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70 years on the throne. The Queen stands with the nation, the nation with its Queen

The British are celebrating the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. The heir to the throne, Prince Charles, is taking over more and more of his future duties. A few years ago, not without sarcasm, he joked that “although he reached retirement age, he have not even started working”. Prince Charles is 73 years old, so he will become king at an age when an average Briton has long retired.

„Make Elizabeth the Last. Abolish the Monarchy” –this slogan, in capital letters, greets visitors on the website of an organization called Republic. Until now, the British anti-monarchist association, which demanded – the name says it all – the establishment of a republic, has been so vocal. This was the case after the death of Prince Philip. However, it was clearly recognized that the Platinum Jubilee, the 70th anniversary of the queen’s reign, is the last chance to manifest their demands before the next monarch – Charles III – takes the throne.

Therefore, it has to be there, on the Republic website. He is shown, as no longer young, gray-haired in the company of his brother Andrew and his son William. It was no coincidence that they were chosen. Andrew’s presence is a reminder that the royal family has its black sheep. It was Andrew, who has caused the royal family most trouble, apart from Prince Harry (but his reputation was saved by his wife – a militant feminist and environmentalist, on top of it “biracial”, as they say now). The presence of William, who will be the heir to the throne during his father’s reign, shows that if the monarchy is not abolished, successive generations will have the right to the throne -but, to be honest, why?

Republic is a small organization (it has around 5,000 members, as it claims) but it is loud, as it enjoys the support of people well known to the general public: writers (Zadie Smith), filmmakers (Danny Boyle, Mike Leigh, Ken Loach), actors (Glenda Jackson, Colin Firth) and academics (Richard Dawkins). Their criticism harms the perception of monarchy the most. The effect has so far been rather weak, but hope is not to be lost. Let us be reminded that, after all, it already happened once before – following the death of Princess Diana- the support for the monarchy plunged suddenly and significantly. So far it was the last time.

The time of celebrations

It certainly won’t happen any time soon. Celebrations such as the Platinum Jubilee – the fourth, let us add, anniversary celebrations, after the silver (1977), gold (2002), and diamond (2012) jubilees – promote the exact opposite: they bring positive feelings: a sense of connection, as well as pride in history and achievements of the monarchy. The more so, that this history is shared, and so are the achievements, according to the idea: queen with the nation, the nation with the queen. It can be expected that following the celebrations, the level of support for Elizabeth will exceed the current rate of 76-80%, which makes her the unrivaled number one in the royal family.

This past long weekend was therefore special for Great Britain. For four days, from June 2 to 5 (the British were given additional days off on Thursday and Friday), the whole country celebrated together, both officially, as well as freely and informally, at the so-called street parties. It is a unique British custom that was born out of a wave of joy after the end of the Second World War, when people spontaneously took to the streets, organizing neighborhood meetings. From then on, on all important occasions, tables are set up on the streets, refreshments are prepared and everyone is having fun together.

The official celebrations commenced on Thursday with the annual Trooping the Color military parade, held, traditionally, on the monarch’s official birthday. Official – because British kings celebrate their proper birthday only privately, with their relatives. Official birthdays for the country and the nation are celebrated in June since 1748. The tradition was initiated by King George II, who was born at the end of October, and he did not think it was a good time for parades and outdoor games.

Let us add that although Elizabeth ascended the throne on February 6, 1952, when her father, George VI died, she was crowned more than a year later, on June 2, 1953. In this way, the Platinum Jubilee combines an old royal tradition with an anniversary important to Elizabeth herself.

On Thursday evening, in honor of the Queen, lights were turned on in 1,500 cities and towns in Great Britain and dependent territories. For the first time, the floodlights also lit up the skies above all of the Commonwealth capitals. There were the races in Epsom on Saturday; the queen is an expert on horses and an authority in their breeding. At Buckingham Palace, there was a Platinum Party – a concert with famous performers. On Sunday, events, competitions, and performances in front of the palace took place.

The highlight of the celebrations was the thanksgiving mass, celebrated on Friday, June 3rd, at St. Paul’s Cathedral. It was attended by all family members (and invited guests), including those who are no longer the working royals- the ones who are patrons of various organizations or can replace the Queen in her duties. Those royals are Andrew as well as Harry and his wife Meghan Markle. Despite attending the celebrations, all three were rid of their place on the balcony of Buckingham Palace, where the whole family is always present on important occasions, such as Trooping the Color.

The Time of Elisabeth

Gifts are an inseparable element of the royal celebrations- tangible, sent by subjects, but also symbolic ones. The newly opened high-frequency hybrid commuter rail crossing London from east to west has been named the Elizabeth Line. The Queen has also been immortalized as a Barbie doll as part of a new series to commemorate outstanding women. Royal Barbie is modeled on the royal portrait from years ago. In the portrait, Elizabeth is wearing a cream-colored dress with a blue ribbon and the tiara of her grandmother Maria, the wife of George V – and this is also what the doll looks like.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson, in turn, decided to celebrate the Jubilee by restoring old imperial measures, such as ounces and pounds. Now, they can be used interchangeably with the metric measures. In addition, eight towns from now on are cities, as they received city rights. A competition for the “jubilee pudding” was also scheduled.

The most original idea, however, was the introduction of the Thank You Day – a bank holiday, which was an expression of society’s gratitude for the reign of Elizabeth II. The day of thanks was held on Sunday, June 5th, but the initiators would like the festival to be introduced permanently. The precedent was set by such a day from a year ago, organized at that time as an expression of thanks to the people who fought the Covid-19 pandemic.

After 70 years on the throne, the queen is a true record holder. Not only is her reign the longest of any British ruler (Queen Victoria, her great-great-great-grandmother, ruled 64 years), but now Elisabeth II has a chance to break the all-time record of Louis XIV, who ruled France for 73 years. In the coming months, if all goes well, Elizabeth will move from the fourth place on the list of the longest-ruling monarchs to the second. She will then beat Johann II, Prince of Liechtenstein who ruled for 70 years and 91 days at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, as well as Bhumibol, King of Thailand who died just a few years ago after being on the throne for 70 years and 126 days. Elizabeth II is already the longest-ruling woman.

It is worth pointing out that during the reign of Elizabeth, Great Britain had 14 prime ministers, beginning with Winston Churchill. The United States had just as many presidents. The Queen met everyone one of them except Lyndon Johnson.

The numbers, although eye-catching, do not really say much. It may be more tempting to compare Elizabeth II to her great namesake – the 16th-century ruler Elizabeth I (1533-1603). The imprint left behind by kings who had absolute power, of course, is in no way comparable to what a constitutional monarch who “reigns but does not rule” can leave behind. Is it possible then to speak of a “second Elizabethan age”, since Elizabeth II has limited powers, just like the majority of the modern kings?

The time of symbols

The work of the Queen’s great predecessor cannot be overestimated. Elizabeth I, more than any other ruler of England, contributed to the shaping of Great Britain. Her reign not only stabilized the state after a period of dramatic internal conflicts, including the religious ones but also brought about colonial conquests and laid out the foundations for a future empire. It also fostered the flourishing of literature and science (Shakespeare, Marlowe, Bacon). Meanwhile, the reign of Elizabeth II saw the empire’s disintegration, although this had already begun during the lifetime of her father, George VI. Later it only intensified, especially in Africa.

Both Elizabeths are like two reference points that mark the beginning and the end of an epoch. Was Elizabeth II just a helpless witness to the collapse of the empire, or was she trying to salvage what was still to be saved? Experts on the subject believe that her involvement in the functioning of the Commonwealth – the Commonwealth of Nations, which comprised mainly, but not exclusively, the former British colonies – was neither superficial nor insignificant. On the executive level, the queen cannot do much, because the monarch’s prerogatives are limited. But Elisabeth II perfectly filled the role of a symbolic keystone, a reminder of the bond between the countries under the British influence. She herself emphasized on many occasions how dear to her heart is the Community, which she still formally heads, although Prince Charles is already relieving her of most of her duties.

The more important role however is that of the keystone of the United Kingdom. The break-up of the country consisting of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland is still possible, though it is difficult to say if it will ever happen, and if so then when. What is certain is that given the age of the Queen, and the time needed for the possible secession of Scotland or Northern Ireland, it will not happen during Elizabeth’s lifetime. That’s a good thing because it would be a personal tragedy for her.

Even though the Queen cannot be politically involved or even speak out directly, she finds subtle ways to clearly show what is important to her. In 2014, before the Scottish independence referendum, she did not appeal to the Scots to stay in the union. She just asked them to make the right decision for the future. And when she visited Ireland a few years ago, she was the first British monarch in over a hundred years to wear green, which the Irish consider their national color. In addition, at the party that evening, she appeared in a dress embroidered with clovers, the symbol of Ireland, with a harp-shaped brooch, her emblem.

She uses such symbolic signals daily. Usually, which is easy to notice, Elizabeth is wearing a single-colored outfit, in vivid, saturated, sometimes even bright hues. It is not a coincidence or a manifestation of a specific fashion style. The point is to stand out clearly from the background, to be visible from a distance, and for everybody to know that the Queen is right beside them. Elizabeth’s outfit is a signal: I am with you. “I don’t wear beige, because no one would know who I am,” – she reportedly once said.

The time of Charles

With each passing anniversary, there is more speculation as to whether the Queen will abdicate in favor of her son Charles, the Prince of Wales. She has not done so thus far and is unlikely to do it. It is believed that she has such a deep-rooted sense of servitude towards the nation that she cannot fathom not fulfilling the duties she took up on herself. She made a declaration that she would serve “our imperial family” her whole life. She did so on her 21st birthday as an heir to the throne and has recently repeated the vow on the anniversary of her accession to the throne. She remains true to her word, despite her age and health – she turned 96 in April and appears to be weaker, especially since the death of Prince Philip, to the point that this year Prince Charles even gave the throne speech in the parliament. All this would justify her resignation from the throne. The nation would understand it, although the majority does not expect it.

At the same time, Prince Charles is taking on more and more of his future duties. A few years ago, not without sarcasm, he joked that “although he reached retirement age, he has not even started working”. Of course, this is not true, because Charles, alongside his sister Anna, is one of the royals with the biggest number of duties. Formally he did not take up the post assigned to him. Now new responsibilities arise, and although the Prince of Wales can count on the help of his son William, it is most unlikely that William could “skip” the order and sit on the throne instead of his father. This would only be possible if Charles became King and renounced the throne himself. The rules of succession are unshakable.

Prince Charles is 73 years old, so he will become king at an age when an average Briton has long retired. In addition, he will also break the record – the age record at the time of enthronement; William IV, the oldest one so far, became king at the age of 64.

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