This week has seen another royal milestone as the Queen became Britain’s longest reigning monarch. Even republicans have applauded her dedication to duty and her country, and her right to the love and respect that is so clearly apparent in the majority of her people.
She has been in the background of my life always as queen and figurehead, and like you, perhaps, I have seen her as a remote ribbon-cutter and speech-maker, as a discreet head of state who never says what is inappropriate, as a bridge-builder, as a woman with a great sense of humour and a love for her family, as a subtle manipulator of change, as a countrywoman with a love of corgis and horses, as a kind woman with an interest in the new as well as the traditional, and as someone who always has done her best.
What is remarkable about her is that sometimes her life must be boring, but she never shows it. She is a highly intelligent person with an astute understanding of politics, history and world affairs, yet so much of her life has been spent on display, acting a part and doing what is expected – much of which may be very tedious. A life of attending public events, again and again, of entertaining foreign dignitaries, of reading out words written by others with which she may disagree, of showing interest in something she may not really care for, and of being under constant media scrutiny and public judgment cannot always be easy.
She is one of the few people in the world who cannot apply for another job if the present one palls (and abdication is for her out of the question), or take the day off at short notice. She cannot grieve in private when someone, or her dog, that she loves dies if she has an engagement to go to; she cannot go home early if she is feeling unwell; she is surrounded by security guards and is a permanent target for terrorists. It is a life she was born to, and while it is privileged and comfortable, for many of us it would be suffocating. For her, it is a fact of life.
The Queen’s sense of duty, underpinned by her strong Anglican beliefs, has made her an admirable monarch. As she has grown older she has allowed more of her personality to be seen, including a clear warmth and genuine love of people, and also a lack of arrogance. She has done her best as head of state and as a human, and she has done it well.