If it’s karma, the bill came with interest and dividends. 30 years ago, Queen Elizabeth II called 1992 an annus horribilis and that was because she was talking about the separation of her three children – Anne, Charles, and Andrew – as well as the fire at Windsor Castle. How would you rate 2021? or 2020? The last three years have been drama and scandal after drama and scandal, and significant losses. No break.
Elizabeth II‘s historic Platinum Jubilee is impressive. The only other monarch to achieve this landmark was King Louis XIV, and that in the 18th century. King Soleil reigned over France for 72 years, but while he ascended the throne at age 5, he only acted as regent effectively 18 years later, therefore he reigned directly for 54 years. Lilibet ascended the throne at the age of 25 and since then has been a fixed reference not only for her subjects but for the entire world. It’s the Pop Queen who, at 95 years old (in April), is sort of everybody’s grandmother.
But how will history look back on her 70 years as Queen?
Elizabeth II was a young woman, was married and mother of two, accompanying her husband to his post abroad when his father died, to everyone’s surprise, in 1952, just 16 years after he was crowned. The facts that placed her in the Crown had great weight throughout her reign, not just the beginning.
Raised in a very loving environment, Elizabeth was able to choose a husband she was in love with. In theory, she would have at least 10 more years before her father could even consider starting her training. The kingdom was far from her thoughts when it came to her shoulders, but it is important to remember that her father, a shy, unambitious and dedicated man, never thought of being King either. Only when his brother, Edward VIII, was forced to choose between the woman he loved – a divorced American – and duty, that the Crown change heads. Edward never thought twice before following his heart, changing his niece’s destiny.
As George VI reluctantly became King, Lilibet grew up with her mother blaming her father’s suffering on the recklessness of his selfish brother who was not ready to sacrifice himself for his role as sovereign. The seed of putting Duty first was planted in the example of her father and idol, as well as in the maternal complaints about her uncle. The harvest came with great pain for everyone around the young Queen, who swore she would dedicate her life – short or long – to the Crown. The speech, which appeared in the 2nd episode of The Crown series, is an important factor in the regency of Elizabeth II. Duty, discretion, sacrifice, and lifelong commitment, these are the values of the Queen.
It is a fact that no one counted on the longevity of the Windsors-Mountbatten. George VI died at age 57. The most reasonable expectation would be a life span of just over 70, but the Queen Mother died aged 101 and Prince Philip two weeks short of his centenary. At 95 and still driving, it doesn’t seem impossible to imagine the Queen still on the throne for another 6 years, even with some recent health scares. Prince Charles will not be crowned until after his mother’s passing, so he will be likely approaching 80 years old. It will be difficult to replace a sovereign as popular as Elizabeth II, it will be an unfortunate role, but after waiting for at least 5 decades, he would never consider abdicating so that his son, Prince William, could ascend the throne instead. At best, if the Monarchy still exists in the future, William won’t receive the Crown for another 20 years or so. It will be much easier to replace a perennially unpopular Charles, of course. But back to the Queen.
Elizabeth II assumed her role on February 6, 1952 was important. The British people, entering years of prosperity after two World Wars, fervently embraced the young queen. Her coronation, recorded for history with video and photos, was moving. If she’s still on the Throne in 2024 – that is, in just two years – she will beat the French King’s mark and no one eill ever take away from her the record of reigning that long.
But Elizabeth II, like the good Taurus that she is, is not adept at change. For her, never complaining in public is as vital as breathing. Widowed and suffering, she doesn’t extend her mentions of Philip beyond words like “my dear husband” and never sheds a tear that we could witness. However, when it comes from the Queen, people tend to be condescending as they are towards the elderly. “Poor thing”, is what you hear most. The quasi-priestly life is the Queen’s choice, one that is imposed on all her heirs too, no matter the pain or consequences.
Before Princess Diana, Princess Margaret was amongst whose souls were crushed by tradition. Margaret could not marry the man she loved, and she was unanimously seen as unhappy for all her life. Philip also suffered. Charles could not marry the woman he loved, Camilla Parker Bowles. By “sacrificing” himself for the future position of regent, he ruined the life of a 19-year-old girl, Diana Spencer. His happy ending with Camilla was built through the tears of Diana and their children, and all because he had to follow the rules that Elizabeth II never considered challenging. This became a stain that haunts Charles with good reason.
The Jubilee Party is still programmed with parades and other public events, even with the reduced presence of the honored person herself. A morbid detail mentioned is that this is possibly the Queen’s last appearance in events of this magnitude. The day for Charles to be King is really near.
So, 70 years later, Elizabeth II’s memory is threatened by her constancy and appreciation of tradition. Talking about modernizing customs – as Meghan Markle and Prince Harry tried – is seen as offensive, but it will be a great challenge for Charles and William, as their subjects do want a modern Monarchy, which calls into question many of the hypocrisies of the nobility. Elizabeth II’s regency maintains its 20th-century values, it does not incorporate current ones that value inclusion, transparency, and coherence. And, for better or worse, that will be her legacy. One side associates it with constancy, but critics may attribute it to stubbornness. With the drama still ongoing, 2022 promises to erase the annus horribilis and defy the Queen on whole new level. We all shall see.