Seventy-one years ago today, upon the death of her father, King George VI, Princess Elizabeth Alexandra Mary ascended to the throne of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and all her other Realms and Territories.
She spent the next seventy years of her life cheerfully (to outward appearance) doing her duty and serving the people she had promised to serve for her “whole life.” And what a life it was. By the time of her death, in Sepember 2022, she’d personally met more world leaders than any other head of state (she met 13 US Presidents, every one, with the sole exception of Lyndon Johnson (not a great loss, some might say) from Harry Truman through Donald Trump). Up until the end, her annual broadcast Christmas message could still pretty much stop the country in its tracks, as young and old tuned in to listen.
But, although she’s well known for her famous maxim, “I have to be seen to be believed,” while she was one of the world’s most visible public figures, almost nothing was known about her personal beliefs, other than that she was a woman of deep family commitment and deep religious faith.
She hasn’t been particularly well-served by her children over the decades, the most dutiful of which is certainly the redoubtable Princess Anne who, after her (relatively) decorous divorce from Mark Phillips, and remarriage to Tim Laurence, settled into a life of quiet and dignified royal obligation. And Edward and Sophie Wessex seem like a lovely family, with lovely children. (If you’d told me–forty years ago–that Edward would be the only one of Her Majesty’s children to marry for love and stay married for life, I’d have not believed it.)
Then there are Charles and Andrew, the two oldest sons who, largely because of their wives (and in Andrew’s case his subsequent unsavory behavior) became tabloid fodder of the most unpalatable sort. Charles, at least, seems to have settled into a life of what passes for (if you’re the newly ascended King) quiet domesticity with the love of his life, and Andrew has been pretty much expunged from the record, or at least as much as is possible in the scandal-mad twenty-first century.
The Queen weathered all the family storms with dignity and silence. And eventually, each one blew over, even the one where she didn’t quite read the room correctly after the death of Diana. There was no emoting, no “tell-all” interviews, no self-involved books and no public spectacle. She simply got on with it. As Brits used to do.
Only time will tell if Charles can emulate his mother’s sterling example. He starts with a handicap, in that we already know his politics and his pet causes, and he’s not been shy about letting fly with his opinions on all of them. The recent announcement from Buck House that his coronation in May will focus on the diversity of modern Britain and–wait for it, you knew this was coming–THE NHS (currently on a nationwide strike) isn’t a particularly encouraging sign.
(Neither is the announcement that Charles won’t wear traditional royal garb for the event, but will, instead, wear one of the military uniforms he’s entitled to don. Presumably this was because some mutt opined that wearing the sort of clothing beloved of, say, Henry VIII would be seen as an obnoxious throwback to imperialist and colonialist times, and we can’t have that. As it turns out, some of the Commonwealth countries are objecting to the military uniform, because they see that as an indication of Britain’s expressed superiority and oppression. LOL. That’s what happens when you get woke, and stop simply “getting on with it.”)
And then there’s the constant drumbeat of stories about whether Harry and Meghan will be invited, and what it will mean if they are and if they are not. That woke wet, Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury has allegedly been brought on board to broker some sort of “deal.” Saints preserve us. (He seems to have forgotten that Meghan threw him under the bus in the Oprah interview, when she said that Welby had married Harry and her in the garden a few days before the televised ceremony. In Britain, if he’d done that, and if she’d been telling the truth, he’d have been charged with a crime.)
At this point, I dunno what the future holds for the British monarchy, but I’m not overflowing with optimism. We shall see.
God Save the Queen!
Honorable mention for most significant historical event for February 6? The birth, 111 years ago today, in Tampico, Illinois, of Ronald Wilson Reagan.