The word came into English in the 13th century, from Anglo-Norman dueté, a word with connections to due and debt. It retains a slightly antique air tinged by its original meanings of “reverence” and “homage” and by its sense of a monetary obligation. But for Queen Elizabeth II, who died on September 8 at 96, duty was no anachronism. It was a thread woven through her adult life, and it was the word that eulogists reached for when paying tribute to her. “A monarch bound by duty” was the AP’s headline. On the CNN website author and professor Peter Bergen called duty “the one word that defined Elizabeth II.” “She made sacrifices to duty,” her son Charles, now King Charles III, said in a televised tribute the day after her death—a royal understatement if ever there was one.
Opening frame of a video of scenes on the theme of duty from the Netflix series The Crown.