As London born, the Diamond Jubilee has every patriotic gene rolling – not many countries can celebrate the 60 year consistent tenure of a leader or do so with such fanfare, pomp and circumstance. Opposition leader Tony Abbott noted that Queen Elizabeth II has been the reigning monarch for the entire lifetime of four-in-five Australians. She represents something different for all of us, certainly when I think in context of my Aussie-born children verus my own very British upbringing.
On the eve of the Olympics, the footage shows London decked to its best — an extraordinary picture of history and tradition. My English extended family will have our celebration this long weekend.
A carefully politically engineered smaller Royal Family has been on display this week minus those members of the royals who have the potential to engender negative scrutiny. A strategic and clever brand ploy. The Queen mother’s birthday celebrations in 2000 show approx 18 royals on the balcony of Buckingham Palace. Twelve years later we see only eight members appearing for the fly past – an heir and a spare. Times have changed to reflect a struggling economy and a far leaner operating model.
Whether you are republican or a monarchist, saluting a 60-year commitment to anything can only deserve a respectful salute. Queen Elizabeth II has performed her duties almost faultlessly – tirelessly and dedicated. The much misunderstood fact remains (by many Britons) the Coronation – the job of being Queen – was undertaken under a religious oath. QEII swore before God in Westminster Abbey that she would serve her country to her death. She said, “I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service.”
The debate of when Prince Charles will take over therefore amuses me. The Queen is in a role that is duty bound to be performed until she can no longer perform it. It is not up for question unless extenuating circumstances.
Sixty years of duty? Just think. Queen Elizabeth II can’t live anywhere other than London. No choice of moving to live in Australia as I, like many have chosen. Since becoming Queen, she’s never been able to take a gap year – appear in track pants, without ‘looking the part’ or security protection and for every day of her last 60 years, as head of the 200 million Commonwealth members she has had the early morning task of studying the status of 15 countries *. Few sick days for QEII. She has met and given council to 13 Prime Ministers, her first being Winston Churchill, outlived her parents and her sister and given birth to four rather odd children, who have all out a very public myriad of modern relationships. HRH has inherited a priceless National art collection of over 100,000 pieces that date back over 500 years ago.
In an age of increasing empowerment of women, she inspires on many counts. QEII has remained successfully married to Prince Phillip and demonstrated a very public relationship in relative privacy. A case study of how a man can support his gal successfully without media sensation or public demonstrations of ego – other than the odd tongue in cheek comment. Phillip takes the back seat in everything other than in their private life. Few remember, that they were the darling couple of Europe in their time – dashing naval prince and beautiful princess. They met when she was just 14.
The Queen’s capacity for world knowledge must be extraordinary. Oh to capture what she has experienced! She can be admired for her stoicism and unemotional play of the media or the audiences she meets. Undoubtably, a warm and loving Grandmother and an aristocratic mother of her time when emotional displays were not the norm.
While I appreciate we have changing times, who else globally can draw out 1.2 million people and unite a country in mass displays of national affection so consistently over so long.
As a country we remain evenly divided when it comes to a constitutional monarchy, with 52 per cent wanting to stay under Britannia’s rule and 48 per cent wanting to become a republic . For my family and I, from my grandparents who remember a Princess in the blitz, the Queen unites a nation and offers a sense of direction and national and humanistic pride. Oh and a good excuse for a street party!
*Countries that have left the Commonwealth realm during the times of QE II = 17 (Ceylon, Fiji, Gambia, Ghana, Guyana, Kenya, Malawi, Malta, Mauritius, Nigeria, Pakistan, Rhodesia, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanganyika, Trinidad and Tobago, Uganda)