Well, the weekend of the Queens Diamond Jubilee is over. There have been tours, flotillas, concerts, dinners, street parties and much hip-hip hooraying.
Now, the idea that you have an unelected monarchy in charge of a First World country in the 21st Century is pretty archaic. A lot, the vast majority in fact, of my various social networking feeds have been filled with Republican sentiment, grumbling and moaning about the cost, and so on. To be honest, I got a bit tired of it. Suffice to say, if there was a choice of starting over without a King or Queen, then that is the choice I would go for. But that is an ideal world case, and this is not an ideal world. So as far as I am concerned, if we have to have a Royal Family, then I think we’ve got one of the best there is.
Lets put a few myths to bed. A lot of the Republican stuff is largely theoretical. We are citizens and not subjects, and have been since 1981. The Queen is a titular Head of State but is told what to do by Parliament. She has the theoretical right not to sign any Bill into law, but if she did so, she and the rest of the Royal Family would be out on their gilded ears. She is a billionaireness, with a property, art and jewel portfolio that she can’t sell. She has a life of wealth and privilege that she was born into but can never give up. She has to share dinner tables and pleasant small talk with dictators because the Parliament of the day, whatever the hue, is either trying to sell them something or get something from them on the cheap. And woe betide her if she says something politically incorrect like “Can you stop torturing your own people, please.”
Hell, even the celebration of her Diamond Jubilee is effectively saying “well done, 60 years since your dad died. 60 years since you were prevented from saying what you want and doing what you want. Oh and 60 years of everyone watching you like a hawk.” She had to turn up to watch Sir Elton John despite her 90 year old husband being in hospitalised. Most of us would have sacked that one off, to be honest.
It is not as if the directly elected alternatives are much cop. The Queen never got us to join in illegal wars, attacked our civil liberties with a hacksaw or corruptly tried to sell off our media to Australians. When she stays over at a friends, she doesn’t claim it on expenses. (Friends don’t charge friends for overnight stays, but MPs and Party Chairmen do.)
The financial argument is a tricky one, with both sides brandishing costs and facts. My own opinion is that it is a draw – expenditure on the Civil List is balanced by income from tourism and Britains increased stature in the world. I’ve travelled a fair bit and the one thing that foreign people think of when you ask them about Britain is the Queen and the Royals. And they like them. A lot. Sure, we had Empire but right now, the most popular British person in the entire world is an 86 year old lady who smiles and waves a lot. Not far behind are her eldest grandson and his perky wife. Even Harry is quite likeable, if only for seeming to have inherited Philips most endearing characteristic – the vague feeling that at any moment he is going to do something jaw-droppingly inappropriate.
It isn’t a perfect setup – the various Knights of the Royal Garter this and Pageant Master that look very silly and outdated. But then, so does Director of Strategic Acquisitions or Vice President (Photocopiers) EMEA or some other management speak. Tradition is a supertanker of a thing, it doesn’t get turned around quickly and the alternatives aren’t much better.
I quite like the fact that we had a bunch of canal boats, Robbie Williams and Shirley Bassey. We celebrated with paper plates and cups of tea and beer. The weather on Sunday was horrible, dank, drizzly, grey – the British Bank Holiday at its most typical.
Because other countries celebrate with military displays. Planes, several thousand troops marching by a balcony in front of tanks and missiles, large scale organised displays of love for a Glorious Leader who has his photograph 35 foot high on billboards. We had some bunting and a commemorative mug or two and too many gone middle aged women who had had too much booze.
It wasn’t all perfect – the obsequiousness of the BBC was absolutely vomit inducing. (And the coverage was, by BBC standards, quite amateurish, including Huw Edwards talking and the end credits displaying over the final fireworks.) The concert was about as middle class and middle of the road you could get. But Madness on the top of Buckingham Palace was great, Annie Lennox is still magnificent and doesn’t look a day older than her 80s/90s heyday and whatever it cost, the sight of a 64 year old Grace Jones singing Slave To The Rhythm while hula-hooping was worth the cost alone.
I just think that the Monarchy is a very British compromise. I quite like that, really. It doesn’t matter, it gives us something to grumble about or laugh at, and every so often we do something where we go “well, that was alright I suppose”. We’ve got something that the rest of the world love, and what a number of them wish they had. It is a popular national pastime to do ourselves down – not in a “aw, shucks” kind of immodest modesty, but to really put ourselves down and we shouldn’t. We have a metric ton of stuff to moan about, so why not actually enjoy something good for a change. The eyes of the world were on us and we did a pretty good job.
And in this spirit, it might be a link to the Mail Online, but if you can’t be proud of the Red Arrows and Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, then what can you be proud of?