Long Live the Queen

Queen Elizabeth II is Britain’s longest reigning monarch today. It was an awkward journey for her.

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In 1953, when it was being discussed to televise her coronation, the Queen was reluctant. She was a shy, private girl: no cameras were allowed inside the Westminster Abbey for her wedding. She was equally unenthused about having her Christmas message to the nation or her Trooping the Colour ceremonies televised. The BBC was ordered not to let camera lenses linger on her face too long.

These stories make it all the more ironic that hers is now the most famous face in the world. During her sixty plus years on the thrones – changes have been swift and transformative. Many a political entity which sent delegations to her coronation – the Soudan, the Gold Coast, Malaya, Somaliland, Tanganyika, North Borneo, Basutoland, Aden Colony, the Gilberts, the Ellices, British Honduras, Condominium of the New Hebrides, British Solomon Islands – left the empire and are now defunct. Age of television has given way to age of internet.

Elizabeth received these changes with equanimity, if not affection. Increasingly junior members of the royal family were dispatched for the former colonies’ independence (The Prince of Wales proved to be a notoriously unwilling attendant, especially after an awning fell onto his head during the Bahamas’). She was also more modern than her stiff exterior suggested: her favorite prime minister was said to be anti-establishment Harold Wilson. Long before she gamely allowed herself to be filmed for a skit during London 2012 Opening Ceremonies, she welcomed television cameras inside the Buckingham Palace for an awkward documentary. The Buck House itself was opened for the public in 1993.

The Queen truly belonged to another age, something which didn’t endear her to her subjects as she grew older. She showed more emotion on a fire at Windsor than at the death of her wayward daughter-in-law. Power too was elusive: on rare occasions when she made political noises – as during last year’s Scottish independence referendum and during Mrs. Thatcher’s premiership – she was criticized, albeit reverentially.

Yet she soldiers on. Today, she is the longest reigning monarch in British history. For me, the best moment that encapsulated her reign was fifteen years ago, on the millennium night. Her social awkwardness was in full swing as she held hands with enthusiastically populist Tony Blair to greet the New Year at the millennium dome. Wearing a faint look of disdain, she halfheartedly sang Auld Lang Syne, drank champagne, and looked positively discomfited throughout the evening.

That made my millennium night; long an anti-monarchist, I cheered, “Long Live the Queen” for the first time that night. It seems all those hearty proclamations have been answered.

Why Five More Years of Labour Scare Me

That Glad Confident Morning of May 1997

It is election time in Great Britain again. I may still have a little bit of soft spot for Tony, but five more years of Labour genuinely scares me. I foresee one leadership challenge after another if Gordon Brown wins, and neither Lord Mandelson nor the Millibands are cut for the leadership position. On the other hand, voting Lib-Dem will just lead to a hung parliament, which will just delay the government, bog down the Civil Service and send Britain back to the 70s.

That’s why I urge those in Britain (those who are eligible anyway) to vote Conservative. I don’t necessarily support all of their policies (with new Labour, all candidates seem Mr. Potato Head anyway) but at this point, it is the lesser of two evils. I think this opinion in The Independent pretty much summed the mood:

“We’re a sorry, bruised, dazed, bankrupt, querulous, knackered army, tired of seeing our soldiers come home in coffins, contemptuous of politicians, hostile to foreigners, disgusted with bankers, frustrated by the stagnant economy and uninspired by the choice before us, between the airbrushed Etonian opportunist and the moth-eaten grizzly bear of Fife, goaded beyond endurance by a million enemies but somehow hanging onto power. It’s a long way, psychically as well as temporally, from the glad, confident morning of May 1997 to the glum, dark evening of the soul that is pre-election Britannia in March 2010.”

Important: I know this blog is not supposed to be about politics, but since some people do read this blog and this election is close; since the basic idea behind blogs and tweets is to inform and persuade people anyway and since a lot of other blogs are doing it anyway, I decided to post some information about the British election here. I will probably continue to do so, but if you are bothered by the blog’s this political turn, just comment down below. I will try to be as impartial as possible in my posts regardless of my party political affiliations whatever they maybe. But for now:

Vote Conservative. They don’t have all the best ideas all the time, but it is still better than having no ideas like dearest Gordon.

The Queen and her Prime Ministers

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1985. The Queen at 10 Downing Street to celebrate 250 years of it being the official residence of the British Prime Minister, with those who occupied the most famous address in the world. From left to right James Callaghan, Sir Alec Douglas-Home, Margaret Thatcher, Harold Macmillan, HRH, Harold Wilson and Ted Heath.

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April 29th 2002: Queen began her Golden Jubilee celebrations with a special 10 Downing Street dinner party with Tony Blair and past prime ministers. From left to right, Tony Blair, Baroness Thatcher, Sir Edward Heath, HRH, Lord Callaghan, and John Major.

In 54 years on the throne the Queen has had eleven prime ministers: Churchill, Eden, Macmillan, Douglas-Home, Wilson, Heath, Wilson (again), Callaghan, Thatcher, Major, Blair, Brown. The first, Winston Churchill, was 77 when she became Queen, and had been 20 years her father’s senior. Tony Blair was born only four weeks before the Coronation.