I was born in 1958 and will soon be turning fifty-seven. In that time, I believe, there have been twelve prime ministers of Britain, but only one Queen. I almost don’t know how to process that, but it’s a fact.
So today Queen Elizabeth II becomes Britain’s longest reigning monarch, surpassing Queen Victoria. There have been several congratulatory posts on Facebook, and for every one of them, there have been abusive replies from angry people talking about how we should abolish the archaic, blood-sucking institution of the monarchy. For myself I take a pretty pragmatic approach; I’m not an especially enthusiastic monarchist, but I like the idea of having a non-political head of state who can be a focus of unity for the country. I don’t like wealth and privilege, but neither do I like the fact that it’s impossible to be elected president of the United States unless you have great wealth – or that after serving eight years as president (which seems a tiny fraction of Queen Elizabeth’s 63 years!) you can command $25,000 per speech on the lecture circuit. In other words, my attitude is ‘Well, yes, I don’t like every aspect of the monarchy, but I like the other systems even less’.
So today I’m happy to join with those who are congratulating Queen Elizabeth for her many years of service to the people of Britain and the Commonwealth. Thank you, Ma’am, and may God keep you well; your potential successors don’t look quite so impressive!