The Diamond Queen – congratulations, Ma’am
Today Her Majesty the Queen celebrates the most happy and joyous occasion of the 60th anniversary of her accession to the Throne. Echoing the pledge she made as a young princess back in 1947 to dedicate her life to the service of her people, she has issued a statement to the nation to mark the occasion:
"I am writing to thank you for the wonderful support and encouragement that you have given to me and Prince Philip over these years and to tell you how deeply moved we have been to receive so many kind messages about the Diamond Jubilee.For the Queen, this is a day tinged with some sadness as it also marks the anniversary of the death of her father, King George VI, who, 60 years ago, put his hand into the Hand of God and trod safely into the unknown. The cry ‘The King is dead. Long live the Queen!’ is both brutal in its insensitivity and joyous in its benevolence. It represents monarchical continuity, whence flow stability, security and peace.
"In this special year, as I dedicate myself anew to your service, I hope we will all be reminded of the power of togetherness and the convening strength of family, friendship and good neighbourliness, examples of which I have been fortunate to see throughout my reign and which my family and I look forward to seeing in many forms as we travel throughout the United Kingdom and the wider Commonwealth."
Queen Elizabeth II becomes today only the second monarch of these Britannic Isles to achieve this quite remarkable milestone, which historians and future generations will doubtless view as the zenith of the second Elizabethan era. The whole United Kingdom along with the other 15 nations over which the Queen reigns, not to mention the other 38 Commonwealth countries and much of the rest of the world, will hold celebrations over the coming months, culminating on the weekend of 2-5 June (DV), with street parties, services of thanksgiving, fireworks, medals and coins minted, a concert at Buckingham Palace, a pageant at Windsor Castle, a nationwide chain of jubilee beacons and, for the first time since the 18th century, a Royal Barge will transport the Monarch along the Thames in one of the largest flotillas ever assembled. It will be the jewel in the crown of one of the most spectacular events in our nation’s history.
Simon Heffer is right to point out that the Queen is our greatest asset: as here-today-gone-tomorrow politicians win and lose, rise and fall, and come and go, the Monarch provides a reassuring spiritual continuity and political stability in a world of frequent unthinking change and paralysing uncertainty. Over six decades, Her Majesty has shaken hands with 12 British prime ministers and seen the same number of US presidents come and go. If she has inherited her mother’s genetic disposition to longevity, she is likely to see her Platinum Jubilee and shake hands with another three prime ministers (now that we have fixed-term parliaments) and entertain five more US presidents. If you imagine a single monarch having reigned through the 60 years from Queen Victoria’s diamond jubilee of 1897 to 1957, one may begin to apprehend something of the vast sweep of world history and societal revolution through which Queen Elizabeth II has reigned.
And she is admired, respected and loved. Not universally, by any means – either as an individual or the institution she represents. But she is dignified in the presence of contention and gracious to her opponents. As the mystery of majesty has gradually dissipated and egalitarian human rights have supplanted the echoes of the Divine Right, Queen Elizabeth II is our Sovereign, but she is no longer sovereign. Successive generations of scurvy politicians have plotted and schemed to deprive her of her Royal status if not her style.
There are those who take the view that, like her ancestor King George III, she could and should have refused Royal Assent to any parliamentary bill which forced her to compromise her Coronation Oath; any bills which caused her to break her promise before God and the British people to ‘maintain the Laws of God and the true profession of the Gospel... maintain in the United Kingdom the Protestant Reformed Religion established by law... (and) maintain and preserve inviolably the settlement of the Church of England...’. Her Majesty takes her role as Supreme Governor of the Church of England very seriously; indeed, the consecrated oil with which she was anointed at her coronation is of far greater significance to her than the rubies and diadems of the Imperial State Crown. Her sacred and spiritual duties weigh more heavily on her heart and mind than matters temporal.
Perhaps she should have told Ted Heath in 1973 and Harold Wilson in 1975 that they were deceiving her people. Perhaps she did exercise her constitutional right to warn them: we cannot know. Perhaps she should have reminded Margaret Thatcher, John Major, Tony Blair and Gordon Brown that there is no power on earth to absolve her from the observance of every sentence of her Oath, and that were she to violate it she would cease to be legal Sovereign or legally sovereign in her Kingdom. Perhaps she should remind David Cameron that sovereignty belongs to her people: it is not his to surrender or abrogate on anyone’s behalf. And the British Constitution is a delicate tapestry of gilded and interwoven threads: it is not his to unpick for the ephemeral sake of political expediency.
In paying tribute today to ‘the magnificent service of Her Majesty the Queen’, the Prime Minister referred to her ‘experience, dignity and quiet authority (with which) she has guided and united our nation and the Commonwealth over six varied decades’. Interestingly, he mentions that some people characterise the Monarchy as simply ‘a glittering ornament, a decoration on our national life’, of which he proclaims: ‘That misunderstands our constitution and it underestimates our Queen.’
Perhaps therefore he ought not to treat the Institution as a bauble, and the Settlement as mere parliamentary statute. For you reap what you so: it is God who sets up princes and kings, and it is He who removes their sovereignty. In Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, we have a Monarch whose intelligence and statecraft have steered the Institution of Monarchy through some of the most tumultuous decades with just as many encroaching threats of foreign invasion and interference as were manifest in the first Elizabethan era. Supplant the Pope of Rome with the Treaty of Rome, and exchange Spain for Brussels, and you arrive at the same juncture: the need for legal buttresses against the jurisdiction of foreign princes and potentates. On 6th February 1952, the Queen was sovereign: on 6th February 2012, she is a mere citizen of the European Union, and as a citizen of that political entity she is subject to past and future judgements of the Court of the European Communities, from which there is no appeal. Her own courts are subject to the rulings of the higher European courts: her status as a citizen of the EU has rendered her, like the rest of the British people, ‘subject to the duties imposed thereby’.
Just as Parliament, over the centuries, has gradually appropriated the Crown’s prerogative powers for itself, that same Parliament, over recent decades, has incrementally surrendered more and more of that power to Brussels. But His Grace has faith: what Parliament can give away, it can reassert. Our Gracious Queen doubtless understands this, and the hope and prayer is that she will live to see our national liberation from the shackles of the Treaty of Rome just as the first Queen Elizabeth witnessed divine deliverance from the Spanish Armada.
God Save the Queen!