As an expatriate living in a country that has chosen not to keep its monarch, I am often asked ‘Do you like the Queen?’ My surprise at being asked is matched by their surprise when I reply in the affirmative. In this year of her Diamond Jubilee her popularity will be obvious to the world. Many people will be wondering what the fuss is all about and ‘why do the British people love their Queen?’
As the Queen celebrates her 60 year old reign her subjects will be cheering her on, celebrating and generally applauding her years of service in public life. Throughout the British Isles parties will be held in streets, homes and clubs. Churches will hold Services of Thanksgiving and ‘God Save the Queen’ will be sung with enthusiasm on all these occasions.
Elizabeth should not, in the normal course of events have become queen. Her father, Albert, was not heir to the throne,, that role fell to him when his older brother, Edward VIII abdicated, preferring the woman he loved to the crown of the Realm. Although unprepared for this turn of events, Albert did his duty and was crowned King George VI in 1936. He was a reserved man with a nervous stammer. He had a devoted wife and two young daughters Elizabeth and Margaret.
Three years later the United Kingdom was at war with Germany and this mild mannered man somehow boosted the morale of his country. Radio broadcasts brought his voice into homes, he spoke as a man of faith, integrity and courage.
Previous to this, Kings had been distant figures, quite removed from ordinary men and women, but the new Kind and Queen remained in London during the war, experienced the blitz, visited bomb sites, and comforted the injured and homeless. Buckingham Palace received a direct hit which resulted in much damage and the death of one member of staff. The King and Queen escaped being badly wounded by glass because their windows were open at the time. Their identification with the suffering of ordinary men and women resulted in a warm response from their subjects. The two princess were not sent to America for safety, although the children of rich and privileged were. Instead the heir to the throne and her sister were secretly removed to Windsor Castle, within reach of London but relatively safe from bombs.
When the King died of cancer in 1952 the nation took his 26 year old grieving daughter to their hearts. She did not disappoint them.
Elizabeth II has been in the public arena as no other monarch before her. A hardworking woman she is frequently seen attending a huge variety of functions around the country and around the world. She keeps abreast of international as well as national events. Although it is known that she is not very comfortable with appearing on television nevertheless she does this every Christmas as she delivers her personal message to the nation. This happens at 3 p.m. on Christmas Day and it is as much a part of Christmas as the turkey on the table.
The Queen has experienced personal sadness in her life that many can identify with. Her children have not led the protected and private life that was hers and any misdemeanours have been publicised for public consumption. Three of her four children have had unhappy marriages with much scandal evolving around the heir to the throne. Diana, Charles’ ex wife and mother of his two sons, died tragically in a car accident. The reaction of the public to this event put much strain on the Royal Family and even the Queen. She saw her third child, Andrew, go to war in the Falklands as a helicopter pilot.
The Queen has kept her personal feelings private throughout these difficult times, although she did refer to one year in particular, 1992, as Annus Horribils with good reason. During that year the marriages of Charles, Andrew and Anne broke up and there was a major fire at Windsor Castle.
The relationship between Queen and country has grown closer as the Queen has adapted to modern technology and embraced it. Although she may have forfeited some of her privacy in the process she has achieved greater affection from the country as people see her not just as a monarch but as a person of discretion, wisdom and commitment..
In addition the older generation have fond memories of watching their Princess marry her Prince, become a mother and then a Queen. As she had children, so did they. When her aged mother died they mourned with her. They knew a little of how she felt when her children encountered problems in their marriages, divorce having become an unhappy experience in many British families. They have noticed that In spite of personal grieving and problems the Queen’s hectic schedule remained uninterrupted. It was business as usual for her. The respect of the ‘common people’ for the Queen was handed down, perhaps quite subconsciously to their children.
We love the Queen for many reasons and we admire the discipline that keeps her going and sustains her regardless of whether the event she attends is pleasurable, boring or just an annual repetition.
She has taken her role seriously from the beginning and continues to pledge herself to serve the country.
This she does with vigour and energy in spite of her age. We have watched her grow old and her hair turn white but to us she is still the beautiful Queen we sang about in 1952, ‘the sweetest Queen the world’s ever seen....who belongs to you and me.’ To put it more classically, ‘long live our noble Queen, long may she reign over us....God save the Queen.’