THE Archbishop of York, addressing the thanksgiving service at St Paul’s Cathedral yesterday, spoke well when he referred to the Queen’s “staunch constancy and a steadfast consistency, a faithfulness to God, an obedience to a vocation that is the bedrock of her life”.

Stephen Cottrell said the monarch had continued to offer herself in the service of her country and the Commonwealth through times of change and challenge, joy and sorrow.

So much of our respect for the monarchy is because of our genuine respect and affection for the Queen.

The sense of stability and reassurance she represents is nothing short of staggering. She came to the throne as a young woman in 1952 upon the death of her father; accordingly, for millions of people in this country and across the Commonwealth, she is the only monarch they have ever known.

The “new Elizabethan age”, as Clement Attlee described it, got off to a fitting start in 1953 when Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay climbed Everest.

In the decades since the Queen has witnessed seismic social and technological change. Her long reign has coincided with the discovery of the structure of DNA, the Suez Crisis, the Cold War, President Kennedy’s assassination, the Beatles, the Moon landing, the Troubles, the Margaret Thatcher era, Charles and Diana, the Falklands, a revolution in global communications, the fall of the Berlin Wall, the Tony Blair era, 9/11, the banking crisis of 2008, the London Olympics, Grenfell, Brexit, the arrival of Boris Johnson, the Covid pandemic, and now the war in Ukraine.

A more-than-diligent reader of her government Red Boxes, she has given wise, well-informed counsel to no fewer than 14 Prime Ministers, and to all but one of the past 14 American presidents and to countless other heads of state.

It takes formidable strength of character for a monarch to have endured so long and have seen so much, while retaining the admiration of millions who have only ever seen her on television or in newspapers.

One of her former Prime Ministers, Sir John Major, has noted with approval the (often under-appreciated) contribution the Queen has played in Britain’s soft power, pointing to the way in which overseas presidents and Prime Ministers have reacted to being in her presence.

Despite being the most famous woman on Earth, and the most photographed, the Queen has remained largely unknowable to the general public. Her occasional interventions– such as when, in a television broadcast a week or so into the pandemic, she recalled the wartime words of Vera Lynn and insisted “We will meet again” – have all the more force for being so infrequent.

She has been a quietly reassuring presence in times good and bad. Ben Rhodes, a senior aide to President Obama, told the Queen’s latest biographer, Robert Hardman, that Obama was struck by what the monarch meant to others: “It matters to people that she represents wartime sacrifice. She represents the acceptance of decolonisation. She represents victory in the Cold War and she represents the values of a good relationship”.

As a senior courtier told Robert Hardman, there is an “immense, intangible social asset” of a “pulsing institution which gets further down the capillaries of national life – and more often – than any other by attending to those quotidian needs of the country: thanking people who need thanking and visiting places that need visiting”.

The Queen has also shown considerable judgement in dealing with the various crises that her family has visited upon her. Her concise “recollections may vary” was a clever way of addressing the Sussexes’ suggestion of palace racism.

There is, and always has been, a special place in the Queen’s affections for Scotland: the enjoyable annual visits to Braemar and Holyroodhouse, the garden parties, the opening ceremonies and the ship launches and the walkabouts in towns and cities. But it runs much deeper than that.

Hardman reminds us that the royal family feels, viscerally and emotionally, Scottish – he quotes David Cameron as saying that they “feel liberated” in Scotland – and points out that the Queen herself is the most Scottish monarch since James I & VI and, through her Scottish mother’s lineage, twice descended from Robert the Bruce.

How long will the Queen remain on the throne? No-one knows for certain. When the moment comes for Charles to replace her there will be the usual republican demands for the monarchy to be abolished and for Britain to have an elected, democratic head of state. The Platinum Jubilee itself occasioned more than a few such calls.

There are some questions that will need to be addressed in the fullness of time. Is it right that in a modern, sophisticated democracy we still pay obeisance to a pampered family, steeped in mystique and possessed of awesome wealth and hereditary privilege? Would not an elected head of state be more appropriate as Britain seeks to establish a post-Brexit identity?

But though attitudes towards the royals are changing, particularly among the young, it is inarguable that republicanism has never really caught on in this country. And most of that is down to the dignified, sure-footed, unflappable way in which, for seven decades, the Queen has conducted herself.

The monarchy, moreover, is ingrained so deeply in our national consciousness that it is very difficult to foresee a time when it is no longer part of our lives. It might well be streamlined and be made more responsive and diverse under, first, Charles, and then William, but in some shape or form it will remain one of the institutions that underpin us as Britons.

Andrew Marr, writing in 2011 in his own biography of the Queen, made an astute observation that was as true then as it is today. She has, Marr said, been a lot more than merely dutiful: she has been shrewd, kind and wise. And Britain without her would have been a greyer, shriller and more meagre place.

The Queen, then, has been a substantial force for good, as the Archbishop of York put it yesterday, against a backdrop of such suffering and uncertainty in our world.




THERE’S no good reason why talks to resolve the ScotRail dispute have been delayed by the Jubilee Bank Holiday. The disruption to commuters has been considerable and is damaging ScotRail’s reputation as it struggles, post-pandemic, to re-attract customers. Aslef, however, was greedy to reject the generous 4.2% offer. Train drivers are already well-paid. There is a strong moral case for giving pay increases instead to hard-pressed care staff and NHS workers.