OPINION: Sixty years ago, Queen Elizabeth II was crowned Queen of the Commonwealth at Westminster Abbey. As the BBC reported at the time, she took the Coronation Oath, and after being handed the four symbols of authority – the orb, the sceptre, the rod of mercy and the royal ring of sapphire and rubies – the then Archbishop of Canterbury placed St Edward's Crown on her head to complete the ceremony.
With the coronation dawned the second Elizabethan Age.
Diamond jubilee celebrations, punctuated by the pomp and pageantry that Britain does so well, are now in full swing in Britain. Events marking the four-day commemoration, which have returned to royalists some of the thrill of last year's Royal wedding, include a 1000-strong flotilla on the Thames. A Kiwi waka and whaler are taking part.
Love or loathe an institution that relies on heredity, not merit, Queen Elizabeth II can be admired for the gracious way she has carried out her duties as sovereign for six decades. In fact, the word "duty" might have been created with her in mind so diligently does she observe it.
She has endured 12 British prime ministers and a host of others in the far flung corners of Empire, is said to be quietly helpful when her advice is sought, and has been wholly accepting when some in the Commonwealth club opted to become republics.
Her parents' determination to stay in Buckingham Palace during the Blitz and, as the Queen Mother once said, look a badly bombed East End in the face, won them enormous public affection. If their elder daughter does not stir similar public warmth today, she nonetheless enjoys widespread respect.
At the same time, her instincts badly deserted her when former daughter-in-law, the late Diana, Princess of Wales, died, complete with latest boyfriend, in a Paris tunnel almost 15 years ago. The Royal reserve at that time served her ill.
That reserve might help explain why her children are not admired in the way she is. Three of the four have divorced, suggesting that an unfamiliarity with the intimacy marriage demands runs through her brood. Prince William, thank heaven, seems to have inherited his ditzy mother's more common touch.
A recent Guardian poll shows that 69 per cent of respondents believe Britain would be worse off without the monarchy; 22 per cent believe it would be better off. Such sentiment, the newspaper says, might reveal nervousness about what happens next: "Only 39 per cent want the crown to pass to Prince Charles ..; 48 per cent ... want it to skip a generation and pass straight to Prince William".
Prime Minister John Key says it is inevitable that New Zealand will, one day, become a republic but that he has more pressing issues. And he has never – in public, anyway – evinced a preference for one prince over another when Queen Elizabeth dies. The success of Prince William's post-Canterbury earthquake visit last year probably made up Kiwi minds, however, as to whom they would prefer.
- © Fairfax NZ News