The Queen turns ninety today, so one supposes one ought to write something. Unfortunately, one is stumped for words, all of them on this particular topic having been deployed already, leaving one at a lexicographical loss.
Seriously, though, what is one to say about the Famous Little Old Lady that has not been said a thousand times in a thousand publications? In 64 years on the throne of England one has come under more public scrutiny than any other public figure alive – or dead, for all one knows. One’s life has been an open book, by now a well-thumbed, dog-eared, leather-bound antique, with nothing more to reveal.
Unless some American gossip magazine – National Enquirer would do nicely – can unearth some long-hidden scandal: a secret early marriage, say, to a minor European royal who turned out to be an impotent wife-beater; or a mid-life extra-marital affair with a well-known cabinet minister and ladies man, preferably a rabble-rousing wild-eyed Marxist from the Labour side, just to add a certain underlying sociological frisson.
The chances of either being somewhere between none and non-existent, one must go along with the platitudinous pearls being cast with abandon by a deferential media about one’s Selfless Service to the nation and the Dignified Grace that has allowed one to rise above the bile and spite of republicans – of which, one suspects, there are more than is commonly realised.
This writer is one of them – but only half-heartedly, and only on an intellectual level. One also has a sentimental streak, and 1500 years (or whatever) of history, as inglorious as some of it may have been, have left their mark on one. Besides, one has a secret aversion to a constitutional upheaval that would result in nothing better than some fossil from the Senate (the former House of Lords) being installed in office as President of the Republic. Ruritania, with its monocled monarchs and their scheming half-brothers, has always sounded like much more fun than a Soviet politburo, unless one is a John le Carre fan.
Meanwhile, all one can do, or needs to do, is wish Her Majesty a Happy Birthday – and may there be many more (if only to keep one’s waffling successor out of the job for a bit longer).