Queen Elizabeth's platinum jubilee is a time for all but the most hardcore republicans to raise a glass to her achievements – Susan Dalgety
In a few weeks’ time, on 6 February, a diminutive, white-haired 95-year-old woman will celebrate 70 years in the same job.
This year, Her Majesty the Queen becomes the first British monarch to celebrate a platinum jubilee. She has seen the country change from a weary, smog-ridden nation, shell-shocked by two world wars to, well, a weary, Covid-ridden nation, shell-shocked by a global pandemic.
She’s learned how to make Zoom calls at an age when most folk are content to snooze their day away in front of the TV. She’s coped with a family so dysfunctional they could have stepped off the set of Eastenders, only with better diction.
And she knows more about how this country works, or doesn’t, than any of the Prime Ministers she’s worked with since 1952 (Boris Johnson is number 14, Winston Churchill was her first).
Her work calendar helps set the rhythm of our year, from her traditional message on Christmas Day, to Holyrood Week in July, when she decamps to Edinburgh to undertake her annual celebration of all things Scottish.
She has become our national granny, the one fixed point in our lives we can depend on. She may be more frail than she was and spend more time cloistered in one of her several palaces than before, but her constant presence is a comfort to us all, bar a few hardcore republicans.
I have no truck with a hereditary head of state. The idea that Prince William, a pleasant enough chap, is our superior simply because he was born into the Mountbatten-Windsor family, is ludicrous.
But every culture has its chiefs, from the clans of Scotland to the tribes of sub-Saharan Africa. Every country has a head of state.
Some, like the US President, are elected for a fixed term; a few, like President Xi of China are ‘appointed’ for a lifetime. Others, like the Queen and Emperor Narihuto of Japan are hereditary, the position passed down within a ruling family.
My personal preference is for an elected head of state, because even when you do get a despot or an idiot in the job, they can be turfed out at the ballot box, witness Donald Trump. But for the foreseeable future, we have our own dear Queen, and for that I am grateful.
Who knows what the next 12 months will bring? The pandemic could run its course, or a dangerous new variant emerge, forcing us back into lockdown.
Boris Johnson could still be Prime Minister, with all the chaos that is sure to ensue. A stray comet could land in the Firth of Forth, destroying the Earth – or does that only happen in movies?
But one thing is (almost) certain. From 2 June, the country will enjoy four days of celebration to mark the Queen’s 70 years of service. Amid the flag-waving, street parties and parades, the incessant chatter of wall-to-wall TV coverage and sentimental magazine supplements, it is also a chance to reflect on the last seven decades.
To consider our national achievements, like the NHS, and our failures, like the persistence of poverty in one of the richest countries on the planet. To look forward to the next generation and beyond. And to toast the woman who has served her country well, every day of her life.