Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee
It wasn’t so long ago, I recall, that the Royal Family was a bit of a joke. An entire generation of them seemed unable to keep their private lives out of the tabloids with their adulterous, gaffe-prone, toe-sucking scandals. And the response to it all from the top left the public wondering why these people should be representing them.
Oh, what time, a bit of clever public relations, and a lot of pageantry can change!
To see the crowds in the mall and around Buckingham Palace this afternoon – more than one hundred thousand of them – shows how far the monarchy has come in the past decade or two. To see a gathering of such size, flags waving, is a rare sight for a head of state in a western democracy.
When they cheered in unison, three hip hip hoorays, there was a genuine warmth, love and admiration for the monarch in their unified voice.
How did the Queen rejuvenate the monarchy?
How did Queen Elizabeth II do it? How did she restore the respect for the family that had worked so hard in recent years to lose the trust of their people?
Well, partly by her steadfast decorum. As the matriarch of the House of Windsor she has never allowed herself to be embroiled in the salacious antics of her family. She has always remained above everything, noble and majestic, serving the people of the commonwealth and never her own interests.
To do that for sixty years is something that the citizens now realise is something worth celebrating.
The Queen has also been very canny with the way she is now projecting the future of the monarchy. It has been the generation of her children who have caused the most grief and done the most damage to the royal brand.
The focus is now, very cleverly, on the next generation. The world stopped and marvelled when William and Catherine married last year – for the royal family, though, it was the best chance they had to start moving forward.
Modernising the monarchy
Commentators like to describe it as ‘modernising’ the monarchy. In my opinion, it’s more realistically about making the royal family more genuine and relatable.
The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry are the holy trinity of rejuvenation in faith in the crown. They have been brought up in an age where it is acceptable to have fun and to speak to their subjects as peers.
They’re not yet burdened by a crown on their head but they’re respected for that destiny. And every foot they now put right goes a step towards atoning for the sins of their older relatives and reflects well on the Queen herself. Nobody is under any illusions that she’s not the one encouraging them to be themselves.
There’s been a lot of talk of ‘service’ when people have referred to the Queen in the past few days. It’s a very British notion and a word that carries one of the highest compliments.
The atmosphere here in London over the long weekend has been one of patriotism but it’s about more than just the monarch herself. At a time when the economy is weak and politics is uninspiring, the people here want to believe in their country.
The Royal Wedding last year started the ball rolling and the London Olympics will potentially be the most visible part of the process. But it’s the Jubilee which is the one that seems to mean the most to people because it is one of the most defining aspects of what it is to be British.
London has been awash with flags – as has much of the kingdom and the commonwealth – and it’s under the motif of Great Britain that it all comes together. There’s such a strength in the Union Jack: the red and white stripes all come in from the sides of the flag to the centre, which connects every part of the design.
If you were one to read into symbology, it would be very easy to say the flag reflects the role the Queen has designed for herself over 60 years – the centre of her realm, bringing everything together from every corner of the world.