This year is a busy one for Britain isn’t it? The Olympic flame has arrived and it’s all systems go. However, before the Olympics we have the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee to celebrate, involving river pageants, parties, church services and some people enjoying a long weekend. London will be heaving with tourists and Londoners alike, all trying to soak up the atmosphere as they enjoy the celebrations.
I was born in the year Elizabeth came to the throne and my parents bought their first television so that we could watch the Coronation. I was too young to remember it but I do remember that television. It was encased in a wooden cabinet with doors and a ridiculously small screen; it was only black and white of course. I remember sitting down with my mother and watching the hour or so of children’s programs every day (yes all you younger ones there was no on tap CBBC or CBeebies in those day – I feel really old). There was Muffin the Mule (he was a puppet and you could see the strings quite clearly – I only just about remember him) and then we had the Woodentops, the Flowerpot Men and Andy Pandy and then the highlight of the week, when I was a little older, ‘Blue Peter’ with it’s hundred and one things to do with sticky back plastic and wire coat hangers. All very sophisticated.
How things have changed. Slimline HD TV’s are the norm, and we seem to be rapidly launching ourselves into the 3D era. We can see each other on our phones if we have the right technology and I don’t suppose it will be long before we have perfected holographic images and will be able to appear in each other’s living rooms if we want a chat. What a thought.
We have ipads, iphones, ipods, we can do our shopping on line and have it delivered within hours. We can surf the net for information on any subject and chat to ‘friends’ on Facebook. I have a headache just thinking about the changes that have taken place in this new Elizabethan age. We didn’t even have microwaves when I was young and then, when we did, we were very suspicious of them in case the microwaves leaked out.
During the time Elizabeth has been our queen maybe we’ve taken her for granted, except for the times when we’ve been critical – for instance when Diana died and she was lambasted for staying in Scotland with her grieving grandsons.
I have vaguely wondered for years what the monarchy is for and it wasn’t until I watched the Andrew Marr documentary about the queen earlier this year that I finally got it. I came to realise that she has offered stability, continuity and security for the entire time I’ve been alive. She is above politics and is very astute and knowledgeable. I have surprised myself by finding I actually admired her. Andrew Marr said he found plenty of Republicans out there but he couldn’t find a single person who was willing to criticise the Queen. Even vocal republicans realise that she has worked tirelessly throughout her reign for the good of the country.
Yes, she may be rich and live in large houses, she is undoubtedly privileged but, you know, she didn’t choose to be born a princess, she didn’t choose to be queen, it is just what was expected of her and she has fulfilled her vows and taken on the mantle of duty and service – whatever she may feel. Queen Elizabeth is definitely a tough cookie. Can you imagine shaking all those hands and never looking bored?
As we celebrate the Diamond Jubilee, whatever we feel about the monarchy, perhaps we should stop and reflect on some of Elizabeth’s qualities and the example she has set for us all. Maybe the church, in all its manifestations, needs to stop and think about whether we can offer the same robust qualities of care, leadership, service, and continuity as our monarch has done in this rapidly changing world.