The Queen's Golden Jubilee

by Brian Risman, Publisher, www thelawjournal co uk - 4 June 2002

Fifty years is a short time in the history of the Earth and the Universe, yet in the affairs of man a rather long time, particularly in this era of tumultuous political and social change. Political figures and musical tastes will change as the generations pass by.

Yet the reality is that the Queen has reigned for fifty years. That is no small accomplishment. Her first Prime Minister was Winston Churchill. Her current Prime Minister, Tony Blair, wasn't even born when she ascended the throne. Her reign has covered the Cold War, the Beatles, Princess Diana, plus economic and political booms and busts.

How has the Queen survived during her period of rule?

First, the British Monarchy has a long history of connecting with the people. In the Middle Ages, when the Lords mistreated the people, the people could turn to the Monarch via the Lord Chancellor, to seek redress of an unjust action. That is how Equity developed and become formalized through the Courts of Chancery. Equity lives on to this day in the English Legal System. Injunctions, for example, are a remedy in Equity. Trusts are an institution in Equity. The memory of the Monarch supporting the people against the Lords still runs deep and explains the inherently positive view held by the populace of the institution. However, that would not be enough to explain the depth of support today.

That brings us to the second point -- the ability of the Monarchy to adapt, to run with political and social trends without being part of them. The Jubilee is a case in point. Last night, the Party at the Palace was held, with the Queen, The Duke of Edinburgh and the rest of the Royal Family in attendance. The entertainment was headed by classic rockers -- Sir Paul McCartney, Rod Stewart, and Joe Cocker. While other genres were of course represented, the fact is that rockers from an era of rebellion had no problem honouring the Queen last night. In fact, the presence of the Queen at what amounted to a classic rock concert in her honour is the secret to her longevity -- namely, the ability to connect with the people in their entertainment. This ability is not new -- in the mid-1960s, at the height of the early Beatles success, the Queen honoured each of Beatles with an MBE (Member of the British Empire). Despite some protests from existing MBEs, that immediately connected the Queen with the rock revolution, without becoming part of it. What is even more interesting that the Beatles willingly received the MBE at Buckingham Palace, and in fact raised their stature both with their fans and the world as a whole. The Queen, as well, raised her stature with a young generation that of course is now in power. Of course, that connection continues to this day with the knighting of Paul McCartney. Hence the Queen's Jubilee Concert being dominated by rock stars who had no problem in honouring the Monarch -- and celebrated by fans who had no problem cheering the rock stars and the Queen in the same breath -- is a major accomplishment.

There is a third point to the strength of the Queen. By her longevity, her knowledge of domestic and international political affairs is second to none. While she is effectively a figurehead, there is no doubt that her advice is sought from political figures. Hence there is a continuity in political development that the Queen provides. Of course, the reality of being first in line to the throne during the reign of her father, resulted in her being groomed for the role from the age of ten. Queen Mary, her grandmother, was a major tutor in the ways of the Monarchy. Given her tutor's famous regal bearing, it is no surprise that the Queen, as head of state, at times seemed distant. However, as head of state, she could be little else. Her mother, the late Queen Mother Elizabeth, took on the social role and built popularity with the people, thereby resolving that issue. It is interesting, since the death of the Queen Mother earlier this year, that the Queen has warmed her style. Of course, her longevity now has resulted in her becoming a Grandmother figure, creating even greater personal respect.

The fourth point is an institutional one. Being above the political fray, it is easier for the Queen to connect with the people, than would an essentially political President of a Republic. The Prime Minister may be in deep trouble politically, but the Queen is above the fray. In a Republic, the symbol of the head of state is too tied to the political machinations that cause political divisions. Hence, a politically divided populace or Parliament can still connect with the Queen.

God Save the Queen. Enjoy the Jubilee, Enjoy the strength it provides to the UK and the Commonwealth.

Brian Risman