Posted by: martinworster | June 12, 2012

141. DIAMOND JUBILEE

..The Queen is still alive. All hail the Queen…

So our Queen has been on the throne for 60 years. Wow. I think I can just about remember the Golden Jubilee in 1977 when I would have been five years old. I have mixed feelings about the Monarchy – ethically, I am probably against the whole hereditary principle. A fair society should surely be a meritocracy? In an ideal world. Particularly in these times of austerity, the vast wealth of the Windsors and the overall bling factor of the Royal family doesn’t wash with a lot of people. These people haven’t really earnt their dough have they?

But recently – especially through my experiences living in the US – I’m starting to really see and understand some of the benefits they bring. I like the continuity and link to the past the Royal family provides. Does this respect for the past and tradition make me a Conservative? Possibly, but I’ve always had issues with the over simplified personal philosophy boxes that are required to tick membership of being either Labour or Conservative. There are elements of both parties values I believe in although, admittedly, more of it personally speaking falls to the left of the divide.

The Queen is the Head of State in the UK. Although this function is purely symbolic – she has no ‘real’ power to create or change laws. But she must have some influence on how things are done. The Queen has a weekly meeting with whichever Prime Minister is in power. Since being crowned in 1952 she has seen 12 Prime Ministers on her tenure – with possibly more to come. This must bring some guidance and measure to the political process. Who knows what goes on behind closed doors? But her experience is surely wealded to exert some – probably positive – influence. In 60 years she would have seen it all – wars, strikes, recessions, terrorism etc. Maybe this brings about less of a swing from Left to Right, unlike in the United States where it seems as soon as a new government is formed they undo all the work of those previously in power. This constant see saw of extreme partisanship isn’t a healthy thing.

On the Saturday afternoon (June 2nd) we went up to Los Angeles to the Brits in LA ‘Lovely Jubbly Jubilee Party’. I wanted to expose my boys to some British culture. The party was 1950s themed, including fancy dress, tea and cakes, lots of bunting and a good old sing song ‘knees up’ around a piano. It was fun – not sure what my boys made of ‘My Old Man’s A Dustman’ though. ‘All together now…and he lives in a council flat..’. More than anything the party seemed to be largely an exercise in 50s retromania. At one point there was a toast to the Queen, but other than that there was little reference to the monarchy apart from the cardboard cut out of QEII who you could have your photo taken with.

For the American’s the Monarchy must be fascinating. It is somewhat strange and quirky of Britain – in many ways a progressive and modern society – to cling on to this institution that dates back millennia. To give such reverence and wealth to an unelected group. But, by gawd, judging from their current very high approval rating we do love them. American’s probably love it for the celebrity angle and for exactly the reason they don’t have actual, real, Princes, Princesses, Dukes, Kings and Queens.

They do have some positive affects on British society. At times like these – all the street parties and community celebrations – it binds and unites the country. Also, as a lot of the rest of the world is watching, there is an element of self congratulation and national pride of the ‘aren’t we great’ ilk. ‘Look at us, us Brits really know how to throw a party’. Plus there’s the whole soap opera element, they might be Royal but they also have human problems – divorce, affairs, drug habits, rows – just like us mere mortals and we love to read about it.

Watching some of the events – the river pageant, the service at St Pauls, the concert at Buckingham Palace – it made for fascinating viewing. Not just the whole pomp and ceremony of trumpet fan fares heralding the Queens arrival, horse drawn carriages or her retinue of personal bodyguards in the form of Yeoman Wardens, bowing and curtseying. Plus the decorum of the Queen in that she never appears excitable or gets carried away, the controlled waving and overall feeling of Royal distance from her loyal subjects. You mustn’t touch the Queen. It says an awful lot about Britishness and our overall way of life. It was also interesting that the whole extended bank holiday weekend was a prescribed window of opportunity to celebrate Britishness. It’s four days within which it’s okay to feel national pride and to wave the Union Jack. Once those four days are over it’s back to reality and you can forget about any flag waving.

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