Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Diamond Queen

I meant to post last week to comment on the 60th anniversary of the Queen succeeding to the throne. It was a royal-ish sort of week. Rose's school had a Diamond Jubilee themed day on Wednesday - they decided to go with the date of her accession rather than the official celebrations in June which coincide with the school's summer half term break - and the BBC started a three part documentary called the Diamond Queen. Two things in particular struck me watching the programmes that have been shown so far:

(1) Duty. If there is one word that sums up the Queen it is duty. Thanks to the sense of duty inherited from her father - who became king as a consequence of his brother Edward VIII putting personal interest first - she has spent sixty years, day in and day out, doing a grindingly hard, relentless job in which she is constantly on display. Just imagine. And she doesn't do it because she chose to live such a public life, but because it was thrust upon her. If Edward VIII had remained King and had children of his own, she would have spent her life as a comparatively minor royal.

(2) The incredible knowledge of the world and public affairs the Queen has amassed over those sixty years. Every time she meets a visiting leader or dignitary or travels abroad she is briefed and given the opportunity of conversation with them. Every week she meets the British prime minister to discuss current affairs. She takes all this seriously. Imagine the depth of personal knowledge and experience of someone who has known such an extraordinary list of world leaders: Winston Churchill, Eisenhower, John F Kennedy, Margaret Thatcher, Nelson Mandela, Charles de Gaulle, Pope Benedict XVI, to name just a few. It seems to me that this continuity is one of the benefits of monarchy - rather than a head of state changing every few years and having to get up to speed from a standing start, the Queen is able to consolidate and increase her already extensive experience year on year. Her political neutrality means that every prime minister and his government is able to draw on this, as are the heads of state of the Commonwealth countries.

Personally, I'm very much a monarchist. Here in the UK we have an old and in some ways odd political system, with no written constitution. While in matters of day-to-day government the Queen is essentially a figurehead, she is also the guarantor of the system. If, to take an extreme scenario, the prime minister decided to suspend future elections and turn himself into a dictator (though I can't say I see David Cameron as a dictatorial type!), the Queen could force an election, at least in theory - in the most extreme case it would depend on whether she could carry the army with her, which is quite likely as their allegiance is to Queen and Country rather than to the government of the day. I once had an interesting conversation about this in the House of Lords tearoom, but that is a whole 'nother story! The bottom line is that without the Queen (and her future successors) this country would not only be poorer in many ways, it would also be less stable.

God save the Queen!

(I also picked up the tie-in book for the TV series as a Kindle deal of the day yesterday, which is now waiting for me to get to Q for Queen on my A to Z reading challenge.)


Jennifer said...

As an outsider, I found this is all very interesting.

ellie said...

Oh I've always been such an (American!) monarchist. I wish I could watch this programme :-( the link says it's only available for viewing in the UK. Pity!

PixieMum said...

Agree completely with your post. We are so fortunate in this country.

Melanie B said...

I think it would not be hard for me to be a monarchist.