Today, Queen Elizabeth II becomes the United Kingdom’s longest serving monarch, surpassing only Queen Victoria. The Queen will have reigned for 63 years and seven months.
When she came to the throne, Winston Churchill was Prime Minister. The British Empire was only just beginning to disintegrate. Stalin still ruled over Russia with an iron fist. The Cold War was in it’s infancy. The atom bomb cast an ominous shadow over the world. The welfare state as we know it had only just been born. The union barons were virtually kings of their nationalised industries. The British people were much poorer, whiter and more culturally conservative (with a small-c) than they would ultimately become.
Elizabeth II has overseen a period of massive political, demographic and technological change that few could have foreseen when she was born. The Queen has seen off no less than twelve Prime Ministers, twelve US Presidents, and countless other world leaders. In a world full of uncertainties, she has been a solid presence for over half a century.
In an age where Britons are divided by so many things, the monarchy – and Elizabeth II in particular – unites us. That is its point, and the secret behind its popularity.
It is a strange national obsession, grounded in the instincts rather than pure rationality. Beyond the banality of everyday existence lies a world off mystery and pomp, full of crowns and sceptres, castles and palaces, princes and princesses. The mystery of monarchy fascinates us.
Yet few envy the Royal Family their opulence. In fact the monarchy remains as popular as it has ever been. Seven out of ten people polled by ComRes think Britain should remain a monarchy. More than half think the country would suffer if it were abolished.
Among young people, the rising generation of royalty is more popular than the old guard – Prince William, Prince Harry and the Duchess of Cambridge score higher approval ratings among 18-24s than the Queen does. The future of the monarchy is not even slightly in doubt.
Naturally, this enrages Britain’s tiny clique of irrelevant republicans – over-represented in the left wing media and their insular echo-chambers on twitter and Facebook. Ignoring the wishes of the overwhelming majority of the nation, they insist that they know better. They would have us end an institution that embodies more than a thousand years of history (going back to Alfred the Great) purely because ‘I said so’.
There are few things so vile and disgusting as the urge to destroy your own heritage. Sneering modern-day Jacobins like Polly Toynbee – who suggests ending the “charade” of monarchy after the death of the Queen – really ought to be ashamed of themselves.
The monarchy is perhaps Britain’s most popular institution. With politicians increasingly discredited, the British people need institutions they can trust more than we ever have done.
The Queen has lived her life as a model of duty and service. To her subjects in Britain and the Commonwealth she is more than just a Queen. She is the supreme symbol of all that we are and all that we stand for.
Long may she reign over us. God save the Queen.