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Legacy and Lessons from Queen Elizabeth II

Jean Chatzky  |  September 9, 2022

Put purpose at the center, be the change you want to see, and, if you’re going to drive a car, learn (at least) the basics of maintenance.

When we talk about Queens in America, the names that roll off our lips – Beyonce, Serena, Gaga – deserve every bit of attention paid. They’re epic. Awesome. Stellar.

Yesterday, the world lost a royal one. The royal one. A woman of undeniable strength, who has influenced the world, and women in particular, in so many ways over her 70-year reign. Whatever were seen as her flaws, she nonetheless successfully filled her many diverse roles – as a monarch, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, world leader and trusted advisor to 15 prime ministers, including Liz Truss, who she received at Balmoral Castle just a few days ago.

Here are the lessons — financial and otherwise — we will take, not so much from what she said (she kept her words to the public extremely brief) but from what she did.

  • Put purpose at the center. Queen Elizabeth lived a life of service, to her country — for her country. It gave her meaning and if research holds, also brought her happiness and may even have been a contributing factor in her longevity. 
  • Be the change you want to see. In 1961, Queen Elizabeth took to the floor to dance with Kwame Nkrumah, King of Ghana. Dancing with a Black man in 1961 was no small deal. She also fought (albeit behind the scenes) against South African apartheid at a time when Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher did not come out against it. She did a version of the same in 2013, when she approved The Crown Act which allowed an older daughter of a monarch to rise to the crown even if there was a younger son. It also allowed an heir to marry a Catholic, which was previously forbidden.
  • If you’re going to drive a car, learn (at least) the basics of maintenance. Elizabeth did during her time serving her country during World War II. There’s no excuse anymore for not being able to change a tire.
  • Never underestimate the power of fashion. Picture her and you likely picture a woman in a bright, single-color dress or suit, with a matching hat. She not only made a statement — she demanded to be seen — and, in doing so, owned whatever room she was in.
  • Understand how much “figureheads” matter. Although the queen’s position was mostly as a figurehead — and not the head of government, she did serve one important task as a ruler: She had to sanction all legislation passed by Parliament in the United Kingdom. This was mostly a formality, but she could have refused (and as we’ve recently seen in the U.S., a ruler refusing to abide by norms could have significant impact).
  • Use humor — sparingly — to your advantage. Before the London Olympics, she appeared — alongside Daniel Craig — in a short film James Bond sketch (though she used a double for the jump from the plane). It wasn’t her only recent film appearance — she also co-starred with Paddington Bear, drumming “We Will Rock You” on her teacup before her Diamond Jubilee concert.
  • Give generously. Queen Elizabeth helped raise an estimated $2 billion over her lifetime, providing support for more than 600 charities.
  • And yes, keep calm and carry on. Through wars, financial booms and busts, family strife (even, 1992, her annus horribilis), Queen Elizabeth harnessed a poised resilience and kept going. It’s something we should all apply to our lives…and our finances.


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