HM The Queen has already lived and reigned longer than any other monarch in British history. This weekend, to mark her official birthday, more flags were put out for Trooping the Colour: the military salute with its foundations in 1749. Successive monarchs did not attend the sovereign’s birthday parade due to disinclination (Queen Victoria) or ill health (Kings Edward VII and King George VI). The Queen has only missed one birthday parade in 1955 but has technically attended one for every year of her reign having taken the salute for her ailing father in 1951.
What must have been going through The Queen’s mind on the anniversary of her 90th birthday? As has been the case for her entire reign, one can only assume. No one can doubt Her Majesty has proved the most dutiful monarch in English history. That said, one does get the feeling that like her namesake Elizabeth I she does rather enjoy being Queen.
It must be awfully reassuring to know that every official birthday will be the same: hundreds of guardsmen parading on Horse Guards, a ride in a horse-drawn landau down a flag-strewn Mall and a fly-past by the Red Arrows watched standing dead centre of of your entire family on the balcony of Buckingham Palace. Which is why I’d imagine The Queen dreads landmark birthdays and jubilees when the royal calendar is disrupted by rookie occasions.
I’m thinking about The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Pageant during which Her Majesty and the Duke of Edinburgh remained standing in the pouring rain while a raggle-taggle of vessels progressed up the Thames for two hours. The Duke was hospitalised afterwards and we were fortunate as a nation not to lose him. Staring out the window of Bloomsbury Towers this Sunday, I do feel for The Queen being forced to endure an open-air Patrons’ Lunch on the Mall when – you guessed it – the skies have been sheeting down since dawn.
The Queen might probably far rather have taken a helicopter back to Windsor Castle after Trooping the Colour and left the younger members of her family to host the Patrons’ Lunch. Speaking of which, the Duchess of Cambridge looked particularly lovely in the carriages yesterday and ‘captured the hearts of the nation’ showing off Prince George and Princess Charlotte on the balcony afterwards. In her divine feathered hat with the broad brim and tall crown, the Duchess of Cornwall is looking increasingly like a Romanov Grand Duchess.
It must be rather pleasing to lead a life of certainties like The Queen. Granted, a life as regimented as her troops on the parade ground must have been stifling on occasion. But just as The Queen has given her country a sense of certainty, so the institution of monarchy has repaid the debt. The year is evenly divided between Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle, Sandringham and Balmoral with various detours to smaller houses on each estate such as Birkhall or Frogmore House.
State occasions such as the Opening of Parliament and the Garter Ceremony punctuate the year as do social events such as Royal Ascot and numerous garden parties. State and overseas visits add interest as do private holidays cruising the Scottish isles. Outfits and jewellery are laid-out pressed and ready for every eventuality every day and whoever is going to meet you that day will remember it as one of the best days of their lives.
Everybody would probably like to be Queen for the day but I doubt any of us could sustain it for more than a week let alone sixty-four years. Of course, after the abdication of Uncle David (King Edward VIII), The Queen has prepared to meet her destiny. Her life has been pre-ordained and she has performed her duties with patience and grace. We see The Queen smiling and waving in various hats and tiaras. What we don’t see are the contents of the red boxes she attends to daily. Neither do we hear of the terrorist threats that surely must equal those directed at her great-grandmother Queen Victoria.
When it comes to State secrets, Prime Ministers probably know very little compared to the network of information The Queen has access to. She has met more monarchs and heads of state than any other ruler in world history and thus has knowledge of world affairs second to none. We will never know how influential The Queen might be but I would guess there is very little that occurs nationally or internationally that she hasn’t seen before or knows of in advance.
As I say, it is a pointless exercise to second-guess what The Queen might be thinking unless you are one of her inner circle. I doubt very much her children or grandchild are party to Her Majesty’s innermost thoughts. These are probably only shared with the Duke of Edinburgh and her Maker.