NEXT Sunday is the 70th anniversary of the Queen’s accession to the throne. It was 1952 (her Coronation came a year later) and the country was still in post-war economic slump, still under rationing, still recovering from the deep trauma of the Second World War. The 27-year-old Queen represented Britain’s hope and future. She was the figure around whom the nation bonded – the crowning glory, as Robert Hardman has put it, that healed the nation.
No one can say she did not live up to that belief in her – a huge personal burden to which, in a way, her nearest and dearest were and continue to be sacrificed. Her sense of duty and public service is legendary. Her greatest achievement, in my book, was her commitment to the transition from Empire to a voluntary Commonwealth of Nations which she continued to head, securing for Britain a prestige and global influence for the good it could not otherwise have maintained.
It has been popular to deride the 1950s but looking back at the pictures of the Coronation, at the confidence of the nation, at the organisation that went into it, the thriftiness, the unity, the good humour, it is hard not to think that our country today is but a poor and chaotic version of its past.
A country that successive politicians have been determined to ‘reform’ and ‘equalise’ whatever the cost in terms of social fragmentation and neglect of children, or of merit, graft and efficiency; a country that having given away the means to act – by decimating its armed forces and treating its veterans with contempt – now only has the power of bluster. What the Queen has stood for and what the nation has squandered in the intervening years are two very different things. The Queen was constantly swimming against the tide of culture and progressive politics, yet it was her very ‘old-fashionedness’, reflected not just in her wardrobe but in her restraint, that made people love her unconditionally and indeed feel safe. Even when she did fall foul of modern demands for her to show more emotion, whether in her initially restrained response to Aberfan https://www.history.com/news/elizabeth-ii-aberfan-mine-disaster-wales or at Princess Diana’s death, she still fell back on her own judgement and did it her own undemonstrative way – with dignity and calm in strong contrast with Tony Blair’s cheap populism. Over the years from the late 1960s to the present, as Britain became increasingly Godless, woke and selfish, the Queen adhered to her selflessness and faith. She remained the one bulwark against the increasingly shifting sands of society, not least the capitulation of all our other institutions to modernity and deconstructionism. That is what we have celebrated at every Jubilee: the certainty and stability that she, in person, provided in a morally fluid world.
Only in this past year of her reign has she wavered. That, for a monarchist like me, is particularly painful. For the first time in seven decades she was persuaded to step into the political domain and to use her influence to encourage what may turn out to be the most reckless public ‘health’ programme in history. ‘Don’t be selfish, get a Covid shot,’ she was clearly asked and advised to say. Her advisers of the past would have said No. In fact she would not have even needed their advice, so determined was she always to keep her political views to herself and not to interfere in politics. Some mendacious operator must have persuaded her we were indeed facing a national threat on a par with the war that had so shaped her life and thinking.
How tragic that this recently widowed woman of 95 should have been so abused and manipulated. Above and beyond, how tragic that for her all her commitment over 70 years how little notice politicians and indeed the public have taken of her example – of her values and faith. How tragic that in return for her sacrifice and duty the British have over her reign turned into such a consumerist, individualistic, self-indulgent, narcissistic and safetyist people who no longer have any understanding of what principles are worth fighting for.
That is my judgement. Please do write to us with yours, both on the Queen herself and on the seventy years of her reign. We will publish the best next Sunday in a dedicated section of our letters page. If there is one outstanding one we will publish it as an article.