Our dear Queen, Elizabeth II made history today. I don’t care if you are a monarchist or not, you have to admit that 63 years and 216 days is pretty impressive for keeping a job. Most marriages don’t last long though hers has survived even longer than her reign as Britain’s monarch. The only other occupation which may rival this royal one is the one given to us as parents. That lasts as long as we live whether the children we bear admit it or not.
The ladies of the House of Windsor seem to have longevity in their veins because Elizabeth today breaks the record of her Great Great Grandmother, Victoria. The queen’s mother, also Elizabeth, was given to long life and died at the age of 101.
When I looked up World’s longest reigning monarchs I was a bit surprised to discover that Liz is only 48th in the ranking. Most monarch’s previous to the 1800’s lived relatively short lives because they were often killed off by their rivals who were also sometimes their siblings or cousins. Frightening business in those days.
This particular monarch is a woman who has led the way for women in general throughout her career as princess and monarch. She blazed a rather unusual trail which has been followed by her sons and grandsons, by working in the military in spite of her rank. She insisted when she was heir apparent that she must support the military and drove ambulance during World War II.
The queen is not someone I always like but she is always someone I admire. As a child I watched her Christmas messages on TV at 10 a.m. no matter what else was happening in the house. She was careful not to share too much of her private life but allowed enough of a glimpse into it to make her subjects feel she was family. She handled difficult situations around the world with dignity and honour.
Once I got a glimpse of her as she sped by in a motorcade from Brantford to Toronto. Traffic was stopped in all directions and I stood on an overpass watching as the black limo with the queen dressed in off white (or light green) hat and coat made her way down the highway. I remember it being a moment which was quite breathtaking. I have never been part of such a moment before or since.
I could never try to argue for against monarchy. While I have a pretty good grasp of civics I am not a scholar of political science. Something in me leans toward monarchy though. It may be my loyalist, English, Scottish blood. My Great Grandmother’s mother’s maiden name was Secord after all and my Grandmother was named Laura after a great aunt. You put those pieces together. I cannot stand at a cenotaph of November 11 without tears streaming down my cheeks and when the bagpipes play in the parade I get a huge lump in my throat.
Another reason for my leaning was a heartfelt message I heard as a young journalism student while standing in the office of the leader of the opposition in Ottawa. The generous and vibrant, Hon. John Diefenbaker, took time from his busy day to talk with a class of students and when asked about the monarchy he launched into a very convincing 15 minute oration about the perils of abolition and the benefits of monarchy. I for one was convinced.
Abolitionist or Monarchist, today I think most would have to put all of that aside and honour a remarkable woman who is worth our admiration and respect. Long live the Queen.
For more on this day in the life of Queen Elizabeth II read the BBC account.