PETER YOUNG: A nation united for a Queen revered

From left, Camilla Duchess of Cornwall, Prince Charles, Queen Elizabeth II, Prince George, Prince William, Princess Charlotte, Prince Louis, and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge appear on the balcony of Buckingham Palace during the Platinum Jubilee Pageant on Sunday. Photo: Frank Augstein/AP

From left, Camilla Duchess of Cornwall, Prince Charles, Queen Elizabeth II, Prince George, Prince William, Princess Charlotte, Prince Louis, and Kate, Duchess of Cambridge appear on the balcony of Buckingham Palace during the Platinum Jubilee Pageant on Sunday. Photo: Frank Augstein/AP


Peter Young

THE Platinum Jubilee in Britain was nothing less than a glorious success and a triumph for The Queen, for the monarchy as an institution and for the whole country.

The four-day series of celebratory events marking Her Majesty’s reign of 70 years after acceding to the throne in 1952 - making her the longest-serving English monarch in history - came to a close on Sunday with the People’s Pageant on the Mall leading up to Buckingham Palace. This was a carnival procession depicting the nation’s history in the seven decades of her reign, and it included the gold coach used for the Coronation in 1953. At its end, as a finale to the whole Jubilee, The Queen appeared on the balcony with her heirs, Prince Charles and Prince William as well as his son Prince George – the current monarch and three future ones.

This was the climax to a well-planned main programme of events carried out throughout with impeccable precision. It started with Trooping the Colour on Horse Guards Parade at which Charles, Anne and William took the leading roles; a flypast including Second World War vintage aircraft watched by The Queen and other working members of the Royal Family from the balcony of the Palace; and it went on with a service of thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral as well as a star-studied spectacular open-air concert on Saturday evening in front of Buckingham Palace attended by more than 20,000 people, which - to everyone’s delight -- included a show-stopping cameo performance by The Queen herself in a hilarious sketch with the famous toy Paddington Bear. This was a magical evening projecting celebration, happiness and joy.

Added to all that was the Derby on Saturday in which The Queen, as a noted horse owner and breeder, has always been particularly interested as a participant. There were also thousands of special celebratory lunch and tea parties in communities up and down the land - with streets bedecked with bunting and beacons lit - and other less formal events around the country some of which were attended by various members of the Royal Family.

The whole four days were a wonderful display of the pomp and pageantry for which Britain is famous, emanating unity and a sense of nationhood. Huge cheering crowds - almost ten deep on the Mall and waving Union Jacks and draping bunting and banners over railings - expressed their appreciation and gratitude for The Queen’s dignity and selfless devotion to duty and service over such a long period.

Those interested in all this will surely have watched the comprehensive TV coverage and seen the massive media coverage in the UK and international press. So it would be superfluous to comment today on the formal events; apart, perhaps, from mentioning the magnificent sight in brilliant sunshine of the flypast, in waves, of 70 planes approaching Buckingham Palace from the Mall, flying in perfect formation including the demonstration team of the Red Arrows making the sign of “70” in the skies over London – surely, a heart stopping moment of pride and joy for the many thousands of onlookers.

What might be interesting today, however, is to look in a separate article on this page at some of the lessons of these festivities and a few conclusions that can be drawn.

But, first, The Queen herself. Even though she looks wonderful at the age of 96 and is probably the most photographed woman in the world, her current mobility problems prevented her from participating in Trooping the Colour. Nor did she attend the service at St Paul’s which was all the more poignant because of the absence of the central figure to whom, of course, it was dedicated. She was on the balcony, however, on Thursday for the fly-past, flanked by three generations of her family, and this scene must have demonstrated to many the security of the line of succession as well as the enduring popularity of the monarch herself, with the latest polls showing that more than 80 per cent view her positively.

Throughout the Jubilee celebrations there has been an extraordinary outpouring of affection for her by thousands of people in Britain. Respected and revered, as she is around the world, she has been held in the highest esteem for her unstinting diligence and service that have ensured stability, solidarity and continuity together with her stoicism in the face of adversity and her determination and charm. Despite many regarding the hereditary principle as an anachronism in the democratic age, with The Queen at the helm it is safe to say that republicanism in Britain is muted and in retreat as being out of step with the public mood - and politicians know an attack on her is a vote loser.

Having declared at the start of her reign that her “whole life will be dedicated to your service”, she has triumphantly lived up to those words. People can see she radiates peace, love, togetherness and grace during difficult times while remaining cool, steady, measured and thoughtful. Noted for her forbearance, constancy and kindness, her deep religious faith is also said to be a key to her life and, as a humble and holy person, she is committed to fostering unity and community and recognising the faith of others.

Despite the wonderful atmosphere of the Jubilee and the massive crowds paying tribute to “our brilliant Queen”, there are inevitably some curmudgeons who sourly regard the celebrations as “ridiculous fawning over the pampered undeserving rich in their ostentatious display of wealth”. But, fortunately for the rest of the country, these are very few. In the view of the vast majority the Jubilee was indeed a success and a triumph - not just for The Queen and monarchy but for the whole country.

Lessons for the future

Perhaps the most striking feature of the four days of the Jubilee was the involvement of such huge numbers of people in the celebrations up and down the country and their expression of patriotism together with much affection, warmth and respect for The Queen herself as a reflection of her ability to reach out to and connect with other people. This outpouring of unbridled joy and affection seems to have surprised even the most ardent of royalists, but people have been saying they wanted to attend events because “it’s once in a lifetime and we won’t see this again”.

Opponents of the monarchy focus on the troubles arising from the Duke and Duchess of Sussex opting out of royal life and moving to California some two years ago and the scandal surrounding Prince Andrew.

But, despite the bad publicity about the monarchy being divided by family discord and tainted by scandal, it is clear the institution is not in crisis and, after the Jubilee, is looking stronger than ever. Critics say, however, The Queen herself is the determining factor and after she steps down things will seem very different; though some believe with The Queen not attending most of the events a form of succession is already taking place. Be that as it may, what counts for most people is the knowledge of her continuing presence even if that is now partially in the background.

What is clear now is the system of a constitutional monarchy has been a blessing for Britain. I wrote about this a few weeks ago but it is worth repeating. It is an important national asset as a sort of constitutional guardian against extremist politicians. Without holding political power, The Queen provides stability and continuity. As politicians come and go, she has had to deal with 14 different Prime Ministers over the years. While standing above the fray, she has provided a constraint on the possible excesses of politicians as would-be autocrats and she has always enjoyed strong public support.

There is no doubt the events to celebrate the Jubilee, both official and informal, have helped to create a spirit of public pride, community cohesion, national unity and patriotism. They have served to portray Britain as a modern and diverse nation with an emphasis on the environment – a country which is proud of its heritage and is creative and dynamic in playing a significant role on the global stage. Even a glance at the celebrations shows how people of all races and backgrounds have been brought together waving Union Jacks and showing themselves proud to be British. This defies the claims of “wokists” obsessed about racial discrimination and suggests the country is nowhere near as racist or divided as the Black Lives Matter activists would have us believe. From what I have seen and read, these events show a united country more at ease with itself - despite the current political divisions and economic troubles - than the image presented through the relentless propaganda of minorities like BLM.

Meanwhile, the significance of the Commonwealth - the world’s greatest multi-racial collection of nations comprising a third of the global population - during The Queen’s reign should not be underestimated. It is generally agreed she was a vital figure in turning the former British Empire into a voluntary association of independent nations because it has been her influence and enthusiasm as head of the Commonwealth that has helped to bridge the gap between the past and the future.

The legacy of last week’s Jubilee is secure. In a heartfelt message of thanks at its conclusion on Sunday, The Queen said that she had been “humbled and deeply touched”. A large and enthusiastic majority of Britons have applauded her achievement of a record 70 years of service to the nation. The celebrations were a triumph for her.

Is West’s resolve weakening?

As the war in Ukraine passed the grim milestone of 100 days since Russia’s invasion, a study of opinion and comment in the international media revealed a growing division among Western nations about future policy. So, questions are now being raised about whether Western unity has passed its peak.

Even though the European Union agreed only last week to impose oil sanctions - and new long-range missiles, which Putin has spoken out about strongly, are being provided by different countries - it is being suggested some Western leaders want Ukraine’s war effort to be wound down in order to force its own leaders to the negotiating table. So, it is alleged, they are planning to slow the momentum of sanctions and support. Macron has warned against the danger of pushing Putin into a corner and humiliating him and the new German chancellor Olaf Scholz appears to have been reluctant to speak out strongly in support of the beleaguered country.

The so-called peaceniks claim to be humanitarians and realists who maintain that, by promising more weapons and other military equipment, they are extending the misery and suffering of a war that could go on for months if not years. Ukraine’s commitment to nationhood is as strong as ever and, equipped with Western firepower, it is putting up a formidable defence. But, the conflict in the east of the country has been continuing since 2014 and the Russians are now concentrating their efforts there, as well as starting to bomb Kyiv again. Thus, without peace talks, there seems to be no prospect of an early end to the fighting.

Whether or not there is any real weakening at present of the West’s resolve in relation to Ukraine remains to be seen. There is no space in today’s column for further analysis of the issue, but it might be interesting to examine next week how this terrible, unprovoked and needless conflict, which ebbs and flows by the day with major battles now raging in the eastern part of the country, might play out.


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