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Monday, January 2, 2012

2012 - A Diamond Jubilee Year

Unlike Helen Mirren's carriacature of the Queen,
Elizabeth II is a kind, thoughtful and surprisingly
funny woman, but it's her unwavering devotion to
duty that's won her the respect and affection of
millions throughout the world.
It will come as no surprise to you, dear readers, that we consider the Royal Family to be quite dapper and dreamy.  It's not just the British Royal Family, of course, there are many ruling houses doing worthy things for their countries around the world.  "What are they doing?", you may ask.  Well, don't worry, I have an answer...  But, first things first...

2012 marks the 60th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II's accession to the throne.  In early February 1952, the 25 year old Princess Elizabeth was on a long tour of Africa representing her ailing father, King George VI.  After a late night of watching wildlife gather to eat and drink at the base of Treetops, a cottage literally built in a large tree in Africa, the young princess was told that her father had died in his sleep at Sandringham House, the royal family's home in Norfolk, England.

Sixty years is a long time to be doing any job, let alone one that requires you to be on call each and every day, to travel around the world, and around the country, several times each year and to be a symbol of continuity, history and culture for millions of people.  Although there are some rather vocal detractors of monarchy in the countries in which they still operate, there is little serious challenge to the ancient institution.  Last year's royal wedding in England dashed the already extremely dim hopes that republicans had for a surge of popularity for their cause.  This year's Diamond Jubilee won't do them any favors, either.  In 2010, Sweden's Crown Princess Victoria married her former fitness instructor, a commoner of very humble birth, with public interest being so great as to remind many around the world that it's not just in England that royalty still reigns.

The Royal Wedding of 2011...  is there anyone
who didn't watch?

The 2010 marriage of Sweden's Crown Princess
Victoria, an immensely popular young royal
who will one day be the Queen of Sweden.

So, what's dapper and dreamy about queens and kings and princes and princesses in this day and age, anyway?  Even I who appreciate all the trappings of the whole thing can sometimes see the inequalities, but then I stop to think.  Taking the example of Queen Elizabeth II (you could easily put the name of almost any other European monarch in her place - Queen Margarethe of Denmark, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, to name two), one can see that a life devoted to the service of a whole nation, several nations actually, is a singular one.  At it's best, it does represent genuine continuity - a human link with history.  It also represents a sort of political continuity - each of the Queen's twelve prime ministers hail the fact that she is the one person that they can share ideas and problems with and expect to receive genuine, unbiased counsel based on decades of unmatchable knowledge and access.  It's amazing to see the kind of attachment that people have to their royal families.  They will deny it, say that it doesn't really impact their daily lives, but then turn out in the hundreds of thousands to celebrate the marriage of a young royal couple or mourn the loss of a one hundred year old Queen and Empress.  They will also surprise those that suggest that there is little real interest in the person who sits on the throne, and that a Jubilee celebration is a waste of time and money...  It's almost always suggested that it's the aged who retain a love and respect for the Queen.  Looking at the footage from the 2002 Golden Jubilee, an event that even Buckingham Palace was worried would fizzle, you will see nearly a million people, many of them young, many of them families, waving Union Jacks before Buckingham Palace, cheering the tiny figure of the Queen on the balcony.  And that says nothing of the millions watching on television - many of those people owing no allegiance at all to a sovereign.

The Queen, earlier this year, on one
of her many trips to Australia, a country
of which she is also the Queen.  Australian
republicans have acknowledged that as
long as the Queen lives, there's no point
in even discussing a republic.

Not to be too serious about it, though, there is a fun side to royalty.  Yes, the Queen is busy.  Yes, the Queen is valuable.  But, what we really love as much as anything is the fabulous spectacle that accompanies a royal celebration.  A Golden State Coach pulled by immaculately turned out horses, mounted soldiers in gleaming brass breastplates and foot soldiers in scarlet tunics and bearskin hats.  Massed bands playing stirring marches, crowds in the thousands cheering and waving flags and grand services of Thanksgiving with choirs and trumpets echoing through ancient abbeys and cathedrals.  It's a marvellous thing to behold, and it can be quite moving.  And, what's wrong with that?  In a time where even beauty often has to prove it's practical worth, the world is lucky to still have these sorts of dazzling events.  This year, it will be London that is the home to just such a celebration.  A grand pageant of ships and music on the Thames, parades, picnics and ceremonies both simple and brilliant, and an opportunity to for millions of people to come together peacefully and for the same purpose - to celebrate the achievements and challenges they've faced over the last sixty years, as well as the dutiful devotion of one woman to her people for a whole lifetime.  Dapper and dreamy to be sure.

The Golden State Coach, brought out only for Coronations
and Jubilees, last seen in 2002 for the Queen's Golden
Jubilee procession from Buckingham Palace to
St. Paul's Cathedral, site of the Service of Thanksgiving.

The Golden Jubilee crowds as seen from the balcony
of Buckingham Palace.  Even the Queen's closest
advisors had been worried that the event wouldn't
gather the momentum they'd hoped.  Many were even
concerned that the State funeral of the Queen's mother
would be characterized by small crowds and disinterest.  In fact,
both events drew unsurpassed crowds and demonstrations.

As you watch this, note the rather non-plussed look on the
Queen's face.  Far from indifference, it is said that Her Majesty
was completely overwhelmed by the magnitude and affection of
the enormous crowds gathered to celebrate her 50 years on the throne.
In fact, at the very beginning, she seems to be saying that she
can't believe it!

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