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We are all Elizabethans now
Much as I like to mock our Royal Family, I am a staunch monarchist and would defend this irrational and old-fashioned institution against any criticism from outsiders. Here she is again, looking pretty in pink:
Here are some reactions from The Times:
Ye Harte and Garter had not seen such a flurry of activity since Shakespeare’s day. Then it was the Windsor hostelry where a drunken Falstaff recovered from his dunking in the Thames. Yesterday it was the place where the world’s television network tried to make sober sense of the mysterious British royalty.
Hundreds of millions of viewers around the world watched the Queen stroll down Windsor High Street. “The Brazilians love her hat,” said Ilse Scamparini, of Globo television… “Many English people have known no other monarch,” said Karin Webb, the (German) presenter. “She is their equivalent of Helmut Kohl.”
A panel of experts shook their heads at the comparison and moved the discussion on swiftly to even higher levels of devotion.
“The Queen is a supernatural being,” said Norbert Loh, royal-watcher for the magazine Die Aktuelle. “Elizabeth has this unbelievable sense of mystery.”
This was the key to the international interest. Stories about royalty sell better in republics than in monarchies. The camera team sent by the European Broadcasting Union fed their footage across Europe but not to the monarchies of Sweden, Norway or Spain, where there appears to be little television interest.
So the teams that piled into Windsor came from South America, Germany and the United States. Their fascination was endless. Even a shop offering “Elegant Hats for Hire” became a focus of interest, an apparent sign that the Queen’s influence delved deep into British society.
Agnes Reau, a producer for the CBS network of the United States, admitted that fashion was a prime concern of her viewers. “There is always a bit of suspense about what the Queen is going to wear,” she said.
But the huge news budget was at least partly justified by the discussion on air about the royal succession. “New York wants to know — what's going to happen next? Is this the beginning of something new?”
Not really, but one hopes – I’m sounding like Her Maj now – that it isn’t the end of something old and valuable. Tom Utley in yesterday’s Telegraph discussed how Queen Elizabeth has united our society more than any mere politician or president could.
I still have the occasional fantasy that one day I will be walking along the Mall as the Queen is driving past in her carriage. A would-be assassin leaps out from behind a tree in St James's Park and levels a gun at her. Valiant Tom Utley interposes his person between his sovereign and the gunman, and takes the bullet for her. (In my fantasy, I suffer only a flesh wound, which doesn't hurt a bit, but I am lavishly rewarded for saving the Queen's life: "Arise, Sir Thomas; do stay for tea".)
I suspect that many fewer people have such dreams and fantasies these days than in the 1950s and 1960s when I was growing up. But it is a huge credit to the character and conduct of Queen Elizabeth II that she remains as widely admired as she is. When we ask ourselves what we have in common with our fellow subjects - black, white, brown, rich, poor, young, old - one of the answers is not only that we all owe allegiance to the same sovereign, but that the great majority of us think that she is a Jolly Good Thing.
Elected presidents, with their partisan political allegiances, are much more divisive figures - as witness the recent upsurge of hostility across the Channel to that preposterous fraud, Jacques Chirac.
No patriotic piece would be complete without a pop at the French.
There are very, very few people who wish her anything but the happiest of 80th birthdays today. Our shared and unforced affection for her is one of the glorious marks of a free society. Long live the Queen! And long may she reign over us!
I’ll drink to that. But then there is not much, if truth be told, that I won’t drink to.