Ethan Blackstone’s Final March

Since the passing of Queen Elizabeth II, I’ve done so much reflecting on just how far her influence has intertwined with my life and into the furthest corners of it.  I’ve thought about the characters I’ve created in my books over the years and found that so many of them would be actively involved and directly working to facilitate the many aspects of mourning her death, and of course, paying respect as the world says farewell to a singular Queen in celebrating the truly remarkable life she lived.

Singular because, for me, when I hear the words “The Queen” there is only one person to whom they refer.  Elizabeth II.  I wanted to do something to pay my own tribute to her long life, share my admiration, and express my grief at her passing.  I couldn’t think of what I could do at first, but then I realized what it needed to be.  I could write something.  The following scene is my own personal offering in mourning my Queen.

Yes, I realize what I just said.  My Queen.  Even as a proud American, I think of her in this way and have always done since my first Majesty Magazine arrived in 1981.  I’ve been a royalist for over 40 years and so that’s just how I’ve always regarded Her Majesty.  Nobody who knows me would question who I was speaking about if the words “The Queen” crossed my lips.  In fact, I received several sweet messages of condolence from old friends I’ve not seen or interacted with in years telling me they thought of me when they heard the news of her death.  They knew very well how much I’ve always loved her.  She was quite simply… Queen of the World to me.

Please enjoy this short reflection of a certain British Army Captain as he says goodbye to his beloved Queen.


Westminster Abbey, London

I didn’t imagine I’d ever put this uniform on again.  I couldn’t think of a situation that might require me in my dress blues with full honors pinned on.  But yet, for the privilege and the great honor I’ve been tasked with, there is nothing else I could wear that’d be even remotely appropriate for the occasion except this uniform.

The last time I wore it before today was, ironically, for an audience with Her Majesty on the day she presented me with the Victoria Cross.  That day is not a sharp memory for me.  Still raw from my captivity, attempting (and failing) to process all the loss, my military service at an end, I wasn’t looking for any reminders of my time in the army.  My head was all wrong even though my heart was still beating.  Alive but not quite sure how to keep on living just yet.  I still had to figure that all out.  Brynne was years away from coming into my life, and the confidence I own today was very much absent.  The general day’s events might be fuzzy but my recollection of Her Majesty on that occasion is crystal clear.

Extraordinary in every way.

How she put me at ease with her genuine kindness and concern, making me feel as if I was her highest priority.  As if there was nowhere else she’d rather be in the world than right there presenting a medal upon a lowly army officer she’d never met before that day.  To her sincerity and compassion for my experience as a captive and in thanking me for my service to the crown on behalf of a grateful nation.  I truly felt all of that from her. How she easily made the whole experience feel as if it was her great privilege to know me.

I remember what she said to me accompanied by that famous smile she had.  “I don’t get to give this one this very often, Captain Blackstone, it is an honor.”

Again, another example of Her Majesty’s legacy as a monarch who was not here to be served but to serve.  The motto she lived in life:  I serve.

Which she most certainly did.

When I received the invitation to the funeral as a living recipient of the Victoria Cross, I couldn’t imagine any greater honor in paying my respects.  Blackstone Security had been very busy working today as we had been in various capacities over the past ten days, of course, but not as an invited guest to mourn personally.  But there was more to come.  I was then told the contingent of Victoria and George Cross recipients would march together behind the cortege after the funeral service from Westminster Abbey through ceremonial London to Wellington Arch for sending Her Majesty off to her final destination to Windsor for burial.  Blow me down.

So… I was going to march.

Neil was in charge of everything else while I was otherwise engaged in this final duty for my Queen. Ivan was here as a cabinet minister for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport in his governmental role.  But his office had been crazy busy for days with the organization of relaying information to the public with everything from the length of time for the queue at Westminster Hall where Her Majesty had been lying in state before today, to the details of road closures and general information regarding the state funeral service sequence of events.  These were uncharted waters for everyone.  We were all simply trying our best to send our Queen off to her final rest with all the dignity, honor, celebration, and love we had to give.

Brynne’s hands had been shaking ever so slightly when she pinned the medal on for me earlier.  I asked her if she was nervous and she gave me that side eye I’d grown to know and love. She said she wanted to get it pinned on perfect for her war hero husband.  I told her it was better her than me because I couldn’t pin the fuckin’ thing straight for the life of me.  Ever since I gave up the smokes I still have high-stress moments that bring on the shakes.  Thank God I have Brynne to soothe me now.  She looked so gorgeous today at the funeral in a black collared coat and a wide-brim hat coming through the entrance of Westminster Abbey.  The diamond and ruby butterfly brooch I gave her when Laurel was born pinned at her breast.  She always looks gorgeous though.  She can’t help that.

Having Brynne with me for this honor today meant so much.  I couldn’t imagine my life without her in it. The life I was living now so very different from the life I was living upon my first meeting with Her Majesty.

As we waited for the coffin to be brought out from the Abbey and while the procession members were getting organized and lining up in their places, Brynne kissed me on the cheek and said, “You look…smashing in your uniform, Captain Blackstone.”  Adding a little eyebrow wiggle for good measure.  “I’m so proud.  So very proud of you. Now go out there and march for your Queen.  I’ll be waiting for you when you’re finished, my love,” she told me before stepping away to join the exit queue with the others leaving the Abbey.

There were no other words I wanted to hear because knowing she would be waiting for me was… everything.  I love you, my beauty, I mouthed to her before she turned to go.

I know, she mouthed back at me, and then she was out of sight.

My attention then turned rightly toward my former sovereign surrounded by the splendor of her nation in a pageant of armed services gratefully performing a final duty for her.  When the orders were given and “MAAARCHH” was called out, like a well-oiled machine, the great procession rolled forward to begin its way down the Mall.  Seventy-five steps per minute with drum beats keeping the pace, royal pipers piping, and Big Ben tolling once every minute for the duration.  Nothing like this has ever been witnessed in modern Britain and I will never forget this experience.

In life, Her Majesty wanted to be there for all people, promoting community, keeping the promise she made on her 21st birthday: “I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.”

Never was a promise so well and truly kept.

Rest well, Ma’am, your duty is done.

God Save the King.