Well I have just got back from a street party to celebrate the 60th anniversary of our dear Queen’s coronation. I have had some beer, almost but not quite got up to dance and joined in with singing God Save the Queen. I always enjoy this kind of shared national experience, though I don’t really count as a flag waving patriot. I did actually buy the Sex Pistol’s God Save the Queen as a teenager when it came out, and I can easily put an argument forward for why it is an anachronistic institution that we should get rid of. But would I get rid of the monarchy if I could? I don’t think so. It does have some advantages, and it is hard to imagine anything that could easily take its place. As a lover of history I can’t help thinking about what an event like today’s tells us.
For a start, it helps you understand what a powerful institution monarchy is and why it has been such an enduring political institution for so much of human history. For a start, there is only one king or queen. They didn’t generally choose the job and so it is hard to resent them personally.
And it is the personal contact bit that really makes all the difference. Looking at the scenes on the river where around a thousand vessels have been on the water, it is easy to forget what it takes to put a show like that on. It isn’t as if the Queen can simply order her subjects to turn out. Almost all the people on the river will have been contacted and requested to participate. This shows what an amazingly large network of contacts the monarch and her household have. And these are quite often pretty personal ones. All those trips around the country carried out by the Queen and her family have not been laid on purely for our entertainment. Links have been formed as well.
So in the end, Elizabeth the Second is probably by a long way the best connected person in her kingdom. That is one of the reasons so many of us have turned out to wish her well, even if we don’t have any particular attachment to the principle of monarchy or even if we aren’t all that patriotic.