Today marks the 60th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth’s reign, her Diamond Jubilee. What does that mean to me, as a British ‘subject’? It’s actually a bit of a confusing mess.
I fully appreciate the significance of living in a parliamentary and constitutional democracy, where the monarch’s powers are merely symbolic. The thought of a President Cameron (or Blair) fills me with infinitely more trepidation than being nominally 'ruled' by a white-haired old woman who could no more refuse to sign any of the parliamentary decrees issued in her name than fly a kite.
On the other hand, there is something deeply unsettling about the levels of fawning and obsequiousness so widely on display. The Queen may be gracious but her hangers-on are often upper-class twits who care no more about the plight of the majority of the kingdom’s citizens than when their next tax loophole is being offered on a silver plate.
What about the Queen’s position as head of the Anglican church? That institution once presided over a sustained campaign of religious genocide against the people of Scotland. Ancient 17th century history, yes, but it deserves a mention, as does the unfathomable persecution of social ‘inferiors’ during the days of the British Empire.
On a personal note, my grandmother once worked as a waitress. One time she happened to be waiting tables at a Holyrood Palace garden party in Edinburgh. (This was before 1952, so Elizabeth the Queen Mother and King George VI were the honoured guests). Just before official opening time, Elizabeth was making her way around the tents, checking out the displays. She happened to poke her head inside the tent where my lovely grannie was standing proudly in her uniform. Their eyes met. Grannie waited for some pleasantry to be exchanged about how pretty she looked, or the weather, or at least the finger buffet: words she could share with her own children. Instead Elizabeth stared straight through her as if she didn’t exist, then left. That rankled grannie for many years afterwards!
There will aways be a them and us. To what extent you resent this is, of course, entirely up to you.