What are we celebrating?
The Queen reaching 70 years on the job. She became our longest-serving monarch back in 2015, when she pipped Victoria’s record of 63 years and 216 days. But this weekend isn’t actually the anniversary of anything: the Queen technically became the monarch when her dad, George VI, died in February 1952, and her coronation wasn’t until June the following year. For whatever (possibly weather-related) reason, the jubilee was instead timed around her “official birthday” in June. That’s been a thing since her great-grandfather, Edward VII, got cheesed off that the weather on his November birthday was always miserable. So he chose a different day, in sunny June, and called that his birthday instead.
What do the Americans think?
Down with the British monarchy, says Hamilton Nolan in The New York Times. What the UK should really do is “come together, join hands in a great circle around the institution of the monarchy and burn it to the ground”. Such views are no surprise, perhaps, in a country where schoolkids are taught that George III – dastardly madman and villain of the hit musical Hamilton – tried to crush their nascent country. Only later do they learn how our two nations teamed up to crush Hitler. Still, says Nolan, anyone who insists that monarchy is still a thing is showing a “mortifying lack of revolutionary gumption”.
Could the royals really go?
Even the most rabid anti-monarchists won’t try their luck against the Queen. Her Majesty’s approval ratings are off the charts: only 10% of Britons have even a moderately negative view of her, according to YouGov. But there’s less appetite for her son and heir, Prince Charles: just 47% feel positive towards him. The remaining 53% are dead wrong, says Ben Judah in The Washington Post: “Charles will in fact be a very good king.” Over the decades of his long “apprenticeship”, he’s been an “establishment figure who got it largely right, in an establishment that got it mostly wrong”.
For one thing, his green credentials are immaculate. Charles has been championing organic food since the 1980s, decades before it was trendy, and he’s been warning about plastic pollution since 1970. His other great cause, interfaith dialogue, is less sexy – but when it matters, it really, really matters. In an era of terror attacks and Isis brides, Charles has been vocal about his admiration for Islam and his desire to build ties between Britain and the Muslim world. You never know when that kind of thing might pay off.
What about other monarchies?
There are plenty out there. The European royals have mostly been keeping their heads down since the Second World War. Some sensibly went off to live in Portugal or the south of France. Others stuck to their castles and took up hobbies. It’s been an effective policy – Europe’s most progressive democracies all have titular monarchs. The Swedish king is an active environmentalist. In 1990, the Catholic King Baudouin of Belgium abdicated for a day so his government could pass an abortion bill. The Dutch king enjoyed a part-time career as an airline pilot. Exceptions such as Spain, which still has frontline royals in the same way as Britain, have struggled with tabloid scandal. King Juan Carlos abdicated in 2014 and has been in self-imposed exile in the UAE, thanks to a string of embarrassments involving elephant hunts, mistresses and alleged bribes worth millions of euros.
And outside Europe?
Colourful (and controversial) royals abound. The king of Thailand has a penchant for crop tops and lives in Germany. Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman of Saudi Arabia is trying to spend $500bn dollars on a futuristic desert city that will stretch for 170km in a straight line. From Charles I to Tsar Nicholas II, many monarchs have been toppled by the people, but a few have done the toppling themselves. The king of tiny Bhutan dragged his subjects kicking and screaming into democracy. And the Nepalese monarchy was formally abolished in 2008, seven years after the Etonian crown prince massacred the rest of the royal family at a party.
What’s the best argument for keeping our monarchy?
The alternatives are so much worse. Those who moan about the monarchy should remember, says Peter Hitchens in The Mail on Sunday, that in America the “overmighty” president must buy and keep his office by making promises to billionaire donors and pandering to fashions of thought and opinion. And it’s not as though presidents are a bargain. Just look at Air Force One, the ludicrous presidential jet: a planned replacement is expected to cost more than £2.5bn. Note, too, how many republics, from North Korea to China, are dismal places of tyranny and torture. It’s no coincidence that most of the longest-surviving free nations in the world are constitutional monarchies.
🍾💋🤤 No one will have been looking forward to the jubilee more than royal tat merchants. A Queen Elizabeth II Barbie released to mark the occasion sold out and is now reselling on eBay for £285. There’s a new champagne cocktail at The Goring Bar – the Queen’s local – called Jubilee Fizz. A new fragrance, Platinum 22, has been unveiled by the royal perfumer Floris to go with its rose-scented mouthwash – a Palace favourite. And a batch of 10,000 teacups, mugs and commemorative plates were misprinted, calling the occasion the “Platinum Jubbly of Queen Elizabeth II”. Now collectors’ items, a single coffee mug sells for £25 online.
🇫🇷👑🩸 Getting rid of monarchies tends to be a bloody business. The French lustily pursued a policy of murdering aristocrats after the revolution in 1789, with a little help from the guillotine. At the height of the Terror the revolutionaries were lopping off 300 heads a day.
😂💀🤴 In 1599, the Burmese king Nanda Bayin laughed himself to death when he heard from a visiting Italian merchant that Venice was a free state without a monarch.