The Accidental QueenPublished 8:48am Tuesday, June 5, 2012
For sixty years she has sat on the throne. She is the head of a commonwealth of 54 countries representing almost one-third of the world’s population. She remains the Head of State for 16 of those nations. She enjoys phenomenal wealth yet is quite literally a prisoner in her own golden palaces. She is admired my most of her subjects, disliked by many, and known by all. Had her uncle not abdicated his position, she would not be queen today.
Queen Elizabeth II, is officially known as Her Majesty Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God, of Great Britain, Ireland and the British Dominions beyond the Seas Queen, Defender of the Faith. Part of her title includes “Defender of the Faith” because in addition to her other duties she is the head of the Church of England.
This combination of church and state is markedly different from the United States which largely instituted the separation of church and state in our government because of the Queen’s ancestors.
By now you probably are all aware that Queen Elizabeth II is celebrating her Diamond Jubilee. For sixty years she has reigned over the United Kingdom after the untimely death of her father, King George VI. She ascended to the throne at the age of 26 and is only three years away from becoming the longest serving monarch in their history. That is quite an achievement by a person that did not expect to serve until she was eight years old.
Her uncle, King Edward VIII, ascended to the throne before he was married. The King was under tremendous pressure to marry a “suitable” woman who would not only become Queen, but would hopefully provide the country an heir. King Edward was having an affair with Bessie Wallis Simpson, who not only was divorced but was still married to her second husband.
This potential marriage was of enormous concern to the leadership of the country who could not imagine the British Monarch, who is also the head of the Church of England, marrying not only a divorcee but also a Catholic.
After discussions with Parliament, Edward’s only option to remain with Simpson was to give up the throne. In December 12, 1936, Edward broadcast over the radio his decision to renounce the throne. His message was also carried live in the United States as Americans were totally caught up in all the drama across the Atlantic.
Princess Elizabeth, who was then eight years old, became the presumptive heir to the throne as her father became King George VI. Less than two decades later, she would begin her long reign.
Americans have long had a fascination with the British Royal Family. Over one Billion people around the world watched the recent wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton.
American networks have been covering the events of the past four days with the same type of intensity. It was quite a celebration with over one thousand boats turning out on the River Thames to honor the Queen as she floated past on the Royal Barge. Over one million people lined the banks of the river along the seven mile course on a dreary rainy day to catch a glimpse of the Queen.
In many ways, Americans have adopted the British royalty as our own. In fact, occasional polls will show the royal family more popular in this country than in the United Kingdom. Perhaps royalty is just a mystery to Americans which makes it that much more appealing. The closest thing we have had to royalty in this country was probably the Kennedy family.
The British monarchy does not really serve any real political purpose. However, they are still a dominant force in both American and British culture. The real power in Britain’s government is the Prime Minister. However, my guess is that many of you don’t know the current prime minister’s name, while you all know who Queen Elizabeth is. David Cameron is the current Prime Minister, by the way.
American fascination with the Royal Family has been growing since Prince Charles married Diana. Their two sons, Prince William and Prince Harry, have all the star power of a rock star in American society. The fact they are both rugged, good looking helicopter pilots serving in the military only adds to their mystique.
In most ways, England remains America’s strongest and most loyal ally. This relationship has been built on the shared blood on battlefields around the world. We have made common sacrifices and we share common values. We share a common language even though there are some fun and whimsical differences.
Perhaps it is the fact that America and Britain have stood together for so long for freedom around the world that makes us so fond of each other. While we have no queen, it is only fitting that we pay our respects and give a deserved tribute to the Queen’s devotion to duty and service to her nation, especially on the occasion of her Diamond Jubilee.
Well done, ma’am.
Dan Ponder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org