London — It seems that even queens have slacked off a bit in their golden years. Queen Elizabeth II isn’t as sure of her feet as she used to be, and she’s been more selective about the events she’ll attend during this time of the Platinum Jubilee – and who she’ll be seen with.
Sir Paul McCartney and bestselling author Tina Brown reflect on Queen Elizabeth’s unprecedented reign in Her Majesty The Queen: A Gayle King Special.
When a new train line named after her celebrated its grand opening in London in May, she was there with a big smile for the occasion. She likes trains.
When an extravagant horse show was held in her honor next to her palace, she turned up to wave and be pleased with the horses on display. She likes horses.
But recently, when a long solemn procession was required to open a new session of the British Parliament, she sent one of the children to do so.
And when another of her children embarrassed himself to the point of being practically written out of royal history, that didn’t stop her– forever tainted by his association with accused child sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein – accompanies her to the memorial service for her husband Prince Philip.
Nowadays the queen does what the queen wants to do.
“I think we’re starting to see — and it’s interesting, it took until her 10th decade — but I think we’re starting to see that she’s a little bit more like the rest of us and is like, ‘You know what, I think I’ll do that, but I won’t the.'”
After a lifetime of duties, why not let Elizabeth be Elizabeth? It seems the least the British can do for the service she renders.
The monarch, says author Robert Lacey, who chronicles the British royal family in more than 20 books, is “a crutch” and many in the kingdom “just can’t do without it”.
“In Britain we try to separate our patriotic feelings from the political process,” Lacey said. “We have to think that’s pretty healthy and we’ve fixed it on this lady who has performed so well for the occasion.”
But any career that spans 70 years is bound to have a few bumps.
When part of her home at Windsor Castle burned down in 1992 and the marriages of three of her children, including Charles and Diana, collapsed, the Queen dropped her usual stoicism and admitted it had been a terrible year.
When Diana died five years later, the Queen thoroughly misinterpreted the national mood and maintained her trademark stoicism, saying nothing while the nation went through collective mourning. Finally, after five days of mounting public frustration and newspaper headlines questioning her absence, she acknowledged the public’s grief and paid tribute to Diana as “an extraordinary and gifted human being.”
More recently, amid family racism allegations directed at Prince Harry’s American wife Meghan Markle, the Queen has had to watch as they embark on a chosen non-royal life in California.
And then, of course, there’s the Prince Andrew scandal.
Somehow, however, she stayed calm and endured everything.
“She worked hard. She made right what she did wrong,” Lacy said, noting that just five years after Diana’s death, “in 2002, everyone is back on the streets to celebrate the Golden Jubilee and cheer for the Queen.”
So how did she do that?
“She did it by listening,” Lacey said.
“She had that integrity and that understanding,” he said. “She believed in herself, and because she believed in herself, because she believed in her institution – the ridiculous business of wearing the crown on your head and curtseying to people – but she’s adamant about it that this is an important part of Britain and its surrounding family around the world, the English speaking world. And because of that, she more than survived.”
There is even a theory in some circles that Queen Elizabeth II may have served the British monarchy to Good.
It’s hard to argue that – especially for a son like Prince Charles, with all the baggage he brings – being queen will be an extremely difficult act.