To mark this year's Diamond Jubilee, Rex Murphy considers the accomplishments of Queen Elizabeth, arguing that she has successfully guided the British monarchy into a new millennium.
Read a transcript of this Rex Murphy episode
A Model Royal
Wednesday, February 8, 2012
The 20th century wasn't kind to institutions, to the long shadows of history.
The British Monarchy, however, while it was greatly assailed during the century now passed - abdication, war, untimely death - still stands, reasonably proud, and arguably healthy and respected, where so many others - of lesser glory - have long declined or fully decayed.
The institution that begins so long ago in History, has had so many mutations, tragedies, and modifications - has held on in our modern age. Quite a feat and held on mainly because of herself: her Royal Majesty Queen Elizabeth the II.
From the moment, young girl that she was, Elizabeth took the throne; she has sheltered it from the cruel winds and storms that raged over every other survival of times past, the old codes and patterns of duty, obeisance, even vestigial chivalry. And she's guided the Crown, successfully, into a new millennium.
Contrast Elizabeth's steadiness and sense of duty - what an old-fashioned word - with the flightiness for example of the dread Sarah, onetime Duchess of York, now lettuce-shill for Weight-Watchers, B-lister on all sorts of dreadful entertainment shows. And who but Elizabeth with her unvarying composure - she stays with steel determination always "on keel"- could have survived the earthquake of the Diana phenomenon?
With all the weight of the world's celebrity machine and 24-hour communications about to turn Royalty into a great reality show TV soap opera - her Majesty held on, found the moment, and endured. And of course, her long reign has also postponed that of Charles, a mercy for which the gods will put up a plaque in heaven.
Elizabeth may not be Victoria, whose reign was also long; or the first Elizabeth who is legend for her valor in the days of the Armada. Yet for the turbulent times we have seen, when the dangers to Royalty were subtle, insidious - and for all those years since 1953 she has been an anchor of dignity, perseverance, and even grace.
Elizabeth - stiff and contained in the old manner, unwavering in the execution of those endless tasks and ceremonies that go with Royalty; always removed from, and above, the gossips and tabloid-wagging tongues; never indiscreet and occasionally in her own way quite eloquent. For all of these things, and especially for being constantly a vessel of dignity in this age of Jersey Shore and Jerry Springer: Elizabeth is the very model of what Modern Royal should be.
For the National, I'm Rex Murphy.