The last few years have been marked by important milestones in the history of the British monarchy. In 2012 Queen Elizabeth II celebrated her sixtieth anniversary on the throne. And 2013 was the sixtieth year from the day of her coronation. Finally, on 9 September 2015 Elizabeth II broke the record for length of time as ruler. Queen Victoria once held it at 23,226 days, or 63 years, 7 months and two days.
In contrast to previous commemorative dates, this symbolic achievement did not become a reason for organising large public events. The queen spent her day on a business trip with her spouse the Duke of Edinburgh. In the village Tweedbank in south Scotland, she opened a railway branch to Edinburgh. Nicola Sturgeon, First Minister of Scotland and leader of the Scottish National Party, addressed the monarch with hearty congratulations. In response, the queen announced that, “Inevitably a long life can pass by many milestones. My own is no exception. But I thank you all and the many others at home and overseas for your touching messages of great kindness.” (quoted from the BBC)
Great Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron gave a separate speech on the occasion of the historic event. “Her Majesty inspires us all with her incredible service to this country, her dignified leadership and the extraordinary grace with which she carries out her duties. She has been a rock of stability in an era in which our country has changed so much, providing an enduring focal point for all her people,” he said (official site of the UK Government).
The British queen enjoys far greater influence and authority in comparison with the representatives of Europe’s other royal houses. Elizabeth II retains her crown privileges: the right to be informed about affairs of state and the right to give advice to the prime minister. In addition, she performs a symbolic function. As the head of state, she embodies national identity, heads the Commonwealth and is the supreme leader of the Church of England.
The latest surveys attest to the enduring popularity of the royal family. 70% of British citizens are in favour of preserving the monarchy indefinitely. 58% trust the sovereign more than any other politician. 73% of the population considers the institution of monarchy an essential part of British society, and only 21% would call it a waste of money (according to a survey by Sky Data).
What is the secret to this phenomenal success? First of all, attention is drawn towards the personality of Elizabeth II herself, her seriousness and hard-working nature. Another reason is that the monarchy does not fear change. It makes extensive use of modern technology – television and the internet. The relatives of the professor also engage widely in charity work; as Professor Frank Prochaska of Oxford University asserts, this makes it “more democratic and visible for ordinary citizens” (in the book Royal Bounty). After a series of divorces among Elizabeth II’s children (Princess Anna, Prince Charles, Prince Andrew), the royal house was no longer referred to as the country’s model family, but competent political marketing significantly rehabilitated its reputation.
Moreover, the monarchy has largely managed to retain its ceremonial traditions. Labour politician Roy Jenkins claimed that etiquette was observed significantly more strictly in Buckingham Palace than in the Belgium court (European Diaries 1977-1981). The pompous ritual of the queen’s opening of parliament and the rules for solemn parades are preserved down to this day. As ever before, the monarchy is surrounded by an aura of mystery, which arouses even greater interest in it.
The reign of Queen Victoria (1837-1901) entered into history under the name of the Victorian Era. Most likely, Elizabeth II’s will be later be named after her in a similar way.
For more about the place of the British monarchy among the European royal houses, please read our article here: “A monarchy of our time”