Politics

We can surely all salute the Queen’s selfless devotion to duty: Herald View

TOMORROW sees a landmark never previously reached: Her Majesty the Queen, already the longest-serving monarch in British history, reaches the platinum jubilee of her accession to the throne. She is currently at Sandringham and will probably not make any public show of the anniversary, which she associates with her father’s death rather than the beginning of her reign. The principal celebrations will come in June, commemorating the Coronation.

This is, however, a remarkable moment, and one in which we might all reflect on the astonishing record and personal qualities of our sovereign; the Queen has been notable not only for the length of her service, but for its exemplary nature and outstanding success.

And this is largely a personal achievement. Even convinced republicans acknowledge that Her Majesty’s dedication to the country, sacrifice and unwavering determination are well-nigh flawless. During a period of extraordinary change, she has remained a constant and stalwart figure, earning near-universal admiration for her leadership and personal example. History can show plenty of poor kings and queens, and not every current member of the royal household, to put it mildly, has lived up to her standards.

So this anniversary is not an occasion for trumpeting the institution of monarchy, the House of Windsor, the might of the United Kingdom or for attempting to recapture the supposed grandeur of Empire. No doubt there will be pomp and pageantry appropriate to all of that, not only in the nations of the UK, but in the many other nations and territories of which she remains the head of state. But this year will be, above all, an opportunity to mark and give thanks for Her Majesty’s own achievements and qualities.

She has been an outstanding leader of the Commonwealth of Nations, which comprises very nearly a third of the global population, and a staunch advocate of its unifying principles of democracy, human rights and the rule of law. She has been scrupulously neutral in political matters, though her own statesmanship and experience are unmatched by any politician.

One argument for monarchy, made even by those who find it hard to justify on any other grounds, is that it can be beneficial to have a head of state quite divorced from any divisive political stance. But that claim depends upon the ability of the monarch to meet that almost transcendent standard; even the sternest critics of royalty as a concept would find it difficult to deny that Elizabeth has not only lived up to, but easily exceeded, that remit.

As several of the contributors to our magazine’s feature today on the Queen’s record and the future of the monarchy note, it is difficult to think of instances where her behaviour has not been impeccable, but that offers no assurances for the future of the institution. It is above all Her Majesty’s own diligence, devotion, dignity and quiet moral example that many of us will be commemorating with gratitude in this jubilee year. As many have noted, it stands in sharp contrast to the plentiful failures to uphold such standards from history and in current public life.

The Queen has had to endure many difficulties, particularly in recent years, and everyone will sympathise with her after the loss of her beloved husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, and other family upheavals. She has, however, remained stoical and conscientious in adversity and her own advanced age.

As with her predecessor as a highly successful and popular queen,Victoria, it will be difficult for anyone who has lived through her reign to imagine anyone else fulfilling the role quite so well, or to see it as anything other than a golden age for the monarchy, whatever ructions may have stirred the world during that time. Amidst the tumult, the Queen has been a constant embodiment of duty, always placing the country and the Commonwealth’s needs before her own desires or comfort. This is a moment when her subjects, whatever their own differences and opinions, should at least be united in gratitude for her extraordinary record and selfless devotion. Long may she reign.

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