Laurel Beechey - The World is a Stage
September 9th will be a historical landmark for Great Britain, the Commonwealth and perhaps the world.
On that day, Queen Elizabeth II will become our longest reigning monarch, by surpassing her great-great-grandmother’s reign of 63 years and seven months.
To most, this is an interesting fact, but one that doesn’t merit a celebration. The Queen would agree with you. Nothing is planned. No stamps, parades or concerts. It will be a regular day in the life of our Queen.
“Like her great-great-grandmother before her, Elizabeth II has requested there be no celebrations on September 9. Her attitude is shaped by respect for her formidable predecessor. The Queen is said to hope that, if the event is marked at all, it is done so reverently, with no spirit of triumphalism and no suggestion that what is being celebrated is Victoria’s death. Instead palace officials are at work on the programme for the Queen’s ninetieth birthday next April.”
You may wonder at the statement about Queen Victoria’s death, however you must remember that the death of one monarch begins the reign of the next.
Since, William conquered England in 1066, there have been 41 Kings and Queens in Britain and only five of them ruled over 50 years. Edward III, at the age of 64 ruled 50 years and 147 days dying in 1377. Henry III, at the age of 65 ruled 56 years 29 days, dying in 1207. James VI of Scotland also known as James I of England, ruled 57 years, 246 days, dying in 1625. George III at the age of 81 ruled 58 years, 96 days, dying in 1820 and Queen Victoria who ruled 63 years and 7 months, dying at the age of 81 in 1901.
Over the millennium, the people of England have managed to create a solid bond with their monarchs; one that actually saw the formation Britain and an empire that spread around the world. Although brought down during their civil war, the monarchy was actually re-instated, unlike most monarchies. They also managed to avoid the dissolution of most of Europe’s monarchies after the World Wars.
Some of Britain’s monarchs have been used to name the age they ruled, not only in their own history but in the world’s history. Amazingly the names that immediately spring to mind are the Queens. The Elizabethan Age through the reign Elizabeth I and of course the Victorian Age, when the country’s wealth and inventiveness created the worlds’ first industrialized nation and its greatest imperial super power.
How does our Queen Elizabeth compare to them? Most of Britain’s colonies around the world are now independent nations with close ties to Britain. Britain was pretty much devastated after both World Wars. Queen Elizabeth, although young, served in uniform during the war and became Queen shortly afterwards, during the difficult years of rebuilding the country. She was not superfluous pomp and circumstance. She knew exactly what her people were going through and would not flaunt her power or wealth. Unlike the majority of her predecessors, she has not ruled uneducated masses and consequently has treated her subjects with respect.
Prime Ministers come and go, but the Queen has been like an anchor, giving stability, and inspiration in a very fast changing world. She is perhaps the most respected figure in British life, acclaimed by world leaders and admired around the world. At eighty-nine she is still unstinting in her devotion to duty.
She steered the monarchy through rough waters, when her children spread their wings, but managed to hold the ship steady and kept it on the right course. We know from her Golden Jubilee celebrations and the attention the world gives to Prince William and his family they still on top.
Queen Elizabeth wants no celebration and plans to spend this auspicious day at Balmoral in Scotland. She deserves it. But that doesn’t mean others cannot celebrate her achievement. In Britain they expect a ‘spontaneous effusion of love’, which I expect will happen around the Commonwealth and perhaps the world.
Annandale National Historic Site will be celebrating with an exhibit on Queen Elizabeth and I believe I heard rumours that their could be a tea or party to celebrate the beginning of her 64th year on the throne.
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