On the occasion of of her 80th Birthday in the 54th year of her reign I am delighted to wish our Queen a very Happy Birthday
From the Telegraph today:
Her Majesty the Queen today becomes only the third sovereign in our history, after King George III and Queen Victoria, to reach the age of 80. King George was mad and Victoria’s powers were failing – both were just over a year from death. Happily, our Queen shows no signs of decline.
No one should be surprised by the affirmation of her cousin, Mrs Margaret Rhodes, that Her Majesty has no intention of abdicating. Nor should she have. With her appetite for work hardly reduced by the years, and her constant and visible presence as head of state, she has become iconic not just of her country generally, but of her generation. She epitomises the robust long life and vitality more and more familiar among the elderly: and, if her late mother, Queen Elizabeth, is any judge, there are abundant years ahead yet.
There is a danger, after 54 years on the throne, that her people might take the Queen for granted. Despite being our most prominent public figure, she is also the most genuinely self-effacing. She has always been the perfect constitutional monarch: no one is sure of her views. What Bagehot called the “dignified” function of the monarchy within the British constitution is sublimely represented by her. But so too has she always represented the wider purposes of monarchy. In her consistency and demeanour she embodies the continuity of the institution, and its stability at the heart of the nation.
This is all the more remarkable for the turbulent times through which the Queen has lived. Although both her father and grandfather had Labour prime ministers, neither Ramsay MacDonald nor Clement Attlee, for all their radicalism, quite changed the tenor of society in the way that the social revolution of the 1960s did, or in the way that the New Labour project has sought to do. Nor was the upheaval caused by the economic restructuring of Britain under Margaret Thatcher something to be regarded casually. Yet the head of state has taken all these changes in her stride, and successive prime ministers have testified, without needing to resort to flattery, to her wisdom and good sense. The continuity of our national life, over decades of change, is not simply due to the function of monarchy, but also to the constructive influence of the Queen in particular.
Her Majesty’s greatest trials have been the crises in her family, and their effect on perceptions of the monarchy. The fact that three of her four children’s marriages ended in divorce was regrettable but not, sadly, unique in contemporary society. The failure of the Prince of Wales’s marriage, and the tragic end of his ex-wife’s life, were harsh blows to the credibility and popularity of the entire Royal Family.
These events were seized on by republican elements to further their own agenda, and magnified in their unpleasantness beyond their true import. By the time of her Golden Jubilee in 2002, five years after the death of Diana, Princess of Wales, the Queen showed herself to be as secure as ever in the affections of her subjects. Without having to resort to the type of public relations stunts favoured by celebrities and politicians, the Queen, simply by getting on and doing her duty in the painstaking and dedicated way that she has made her own, rebuilt the public’s loyalty not just to her, but also to the institution of monarchy. In an age when most people seem to enter public life for personal gain, the Queen, who had her position thrust on her, continues to define the concept of service in a gold-plated fashion.
On her first overseas tour, to South Africa in 1947 with her parents and on the eve of her marriage, the then Princess Elizabeth made a broadcast in which she dedicated herself to her people, at home and abroad, for the rest of her life. It is not the least of her utterly admirable qualities that she has kept unswervingly to her vow, though an empire has gone and the Commonwealth is a shadow of what it was designed to be. Her adherence to her Coronation Oath, similarly, helps to explain why abdication is incomprehensible to her. Such dedication is why Her Majesty is revered not merely here, but all over the world. In America, she is, despite competition from other foreign sovereigns, “the Queen”. When the French refer to “la Reine” or the Germans to “die Königin”, they do not bother to add the name of her realm afterwards. Unlike so many others who enjoy global fame, her position has been earned by service.
Our nation and its people have been blessed by a devoted and wise sovereign during times of great change. Amid all the disruptions, there is much to rejoice about: that God has saved the Queen all these years, and in such fine health and spirits, is foremost.
Long to Reign Over Us.