Queen dedicates herself to nation for jubilee
Sixty years after becoming Britain’s Queen, the 85-year-old Elizabeth II has pledged to continue her life of service to her people. Royal experts say she will do her duty till the day she dies.
Princess Elizabeth was up a tree on the evening she became Queen. The 25-year-old and her husband Philip were on safari and had spent the day filming elephants from the balcony of Kenya’s famous Treetops Hotel. The next morning, Elizabeth was in good spirits, laughing and playing with a family of friendly baboons who capered in the branches.
Hundreds of miles away, unknown to the young princess, grim news was spreading through the secret channels of royal officialdom. King George VI was dead. His daughter, Elizabeth, was now England’s Queen.
Elizabeth’s days of carefree existence were at an end. When the news finally reached her, on the afternoon of February 6th, there was no time for tears. By the 7th, she was on her way back to London. On the 8th, she made a brief statement to the public and to the world: ‘I am called to assume the duties and responsibilities of sovereignty. My heart is too full for me to say more to you today than I shall always work to advance the happiness and prosperity of my peoples.’
Yesterday, on the sixtieth anniversary of her father’s death, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II renewed that solemn vow. ‘I dedicate myself anew to your service,’ she told the nation.
Few have found fault with her dedication so far. For six decades, she has tirelessly performed her royal duties. She has travelled thousands of miles on more than 300 official state visits. She has had 1.5 million deserving guests at royal garden parties. She has handed out half a million honours; hosted 91 official banquets; been a patron to 600 charities and answered 3.5 million letters.
As Prime Minister David Cameron pointed out yesterday, the Queen had been ‘guiding the nation’ with ‘experience, dignity and quiet authority’ for 14 years before he was even born.
Heavy hangs the head
For all the privileges, being Queen is no easy job. There will be many, in the year of Elizabeth’s diamond jubilee, who will not envy her the life she has led. It is a life lived constantly in the public eye; a life of endless official business and state functions. Surely, people will argue, all that royal duty is a terrible and exhausting burden.
Other royal watchers agree that Elizabeth regards the Crown as a sacred responsibility. Her sense of duty has defined her whole existence, since that African evening sixty years ago. But that should not, they say, cause anyone to pity her. Why? Because, in a curious way, the great weight of her duties is not a burden; it is what gives her strength.
- How important is it, in life, to do your duty?
- Is Elizabeth II right to have devoted herself to the service of the nation? Why aren’t monarchs allowed to retire, or take summers off?
- Write a letter to the Queen, on the occasion of her 60th year on the throne.
- Choose another monarch from history and produce a report on their life. How does your chosen subject compare with Elizabeth II?
Some People Say...
“Constant work, not idleness, is the secret of a happy life.”
What do you think?
Q & A
- Is everyone really that excited about the Queen?
- An extraordinary number of people around the world acknowledge the Queen as their head of state. Canada, Jamaica, Australia and Barbados – among others – all acknowledge her sovereignty. Her titles go even further, including, apparently, ‘Paramount Chief of Fiji’, ‘Mother of all People’, and ‘Missis Queen’.
- But is her diamond jubilee really going to change my life?
- It certainly will if you’re in the UK. This coming June there will be a huge national holiday, with street parties, concerts and a huge flotilla of a thousand boats sailing down the River Thames.
- What if I don’t like parties – or royals?
- Even the most die-hard anti-monarchists ought to take an interest in the Queen’s story. Apart form anything else, to understand her life is to understand the changing nature of Britain itself.
- Prince Philip, also known as the Duke of Edinburgh, married Princess Elizabeth in 1947. He is descended from Kings of Denmark and Greece and is related, through his grandmother, to the last Tsar of Russia.
- George VI
- King George VI never expected to come to the throne. He was given the crown only after the abdication of his brother, King Edward VIII in 1936, an event that caused a scandal at the time. Until that moment, his daughters had been able to look forward to lives of relative peace.
- Her Majesty
- ‘Majesty’ has been an official title, or ‘style’ of England’s monarchs since the time of Henry VIII, and is also used by all other monarchs in Europe. Princes and Princesses are called ‘Highness’, very high-ranking aristocrats can be called ‘Excellency’ and Catholic cardinals are called ‘Eminence’.
- Diamond jubilee
- A jubilee (the word shares a root with ‘jubilation’, which means ‘rejoicing’) is a celebrated anniversary, usually of a wedding or of the beginning of a monarch’s reign. Diamond is for the 60th anniversary; gold for the 50th, and silver for the 25th.