Tim Stanley: God Save the Queen ... Why the British Monarchy May Not Outlive ElizabethRoundup: Talking About History
Tim Stanley blogs for The London Daily Telegraph and is the author of The Crusader: the Life and Tumultuous Times of Pat Buchanan.
Last week marked the sixtieth anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II’s accession to the British throne. The government has already declared a four day public holiday in June, during which Her Majesty will lead a flotilla of a thousand boats along the Thames and a chain of fiery beacons will be lit across the United Kingdom. For a country in recession and at conflict with the European Union over its right to govern its own finances, this offers us a unique opportunity to reassert confidence and historical identity. The default British response to any crisis is to throw a good party.
But enthusiasm for Queen Elizabeth’s anniversary hides the fact that the future of the monarchical institution is in question. Elizabeth II is very popular among her subjects, but her son and heir is not. The tension over the future of the throne raises an even bigger question in Britain: whether it’s appropriate for a 21st century democracy to maintain a monarchy at all.
The British enthusiasm for Queen Elizabeth is about two things. First, it’s about us. The Queen’s reign encompassed an extraordinary breadth of social history, covering both the highs and lows of British life—throughout all of which, the Queen was the one constant. When she came to the throne, Britain still ruled large swathes of the world and was a major power. By the late 1960s our empire was gone and we were divesting ourselves of what remained of Victorian culture—London swung, and hem lines were at an all time high. Britain crashed out in the 1970s (the Queen’s Silver Jubilee of 1977 was celebrated by a country crippled by strikes and inflation), the 1980s brought the harsh medicine of Thatcherism, and the 1990s a consumer boom. To review her history is to review a history of ourselves: like flicking through an old family photo album...
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