This is the way royal milestones used to be proclaimed (and occasionally still are): A town crier announces, “OH YAY! OH YAY! TODAY HERE IN ROYAL WINDSOR WE COME TOGETHER TO CELEBRATE HER MAJESTY’S PLATINUM JUBILEE!”
Meanwhile at Buckingham Palace, this is the way royal milestones – like, 70 years on the throne – are proclaimed now, reports correspondent Mark Phillips.
Everything about this Platinum Jubilee is unprecedented, for the simple reason that it has never happened before. No monarch has ever sat on the top of the British aristocratic tree for so long.
One benefit of such an extended reign is that a 96-year-old queen can explain to her four-year-old great-grandson (perhaps) that he better get used to it. A royal life can sometimes be noisy.
This Jubilee has been a bit of a royal shell game. Because Queen Elizabeth II has difficulty moving around these days, no one’s been quite sure where and when she will show up. The days are long gone where she could take ceremonial military salutes on horseback. That role has now been handed to her son and heir, Prince Charles, who represented his mother at this Jubilee’s “Trooping the Colour” parade.
Queens may not retire, but apparently, they do gradually fade away. The royal clock ticks on. “In many ways she is a sort of national timepiece,” said Robert Hardman, whose latest book on the royals is “Queen of Our Times.”
Phillips asked, “Is her aging, in a way, the way we kind of measure history?”
“There’s a sort of timelessness to the Queen,” Hardman said. ” I mean, she obviously looks different. The fashions are different. She’s a young woman at the time of her coronation, and now she’s the world’s oldest head of state. But there is still a sort of timelessness to that aura.”
The Queen, claiming she had been in some discomfort on the first day of the Jubilee, stayed away from the big service at St Paul’s Cathedral on the second, each absence making this Jubilee even more poignant. Again, Charles was there on her behalf, with the future Queen Camilla. And William, the next in line, with Kate. And (perhaps stealing the headlines) Harry and Meghan. The couple, now estranged from the family and in self-imposed exile in California, were allowed this cameo in the Jubilee show. Their leaving of royal life, clouded in accusations of racism against Meghan at the palace, had been brutal and cold. Their brief return showed no evidence of any warming.
But this Jubilee was about The Queen, and overcame the chill, helped perhaps by her participation in the lighting of a series of celebratory beacon fires around the country – and around the world – for a tribute to a recently-widowed Queen, organized by Bruno Peek. Phillips asked, “Is this a way of people like you saying, ‘Your Majesty, you’re not alone’?”
“Absolutely,” Peek replied. “She’ll never be alone. She’s not alone now.”
Robert Lacey, who has written numerous royal biographies, said, “The Queen has just been superb at her job, and I don’t say that just because I’m a patriotic Brit.”
Phillips asked, “She’s more than the Queen of the United Kingdom. She’s been described as kind of Queen of the world. If America had a queen, they would pick her. Is that the kind of general assumption? How has she managed to do that?”
“The Queen’s favorite hobby is her racehorses,” Lacey said. “And if you talk to the people in horse racing, which is a pretty cutthroat sport, they have enormous respect for the way in which the Queen breeds her horses, trains her horses, and gets results. Now she’s brought that same steeliness and expertise to her job as queen.”
However she’s done it, it’s worked. And not just for the thousands of patriotic Brits who turned out for these events. Among the appreciative crowds was Donna Werner, from New Fairfield, Connecticut. Phillips asked, her, “Coming from the U.S., a country that went to some special effort to get rid of this monarchy, what brought you back to it?”
“We don’t have anything like this in the States,” Werner replied. “I mean, look at the pomp and circumstance. Nobody does anything up like this!”
But this Jubilee was also an excuse for a party – thousands of them – and just in time. One woman said. “As we’ve all been locked away for two years, to dance and to sing and to eat together, it’s really important. It’s perfect timing, actually!”
There are different ways of looking at this Jubilee. It’s a harkening back to an imagined romantic age of princes and princesses. It’s an exercise in nostalgia with prancing horses and marching rows in toy soldier uniforms. It’s an affectionate tribute to a hereditary monarch who has hung around, done her job, and – somehow – embodied the national spirit.
It’s all of those things.
For more info:
- Her Majesty the Queen (royal.uk)
- “Queen of Our Times: The Life of Elizabeth II” by Robert Hardman (Peghasus Books), in Hardcover, Large Print, eBook and Audio formats, available via Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Indiebound
- “The Crown: The Official Companion, Volume 2: Political Scandal, Personal Struggle, and the Years that Defined Elizabeth II (1956-1977)” by Robert Lacey (Crown), in Hardcover, Trade Paperback, eBook and Audio formats, available via Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Indiebound
- The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee Beacons
Story produced by Jane Whitfield. Editor: Mark Ludlow.