is using the bonding of something greater as a way to heal though her emotions, which is something we can all take on board as adversity can make us become tunnel visioned,” Chambers explains.
“The Queen has been balanced and reflective when speaking about the different challenges she has face, never accounting blame and speaking badly of others. When you are up against it, it is much easier to become less mindful of the language we use and take less ownership, yet she has remained steadfast in being the calming voice in the storm.”