Is the Queen a drag – (wait for it) – on developing a rational and newly articulated sense of Britishness that may be needed to preserve the Union? The very civility she attracts from opponents of Britishness from Alex Salmond to Martin McGuinness may have an anaesthetising effect on the great middle who somehow will have to deal with the challenge. On the other hand inertia on the subject of the Union may be its greatest asset, buttressed by a kind of depoliticised patriotism which has replaced the old imperialism which the Queen has gradually come to represent. On jubilee weekend, here are couple of the more detached pieces in support of the Queen’s record, the first from one of British patriotism’s most candid friends the military historian Max Hastings in the FT(£).
Queen Elizabeth has done nothing ungracefully and endured a public life of stultifying boredom in a fashion that has done much service to her country. A few intellectual snobs mock her resistance to culture and her anodyne conversation. But she has understood the most important thing about a modern constitutional monarch: that he or she is judged for what they are, rather than for what they do.
The Queen is perceived today to be where we might all wish to be – floating some way above the stink. And for that reason the young woman who was phoned on safari in Kenya in 1952 and told to come home immediately is 60 years later overwhelmingly popular. We are grateful that there is one British citizen who is not at the mercy of market forces and shameless profiteering, nor of a government which lacks the philosophy, the intellectual equipment or the will to control them. What was in happier times the Queen’s greatest weakness – that she does not in the circumstances of her life resemble her subjects – has paradoxically, at this point in our history, come to be her greatest strength. Republicans who have recently been cowed into silence – “not a good year for us,” admitted their spokesperson – should take heart. The vestigial idealism which has recently settled on the Queen’s shoulders is a parallel instinct to that which demands television programmes not about rubbish and a publicly funded health service, where the fit pay cheerfully to help the sick. God knows, that public idealism has few enough other places to go.
Can’t resist two items of local interest, the Orange Order jubilee commemorations in Glasgow whose street parties qualify for a council grant apparently.Ireland figured quite prominently in Prince Charles’ Tribute to the Queen, as he watched the family’s old home movies and quite a bit of official archive too. He was obviously moved as he watched the Mountbatten funeral and added – what is new to me – that in the 1960s the Queen and the family on holiday at Balmoral used to nip over to see old family friends ( “ no trouble at all”), who I assume may be the Abercorns at Baronscourt. He had no doubt that her “greatest achievement” was the state visit to Ireland
In many ways, that is her greatest achievement, to have been after so many years. It completely turned around the situation.”
Former BBC journalist and manager in Belfast, Manchester and London, Editor Spolight; Political Editor BBC NI; Current Affairs Commissioning editor BBC Radio 4; Editor Political and Parliamentary Programmes, BBC Westminster; former London Editor Belfast Telegraph. Hon Senior Research Fellow, The Constitution Unit, Univ Coll. London