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On Monday, February 6, 2017, Queen Elizabeth II achieved what no other British monarch has: a Sapphire Jubilee.

The Queen acceded the throne 65 years ago, following the death of her father, King George VI.

Her Majesty celebrated the day privately at Sandringham Estate in Norfolk. She attended Sunday service at St Peter and St Paul in West Newton, Norfolk, where she greeted well wishers and accepted bouquets of flowers afterwards.

Military salutes were given in London on Monday. The Telegraph has photos and reported:

Royal gun salutes were staged in London on Accession Day, as is the tradition, with a 41-gun salute by the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery in Green Park at noon.

The Band of the Royal Artillery played a selection of celebratory music close to the firing position as 89 horses pulled six First World War-era 13-pounder field guns into position in the park.

A 62-gun salute by the Honourable Artillery Company was fired at the Tower of London at 1pm.

The photo above was taken in 2014. Buckingham Palace re-released it for the Sapphire Jubilee.

Sky News explains:

The picture was taken by the photographer David Bailey in 2014 for the GREAT campaign, a publicity campaign to promote Britain around the world.

In the photograph The Queen is wearing a suite of sapphire jewellery given to her by King George VI as a wedding present in 1947.

It was on the 6 February, 1952 that her father died while at Sandringham. Princess Elizabeth, who was 25, was in Kenya on a royal tour with her husband Prince Philip at the time.

Although no national celebrations are planned this year, the Royal Mint is issuing a set of commemorative coins. Royal Mail has released a £5 commemorative stamp in sapphire blue.

Two years ago, when the Queen became Britain’s longest-ever reigning monarch, she said that achieving that landmark was:

“not one to which I have ever aspired”.

She added: “Inevitably, a long life can pass by many milestones. My own is no exception.”

Those of us who treasure her give thanks and wish her well for many more years as our monarch.

As Her Majesty is approaching her 91st birthday this year, the Duke of Cambridge — Prince William — is taking on more official royal appearances on her behalf.

With regard to length of reign, Queen Victoria comes second in the list with 63 years. Then we go further back in history to George III, who ruled for 59 years, 96 days (1760-1820). James VI of Scotland served for 57 years, 246 days (1567-1625).

In fifth place — incredibly, given it that this was during the Middle Ages — is Henry III of England and Lord of Ireland, who reigned for 56 years and 29 days between 1216 and 1272.

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Image result for leopard skin kitten heelsJuly 14 is Bastille Day, but here in Britain it is May Day. We are interested in our new Prime Minister Theresa May and her Cabinet appointments.

Mrs May has long been associated with leopard skin kitten heel shoes which she wore several years ago at a Conservative Party conference. (Representative ones are shown at left.)

(Photo credits: mozimo.co.uk)

In fact, at the weekend, my better half and I spoke with an older local resident. This man told us, quite seriously (verbatim), ‘I do hope Mrs May wins the leadership contest. Oh, those kitten heel shoes … I do like a firm woman, one who knows what she’s about.’

My overseas readers might ask what happened to the Conservative leadership contest. This is how it all unfolded.

Andrea Leadsom’s miserable weekend

Last weekend, the other candidate running for Conservative Party leader, Andrea Leadsom, gave an interview to Rachel Sylvester of The Times.

Sylvester, incidentally, is married to the Diplomatic Editor of The Guardian, Patrick Wintour. Wintour’s sister Anna is the famous editor of the American edition of Vogue. Their late father, Charles, is best known for editing the London Evening Standard, although he also held similar senior positions at the Daily Express and The Times.

Sylvester asked Leadsom what set her apart from May. Leadsom, always interested in children, answered, in part:

… genuinely, I feel being a mum means you have a very real stake in the future of our country, a tangible stake. She possibly has nieces, nephews, lots of people. But I have children who are going to have children who will directly be a part of what happens next … so I have a real stake in the next year, the next two.

The interview made The Times‘s front page. A media storm ensued. Leadsom tweeted that the quotes were ‘truly appalling’ and the exact opposite of what she actually said. Sylvester defended her interview, claiming that Leadsom was the one who brought children into it. However, renowned political blogger Guido Fawkes (Paul Staines) listened to the transcript and said that Sylvester wove motherhood into her question, something the journalist later admitted in a BBC interview. Fawkes concluded (highlights in the original):

Goes without saying that Leadsom completely denies raising the issue, calling the claim “gutter journalism”. The only way to establish whether or not Andrea Leadsom has been stitched up is to release the full recording – something The Times is refusing to do…

On Saturday, July 9, Leadsom gave a press conference from her home in Northamptonshire at which she said:

Everyone has an equal stake in the future of our country.

However, it was too late. Several Conservative MPs — men and women — criticised Leadsom’s remark on motherhood.

By Sunday, Leadsom admitted to The Telegraph‘s Alison Pearson that she felt:

under attack, under enormous pressure. It has been shattering.

By lunchtime on Monday, July 11, Leadsom announced she was dropping out of the leadership contest.

That afternoon, David Cameron made a brief announcement, saying that a new Prime Minister would be in place by Wednesday evening. He walked back to No. 10, unaware that the microphones were still on. This is what the world heard:

The Telegraph noted:

Somehow, it sounded half-mournful, half-jaunty. It was strangely touching. 

It was a very human moment. It brought a smile.

Speaking of which, July 11 marked the first time the British public saw Theresa May smile (see picture at the top of the Telegraph link). Finally, we saw another side to the ‘steely’ Home Secretary who had served the nation for six years.

Cameron’s final hours

On the afternoon of Tuesday, July 12, an empty removals van arrived at 10 Downing Street:

Simply Removals will no doubt be getting a lot of new business.

This may look trivial, but it is important in the British psyche with regard to a new Prime Minister. It represents the beginning of the transfer of power from one to another. I remember in November 1990 when John Major was announced as Margaret Thatcher’s successor. My colleagues explained that nothing would happen until the removals van arrived.

On Wednesday, Cameron presided over his last PMQs (Prime Minister’s Questions). It was a witty, informative and heart-warming 45 minutes, including those questions and remarks from Leader of the Opposition, Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn, who wore a tie. Cameron remarked upon it in the nicest possible way to much laughter from the benches.

Conservative MPs thanked Cameron for his achievements and some mentioned particular instances in their own constituencies, particularly the sharp drop in unemployment in certain parts of England.

Even a handful of Labour MPs thanked Cameron for his service.

At the end, the Conservatives gave him a standing ovation. All the Labour MPs heartily applauded him.

Afterwards, Cameron returned to spend a few hours at No. 10 before he gave his farewell speech around 4:45 p.m. His wife Samantha and their three children stood off to the side. Cameron recalled how his youngest, Florence (in Samantha’s womb when Cameron first entered No. 10 in May 2010) once climbed into his red ministerial box when she was little and begged him to take her along on one of his trips. He said that his two older children were known to kick the red boxes, they were so frustrated with their father’s absences from home.

The children, rightly, looked nervous. They had never been in the public eye until now.

Cameron also detailed his many achievements as Prime Minister — a lengthy list. We were blessed to have had him in that post for six years.

Just before 5 p.m., the Cameron family left No. 10 for Buckingham Palace. David and Samantha were in one car and the children in another.

The Queen’s role

Even more important than the removals van was the constitutional step of the outgoing Prime Minister asking the Queen for permission to resign.

This is a formality nowadays, since the successor has already been chosen by the political party, whether Conservative or Labour. However, it was not always so. When the Queen first ascended to the throne, the BBC News panel covering the afternoon’s events said that she used to seek advice from party grandees — the most senior MPs and advisers — on whom would be best placed to become the next Prime Minister. One Royal Family reporter said that this stopped in the 1960s after the Palace had a hand in the appointment of Anthony Eden — responsible for the Suez crisis in 1956 — and Alec Douglas-Home who served for only one year.

It is unlikely that the Queen would refuse a Prime Minister’s resignation. Nonetheless, she must be asked. The outgoing Prime Minister then recommends his or her successor to her. Again, these days, it is unlikely she would refuse that person.

In fact, Theresa May and her husband were already in a car waiting outside the Houses of Parliament. The driver awaited instructions from the Palace to leave. As soon as the Cameron family was being driven away — in black cars, no longer the silver Prime Ministerial ones — the car with the Mays pulled up in the forecourt.

The Queen spent a good half hour with David Cameron. Much of that was a private conversation between the two, then the whole family had an audience with her.

The monarch spent the same amount of time with Theresa May, again most of that privately, then with her husband included for a general conversation.

The Queen already knows Theresa May somewhat because, as Home Secretary, she was part of the Privy Council which meets with her at the Palace.

The Queen would have asked her to form a government. When the Queen issues this request of an incoming, consenting Prime Minister, that person must ‘kiss hands’ with her. In May’s case, this was a shake of the hands and a deep curtsey, à la Margaret Thatcher.

It is possible that the Queen asked May questions about the future government and its direction, although we will never know. Revealing private conversations of that nature is strictly forbidden.

The BBC panel said that, when the Queen was younger, she found the advice of Prime Ministers extremely helpful. That later turned into the Queen’s advising her Prime Ministers. The relationship is that of a CEO (PM) reporting to the Chairman (the Queen).

Theresa May is the 13th Prime Minister to serve under the Queen. It is interesting that she also was granted that position on July 13.

Like her predecessors, May will be expected to meet weekly with the Queen when Parliament is in session. The early Wednesday evening time — Cameron’s — might continue. We can but see.

The Mays left Buckingham Palace shortly before 6 p.m. in the silver Prime Ministerial car. They were in place at No. 10 in time for the evening news.

Security detail

Security cars and motorcycles escorted the Camerons and the Mays to and from Buckingham Palace.

The Camerons, like other former Prime Ministerial families or couples, will continue to have security detail in future.

Theresa May’s address to the nation

Theresa May no sooner got out of the car with her husband Philip when she addressed the people of Great Britain. Philip stood off to the side.

The Spectator has the full transcript, most of which follows. It sounds very centrist if not Labour-like. Excerpts follow (emphases mine):

I have just been to Buckingham Palace, where Her Majesty the Queen has asked me to form a new government, and I accepted. In David Cameron, I follow in the footsteps of a great, modern Prime Minister … David Cameron has led a one nation government, and it is in that spirit that I also plan to lead. Because not everybody knows this, but the full title of my party is the Conservative and Unionist Party. And that word unionist is very important to me.

It means we believe in the union, the precious, precious bond between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. But it means something else that is just as important, it means we believe in a union not just between the nations of the United Kingdom, but between all of our citizens, every one of us, whoever we are and wherever we are from. That means fighting against the burning injustice that if you’re born poor you will die on average nine years earlier than others. If you’re black, you’re treated more harshly by the criminal justice system than if you’re white. If you’re a white, working class boy, you’re less likely than anybody else in Britain to go to university. If you’re at a state school, you’re less likely to reach the top professions than if you’re educated privately. If you’re a woman, you will earn less than a man. If you suffer from mental health problems, there’s not enough help to hand. If you’re young, you’ll find it harder than ever before to own your own home …

If you’re from an ordinary working class family, life is much harder than many people in Westminster realise. You have a job but you don’t always have job security. You have your own home but you worry about paying the mortgage. You can just about manage, but you worry about the cost of living and getting your kids into a good school. If you’re one of those families, if you’re just managing, I want to address you directly. I know you’re working around the clock, I know you’re doing your best and I know that sometimes life can be a struggle. The Government I lead will be driven, not by the interests of the privileged few, but by yours. We will do everything we can to give you more control over your lives. When we take the big calls, we’ll think not of the powerful, but you

As we leave the European Union, we will forge a bold, new, positive role for ourselves in the world, and we will make Britain a country that works not for a privileged few, but for every one of us.

That will be the mission of the Government I lead. And together, we will build a better Britain.

This is a very good outcome for the nation in just under three weeks from the EU Referendum result and Cameron’s resignation.

Tomorrow: more about Theresa May and her Cabinet

The Guardian had a classic piece criticising the street parties held at the weekend in honour of the Queen’s 90th birthday.

Journalist Dawn Foster clearly had a bee in her bonnet. Excerpts follow:

Friends of mine who live in areas where street parties are in the works have, without exception, reported that the people responsible are the perennially furious residents who spend most of their lives in a rage about parking. Shifting their attention from the contentious temporary ownership of asphalt, they have decided the neighbourhood needs to commemorate the birthday of a 90-year-old woman none of the residents have met …

The twee side of nationalism harks back to a bygone era of a “stiff upper lip”, and is intrinsically bound up with the legacy of boarding schools. Its practitioners have a tendency to suggest people have been too harsh when criticising our colonial history. Several years ago they would have been laughed out of the building, but now this brand of chummy nationalism is widespread …

The coming weekend will feature an assault course of men in red trousers telling you how “jolly good” it is that “our Liz” has reached the age people in her income bracket often do, as they wave paper Union Jacks …

It’s possible to be a good neighbour without indulging in these performative pastiches of community. Speaking to people on your street should be an everyday occurrence, not prompted only by an unreciprocated love for the unelected Queen …

Readers’ comments were mixed. I rather liked this one:

The article neglects the fact that the Queen has been in power for over 60 years, through periods of austerity as well as more lavish times. In none of those, though, did she really have any authority to do more than suggest a more temperate approach (should she have decided to do so). She also presided over periods when the middle class was in the ascendant and when it was losing ground. It is a bit of a ‘straw man’ argument to try to blame her for all the failed policies of the various governments that were in power during that period.

If we accept that the role of the Queen is essentially that of a figurehead (and perhaps a role model), rather than an actual person with authority, we must conclude that she’s done a pretty good job. Governments come and go and society changes, but through good times and bad, Her Majesty has always been around.

Indeed, and that is what and who Britons celebrated last weekend.

On September 6, 2015, Channel 4 broadcast The Queen’s Big Night Out, which told us about the one evening in her life when she was most able to be a member of the public. It was a fascinating programme and beautifully narrated by actor Allan Corduner.

This post summarises the programme’s content.

(Photo credits: Wikipedia)

May 8, 1945

As soon as Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s 3 p.m. announcement that the Second World War had ended, the British public flooded into the streets to celebrate. That day, half a million people ‘poured into London’. Some travelled by train just to party in the capital.

After six years of war, one-third of a million of Britons had lost their lives. Three-quarters of a million homes had been destroyed.

Although rationing would continue for another nine years, at least they no longer had to worry about heading for bomb shelters, a frequent occurrence in London.

On VE Day, Britons heard the first radio weather forecast in years. These had been suppressed for security reasons.

Street lamps, neon signs and house lights lit that night startled many Britons who had become accustomed to total darkness. The lights-out measure was also for security purposes, to try and keep German pilots from finding their targets.

Crowds in London flooded The Mall, waiting for George VI and the Royal Family to appear on the balcony of Buckingham Palace. The King gave a radio address about the war coming to an end. He and Queen Elizabeth (later the Queen Mother) appeared on the balcony to rapturous cheers.

Pubs stayed open late that night. Some ran out of beer. People, even total strangers, hugged and kissed each other. Dancing went on everywhere. It was ‘mayhem in the nicest of ways’.

Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret

On VE Day, Princess Elizabeth was 19. Princess Margaret was 14. They had spent much of the war at Windsor Castle.

Margaret Rhodes, 89, one of the Queen’s cousins and her close friend, recalled that Princess Elizabeth was privately tutored there by the headmaster of nearby Eton. Princess Margaret was envious that she was not afforded the same privilege.

Princess Elizabeth went on to serve in the ATS (Auxiliary Territorial Service) with the rank of Second Subaltern. She learned to drive and work as a mechanic.

The princesses’ night out

Margaret Rhodes, who was at Buckingham Palace that day, remembers that the princesses asked permission to leave the palace. The King was reluctant to allow his daughters to leave, however, he relented.

Sixteen members of the Royal Household accompanied the princesses, Rhodes and Jean Woodruff, who later became a lady in waiting, for a night in the streets of London. The Queen recalled in 1985 that she pulled her uniform cap over her forehead in an attempt to disguise herself until a military officer in the entourage said he was not going to accompany her unless she wore her uniform correctly. She adjusted her cap and the group left the palace.

They were able to see their parents on the balcony of the palace waving to the crowds. That was at 9 p.m.

The group managed to make their way down the Mall. By 10 p.m., they’d reached Horseguards Parade, also teeming with people expressing ‘happiness and relief’.

At 10:30, the Royal entourage reached Trafalgar Square, full of Britons kissing, huggnig and dancing.

Group Captain Peter Townsend was among those protecting the princesses. Princess Margaret was fascinated by him (their later romance was quashed), although his only intention was to ensure the safety of his Royal charges.

The entourage reached Piccadilly Circus at 11 p.m., just when the crowds were at their peak. This was the most boisterous area of central London. Knowing this, the group tried to stay on the outer edges but the force of the crowds pushed them ever closer to the centre.

Piccadilly Circus in the 1940s was not quite what it is now. Back then, prostitutes stood around the Eros statue and lit torches (flashlights) to discreetly show off their legs. Nearby newspaper vendors sold condoms. The Regent Palace Hotel (as was) charged for rooms by the hour.

The Royal party reached The 400 Club, by 11:15. It was a favourite of some in the group and was also known for its upper-class assignations. They didn’t tarry, however, and joined the conga line down Piccadilly going towards the Ritz. The future Queen was ‘just another face in the crowd, laughing and joking’.

When they reached the Ritz at 11:30, the Royal entourage continued to conga as they entered the hotel. Margaret Rhodes remembered it as a poke in the eye to the hotel’s clientèle, ‘so stuffy’. Their shock didn’t last long, however, as the princesses had to be back at Buckingham Palace by midnight.

They had a shock of their own at Green Park, however. It was 11:45 p.m., and couples were engaging in public displays of affection and sexual congress everywhere. Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret had never seen a couple kiss much less anything more. Used condoms were scattered on the ground. Some overly excited people inexplicably burnt deck chairs.

In an interview many years later, the Queen said that she had sent a message to her parents asking them to return to the balcony at midnight, so that she and her sister could see them from street level. The crowds were still outside the palace.

VE Day was the one time the Queen could let her hair down. It was her one night of relative freedom which she still remembers fondly today. Yes, she had a few drinks and danced with the public. However, she was still mindful of her status and was wearing her ATS uniform. Ultimately, she had to behave herself.

In the weeks that followed, Labour won the general election. Their government would establish the National Health Service and state provision for the needy.

This came as no surprise to the Queen. She knew people had become accustomed to centralised government and state control during the war years.

A few years later, when Princess Margaret reached majority age, she and her friends frequented the American Bar at the Savoy. Her sister, attended by ladies in waiting, sometimes joined them, always at 8 p.m. and, even then, only for a short while. The Queen was — and continues to be — above reproach in every respect.

Today, BBC1 broadcast the Queen’s 90th birthday walkabout from Windsor.

Tens of thousands attended and Her Majesty unveiled a plaque at The Queen’s Walkway, which is 6.3km long and marks 63 significant points of interest in the town.

Although the majority of well-wishers were British, a number of them, especially women, came from Commonwealth countries and the United States. One British-American group of women met in the crowd at the wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. They have kept in touch ever since and made plans to attend this historic event.

Queen Elizabeth looked resplendent in a ‘spring grass green’ coat and matching hat trimmed with fresh white and yellow flowers. She was all smiles as she accepted cards, flowers and gifts from young and old alike. She deftly handed them to her lady in waiting. Groups of schoolchildren and adults sang Happy Birthday as she walked along the route. Prince Philip kept a discreet distance behind his wife and also talked to the crowds.

As one commentator put it, when it comes to meeting the public, the Royal Family say, ‘We’re in the happiness business’. The BBC interviewed a variety of celebrities and authors who have met the Queen. Everyone said that they were in awe of her but felt at home at the same time. They added that she puts you at the centre, however briefly.

Most people lining Windsor’s streets have never known any other British monarch. Sixty-three years and counting is a very long, intergenerational time — the longest any sovereign has ever ruled over our nation.

During that time, the world has seen rapid change and upheaval. One pundit said that the Queen’s presence gives us a sense of stability and continuity. No matter what happens, she is there with us as our head of state.

The mayor of Windsor and the Lord Lieutenant of Berkshire acted as hosts for the walkabout and tea party at the town’s Guildhall. At the Guildhall, the Queen and Prince Philip met several nonagenarians. The Queen then cut her birthday cake, made by last year’s Great British Bake Off winner Nadia. Another Bake Off contestant from the same series, Martha, also baked cakes for the party guests.

After spending time at the Guildhall, the Queen and Prince Philip stepped into a brand new custom Range Rover which has a large open-top roof, allowing both of them to stand and wave to the crowds as they were driven down streets in Windsor town centre. Someone dubbed it the Queenmobile.

This evening, the Queen will celebrate her birthday at Windsor Castle with 60 people, family and friends. Entertainment will be laid on.

A discussion took place as to whether the Queen knew what was being planned. Those in the know said that she probably did. She does not like surprises. She likes an orderly plan for everything.

They also said that while Queen Elizabeth presides as head of state, Prince Philip is the head of the household. He gives the orders for everything, including when to clear plates from the table. Servants watch him for the cue.

Commentators said that Windsor Castle really is the nexus for the Royal Family. Everyone feels comfortable there. They also consider Windsor as their home town. They know a lot of people there and feel an affinity with all the residents.

In closing, RMC (French talk radio) announced the walkabout on their morning news broadcasts. One of the talk show hosts also mentioned the new Royal website. He added that part of the job description for the site’s community manager, who also is in charge of tweets, is to have lunch with the Queen whenever she is in residence. How wonderful!

Queen Elizabeth II March 2015.jpgQueen Elizabeth turns 90 on Thursday, April 21.

Millions of people, not just in the UK but around the world, will wish her a very happy birthday and many happy returns.

Britons are blessed to have her as their head of state. She is the glue that holds us together.

What has made her so successful and well respected?

On October 31, 2015, Channel 4 broadcast How to Be Queen: 63 Years and Counting which revealed the ‘secrets’ of the woman who is more popular than ever.

Below is a countdown of the Queen’s ten secrets to No. 1 — the most important. The subheads below come directly from the programme and the text summarises its content.

10/ Stay out of politics

The film The Queen, starring Helen Mirren, explores this principle in depth, especially in the depictions of her conversations with then-Prime Minister Tony Blair.

The Queen does not say anything about politics outside of her family circle, however, to politicians like Blair, she makes her thoughts known through a look or a brief remark that can cut one down to size in an instant.

By contrast, Prince Charles, whose opinions are well known on a variety of subjects, has little of his mother’s near-universal appeal. Perhaps it is time he took a leaf out of his mother’s notebook.

9/ Say nothing

Unlike Prince Charles and the late Princess Diana, the Queen does not give interviews.

Discretion is the better part of valour.

The only exception was in 1992 when the Queen noted in her Christmas Day message to the nation how awful that year had been, but used a Latin expression. She pronounced it an ‘Annus Horribilis‘. A number of Royal scandals broke that year. Windsor Castle also caught fire and was seriously damaged.

8/ Do your duty

The Queen was brought up to do her duty to the nation. She has never wavered from serving her people.

She is the opposite of two of her ancestors. When Queen Victoria’s son Edward VII ascended to the throne in January 1901, he continued his previous playboy lifestyle, even though he was married to Princess Alexandra.

A more shocking example, however, was that of Edward VIII who reigned for 326 days in 1936 before abdicating to lead his own life. After abdication, he took his ladyfriend, American divorcée Wallis Simpson, whom he later married, on a trip to Nazi Germany. Understandably, public opinion was so hostile to him that he spent most of the rest of his life in France. His successor (brother) George VI — Queen Elizabeth’s father — and his mother Queen Mary threatened to cut off his allowance if he returned to the UK uninvited. It is no wonder that Britons over the age of 50 consider him to be one of our worst ever monarchs.

7/ Don’t fluff your lines

The Queen has always delivered her addresses in a clear, professional way.

The Queen Mother no doubt had a role to play in that. Her husband George VI had a stammer which marred his radio addresses to the nation. His speech therapy was the subject of the film The King’s Speech. The film builds up to the King’s wartime broadcast of 1939, which had to be delivered flawlessly to have the necessary gravitas. A nation held its breath. Fortunately, all went well. The Queen’s father occasionally stammered after that, but much less so than previously. The British public considered him all the more human for it.

6/ Protect the brand

The Queen has always been conscious of the Royal Family’s status as a brand.

The Queen Mother instilled that in her from childhood, but it actually originated with George V during the Great War. He and Kaiser Wilhelm were first cousins. The British public were understandably unhappy during a time when anti-German sentiment was rampant. George V changed the family name from Saxe-Coburg-Gotha to Windsor, after the castle.

In 1917, the King faced another difficulty, this time involving another cousin, Tsar Nicholas. He wanted very much to bring the tsar and his family in Russia to safety in the UK but decided against it. He feared that bringing the Russian royals to Britain would also foment a revolt in Britain, similar to the Russian Revolution.

Unfortunately, not all of the Queen’s children share her desire to protect the brand. Some royals appeared in the television programme It’s a Royal Knockout in 1987. Rather than boost their popularity, it did the opposite. Lesson learned.

Ironically, it is the Queen’s husband, Prince Philip, who makes the most gaffes, too numerous to mention here. Reading them is painful, but people who have met him and heard them find them rather amusing. Hmm.

5/ Don’t mix with the staff

When it comes to confiding in her staff, the Queen appears to abide by the maxim ‘Trust no one’. Her record is blemish-free.

This has not always been the case with previous monarchs. After Prince Albert’s death, Queen Victoria spent a lot of time with Mr Brown and then Abdul Karim. These associations with palace attendants scandalised the royal household and the courtiers.

More recently, Princess Diana confided in her butler Paul Burrell, which generated much publicity for him after her death and some difficulty for the Royal Family as a result.

4/ Earn your keep

The Queen was brought up to be a hard worker.

She understands that if one is going to live at the taxpayer’s expense, one had better earn one’s keep.

She, Prince Philip, Prince Charles and Princess Anne are the most dedicated of the Royals. Much of the charity work that Princess Anne does goes unnoticed by the media, and that is the way she likes it.

The Queen is careful to work hard and maintain a sober, low-profile private life.

Her responsible approach contrasts with Edward VII’s partying and cavorting more than a century ago. In our time, Prince Andrew rightly came under public criticism for his affair with Koo Stark in the 1980s and, in recent years, for his profligate air travel.

3/ Keep a stiff upper lip

The Queen always controls her emotions.

She was brought up to practise emotional reserve and displayed little physical affection for her children.

Her grandfather George V was also very reserved, even towards his wife, Queen Mary. With regard to his children, the Channel 4 programme said he was ‘cold’.

Does this mean there was no love? Hardly. In fact, many Britons would point to the old dictum ‘Still waters run deep’.

The Queen’s children have taken a different approach to parenting. Prince Charles, in particular, was careful to show his sons much affection in their childhood.

One of the few times one could see a scintilla of deep emotion in the Queen was when the royal yacht Britannia was decommissioned. Television news footage captured the monarch, her lips quivering ever so slightly as she blinked rapidly.

2/ Find true love

The Queen is deeply in love with Prince Philip and always has been.

The feeling is mutual. The couple have been married for nearly 70 years.

The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (Prince William and Kate Middleton) share that same sort of love.

The film The Young Victoria depicted Queen Victoria’s profound love for Prince Albert in the 19th century. Her diaries record that he used to help her dress in the morning and would put her stockings on for her.

1/ Listen to the people

The Queen has only had one crisis during her reign and she mitigated that by listening to the people.

Another thing that helped was not to react instantly but rather wait and see what way the wind is blowing.

This troublesome period was the week following the death of Princess Diana at the end of August 1997. The Queen and the Royal Family were on summer holiday at Balmoral in Scotland at the time. The Queen decided they should leave for London four days later.

Meanwhile, public emotions were at fever pitch. I know. I worked in London at the time and saw a few of my female colleagues rail against the Queen, calling for her death. A lot of women laying flowers at Kensington Palace felt the same way. Television reporters interviewed a number of them for news broadcasts every day. The newspapers were filled with anti-Royal sentiment.

Once in London, the Queen went on a walkabout in front of Kensington Palace to see the queues of people ready to lay flowers in front of the late princess’s residence. The Queen has a scene which actually took place that day, later shown on the news. Queen Elizabeth spoke to a little girl holding a posy. She said something to the girl about the flowers being for Princess Diana. The little girl said, ‘These are for you’, and handed her the bouquet. That moment reversed the Queen’s dismal week because it signalled the turning of the tide away from animosity.

Later that day, the Queen gave a televised address to the nation with regard to Princess Diana’s death. It was her first public statement on the subject. Admittedly, then-Prime Minister Tony Blair had been advising the Queen on the hostile mood in London, but she does not say anything she does not mean.

In the address, she displayed no sign of regret but she delivered two messages in a muted fashion: continuing authority — ‘As your Queen’ — and true sentiment — ‘something I say from the heart’.

On the day of the funeral, Queen Elizabeth did something unusual. When Princess Diana’s coffin passed by, she bowed her head as a mark of respect. She might have done that as a nod to public opinion.

The Queen carefully averted what could have easily turned into a crisis. The following week saw a calmer atmosphere in the capital and a gradual return to normality.

Conclusion

How to Be Queen: 63 Years and Counting concluded that if the next generation of Royals can master Queen Elizabeth’s ten secrets, our monarchy’s future is secure.

Many of us will pray, particularly today, that it is.

The French news site L’Internaute has a fascinating photo collection of Queen Elizabeth showing us how they view her.

Most of the photos were taken last year. Below is my translation of the text, photo by photo. Her life is so instructive that I’ve highlighted significant events and routines:

1/ The incredible Elizabeth II will celebrate her 90th birthday on April 21, 2016. She has seen nine French presidents during her reign and remains very active in spite of her advanced age. The Queen sets the example. Here she is behind the wheel of a Jaguar on July 19, 2015, driving through Windsor Great Park on her way to church. Elizabeth II is the only person in Great Britain who is allowed to drive without a driving licence.

2/ A great traveller with more than 300 state visits to 130 different countries, Elizabeth II has never had a passport, although all British passports bear her name. Although she has reduced her engagements, she still travels regularly. In this photo, taken on June 26, 2015, the Queen was in Berlin for a state visit lasting several days.

3/ The photo was taken on November 2, 2015. At the age of 89, the Queen still rides horses, here around Windsor Castle, along the Thames (Berkshire). The Queen has always been passionate about horseriding and is an excellent horsewoman.

4/ Here during a horse race organised at Windsor in 2013, the Queen follows the progress of her horse First Love under a headscarf that renders her unrecognisable.

5/ Having become the longest reigning British monarch on September 9, 2015, she has been on the throne for 63 years and counting. In this photo taken a few months ago, handbag on her arm, she inspects a battalion of Welsh Guards outside Windsor Castle.

6/ At the Garden Party on June 3, 2014, at Buckingham Palace, the colour-coordinated Queen and her umbrella welcomed a myriad of guests. An event that is routine for her as she receives, on average, 50,000 guests a year at garden parties and dinners.

7/ Linked from the beginning with the world of show business, ‘Lizzie’ [really? must be a French thing?] has always been accustomed to shaking the hands of the most famous people at the time. On December 7, 2009, at the end of the Royal Variety Performance — a charity gala sponsored by the Royal Family since 1912 — she met American singer Lady Gaga, herself an unwavering fan of the monarch.

8/ In spite of her advanced age, Queen Elizabeth continues to give the Queen’s Speech to the House of Lords at the Palace of Westminster, although the Prime Minister writes the text. Here in London on May 27, 2015, she announces the government’s legislative projects for the upcoming parliamentary year.

9/ Here Her Majesty examines pieces of the set for Game of Thrones, of which she is a huge fan, during her visit to Titanic Studios in Belfast on June 24, 2014 …

10/ Every Sunday after church (and before lunch), Her Majesty drinks gin with her son and grand-daughters. Could this be the secret to her longevity? In this older photo, she toasts the Duke of Edinburgh to usher in the year 2000.

11/ Every year, rain or shine, and despite the effect of the cold on rheumatism, the Royal Family attends the Highland Games …

12/ And she’s still very happy! The Highland Games present opportunities for plenty of Royal laughs.

13/ Her Majesty and her corgis meet members of the New Zealand All Blacks XV rugby team at Buckingham Palace on November 5, 2002 …

14/ On November 22, 2006, the Queen met members of the Mohican tribe at Southwark Cathedral in London. The monarch was there for the funeral benediction of a Mohican chief who died in London in 1736. At that time, no foreigner who died in the city was allowed to be buried there. The chief was buried in an anonymous plot in the cathedral grounds.

15/ Visiting a factory in 2009, Elizabeth II presses a button to start a brand new cardboard box assembly plant. This was nothing new as the Queen was a mechanic during the Second World War and loves anything mechanical, especially automobiles.

16/ … For the opening of the Olympic Games in London in 2012 a double of Queen Elizabeth made a parachute jump at the stadium in Stratford …

17/ Visiting a Canadian factory in Ontario in July 2010, Elizabeth II discovered the latest functionality of the Blackberry. New technology does not faze the Queen; she sent her first tweet in 2014 (after having officially launched in 1997, the Crown website and been the subject of a hologram portrait earlier this century).

There are several more photos, but I’m running out of time!

However, there is enough material here to give us an idea of the very modern, active person that Queen Elizabeth is. What a great example she is to us all!

Queen Elizabeth II March 2015.jpgQueen Elizabeth turns 90 on Thursday, April 21.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Although Queen Elizabeth II was born in April, her official birthday is celebrated in June with the Trooping of the Colour.

I read some years ago that the date in June began with Edward VII, who was born in November.  The weather here was too inclement for him for public celebrations in late autumn, so he transferred it to the present time, although it did not appear to be the annual event that it is today.

As such, it is work as usual for the Queen this week in Windsor. Wednesday, April 20 marks the 500th anniversary of the Postal Service. The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh will visit the Royal Mail delivery office in William Street, Windsor. They will be able to meet postal workers who will explain how the latest technology enables more efficient service. Her Majesty will unveil a plaque marking the visit and The Royal Mail choir made up of frontline staff from Bristol will sing.

Afterwards, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh will go to Alexandra Gardens to open the new bandstand. The Lord Lieutenant of Berkshire will show them an exhibition about the bandstand and introduce them to local schoolchildren who helped to decorate it. The Queen will unveil a commemorative plaque.

On April 21, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh will undertake a walkabout in Windsor. Her Majesty will unveil a plaque at The Queen’s Walkway, which is 6.3km long and marks 63 significant points of interest in the town. The Outdoor Trust designed the Walkway in honour of the Queen as Britain’s longest serving monarch on September 9, 2015.

That evening, the Queen, accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, will light a beacon and see two other beacons lit to begin a period of national birthday celebrations. Several hundred more will be lit around the country and a number of local councils will host beacon-lighting ceremonies open to the public.

The Radio Times reports that a very private birthday celebration will take place at Windsor Castle (16-22 April, p. 12). Actor and singer Julian Ovenden, 39, will be performing. Some might remember him from Downton Abbey; he played ‘the dashing’ (their words) Charles Blake. He is there partly thanks to his father, Canon John Ovenden, who was the Queen’s chaplain for 14 years until his retirement in 2012. As the family home adjoined the church where he took the services, the Ovenden family got to know members of the Royal Family who dropped by at Christmas for mince pies. Ovenden told the Radio Times he was not sure who else, if anyone, would be entertaining the Queen and her guests.

The Telegraph has information on 90th birthday events in May and June. Between May 12 and May 15, a pageant with 1,500 performers and 900 horses will take place in Windsor. The Queen will attend the final performance. All tickets have been allocated, but the event will be televised on ITV that evening.

Celebrations move to London in June. A Service of Thanksgiving will take place on June 10 at St Paul’s Cathedral. The event is private but will be televised. The Duke of Edinburgh turns 95 that day, incidentally.

On June 11, the Trooping of the Colour will take place in Horse Guards Parade, marking the Queen’s official birthday.

The Patron’s Lunch takes place in the Mall on June 12 and is the final major event of the Queen’s birthday celebrations. This street party and picnic lunch celebrates her patronage of over 600 charities. Most people attending will be charity workers.

Below is a retrospective of my posts about our remarkable monarch:

A look at the British Monarchy on the Queen’s official birthday (2011)

On the cusp of Diamond Jubilee Weekend — facts about the Queen and the 1950s (2012)

Prayers of thanksgiving for our gracious Queen on her Diamond Jubilee (2012)

‘Elizabeth the Great’ — Diamond Jubilee sentiments (2012)

Palace intrigue: background to Queen Elizabeth’s ascent to the throne (2013)

The Queen as you’ve never seen her (2015)

On Wednesday, September 9, 2015, Queen Elizabeth II becomes the longest-serving British monarch.

The Telegraph reports:

The Queen will surpass Queen Victoria’s record reign of 63 years seven months and two days at around 5.30pm on Wednesday. She will spend the morning opening a new railway line in the Borders before returning to Balmoral.

She will spend the evening with the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and their children Prince George and Princess Charlotte, but the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall will be carrying out engagements elsewhere after the Queen insisted the day should be “business as usual”.

The Telegraph article has a number of fascinating photographs, never before seen.

In 1991, the BBC made a documentary of the Queen called Elizabeth R. A BBC book accompanied the series.

David Secombe, 53 — son of the late comedian and practising Christian, Sir Harry Secombe — was the BBC photographer assigned to take pictures of the monarch as she went about her daily work. He took many stills over the course of eight months.

Secombe explained that his camera had to be silent the whole time. It was put in what he calls a blimp, which looked like a ‘large biscuit tin’. He also had to be unobtrusive. He told The Telegraph that he felt like David Attenborough observing wildlife. Few words were exchanged between Secombe and the Queen.

Oddly, this prestigious assignment did not catapult Secombe into a star photographer, as beautiful and captivating as his stills are. In 1992, he says, he had hardly any work. However, the Queen remembered him:

It did, though, mean I got to do a couple of official portraits of the Queen in subsequent years, one of the Queen and Prince Charles in the 1990s and one for the Golden Jubilee in 2002.

Do take a few moments to look at Secombe’s Royal photographs, which were not included in the Elizabeth R book. They show a completely different side to the Queen, normally seen publicly only at official engagements or in portraits.

Long may she reign over us!

Meanwhile, photographers interested in seeing more of David Secombe’s atmospheric work can visit his site The London Column.

The weekend of 8 – 10, May 2015, saw several celebrations and ceremonies recalling the 70th anniversary of VE Day.

The BBC televised the main events. The media have also interviewed many veterans and others who were but children at the time.

Their recollections follow, emphases mine.

The Queen and the new film

A new film now showing in cinemas, A Royal Night Out, purports to tell the story of Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret out on the town on VE Day.

Unfortunately, much has been fabricated. Many will see the film and think these things actually took place when they did not.

The Queen’s first cousin and best friend, the Hon. Margaret Rhodes, 89 — then Margaret Elphinstone — set the record straight for the Daily Mail. She was working as a secretary for MI6. Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret were both active in the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS). The future Queen served as a lorry driver and mechanic.

Mrs Rhodes reveals what really happened on May 8, 1945, when she

was lodging at Buckingham Palace while working as a secretary for the military intelligence service MI6. She recalls how a small gang including 19-year-old Princess Elizabeth, Princess Margaret, 15, and Mrs Rhodes’s brothers, left the Palace by the Privy Gate.

Princess Elizabeth was wearing her Auxiliary Territorial Service uniform

As was Princess Margaret.

The princesses were protected on their VE Day jaunt by Captain Harold Campbell RN, equerry to Princess Elizabeth’s father, King George VI. ‘He was deeply disapproving of the whole manoeuvre,’ says Mrs Rhodes.

The Express‘s account of the evening adds:

Mindful of her war service and the need for his daughters to let their hair down the King and his wife gave their blessing, despite mutters of disapproval from advisers.

The royal adventure into the thronging streets of London was to be unofficial and a group of 16 chaperones was hastily convened to ensure the Princesses came to no harm ...

Among those accompanying the Princesses was Lord Porchester, a Royal Horseguards officer, who recalled: “We were mixed up in the crowd.

No one recognised Princess Elizabeth or Princess Margaret and we went round up Whitehall, up Piccadilly, into the Ritz Hotel and back through Hyde Park Corner, down the Mall.

“Everyone was very jolly, linking arms in the streets and singing Run Rabbit Run, Hang Out The Washing On The Siegfried Line, Roll Out The Barrel, Under The Spreading Chestnut Tree – all those sorts of things.”

It might seem remarkable now that the Princesses were not recognised but Elizabeth wore her uniform with the cap pulled down over her eyes.

Mrs Rhodes said that one of the officers said that he would not continue to accompany them unless the Princess wore her cap properly. She quickly adjusted it correctly and the group pressed on into the streets of London.

Mrs Rhodes said that, contrary to what the new film portrays, there was no evening romance with a young man named Jack. There was also no gambling and no visit to a brothel in Soho. Furthermore, Princess Margaret never escaped on a bus. In reality, the group stayed together.

Mrs Rhodes also disputed another episode in the film in her interview with the Mail:

Princess Margaret is also shown quite drunk. ‘No! There was no possibility. We never encountered anyone offering one a drink,’ insists Mrs Rhodes, the daughter of the 16th Lord Elphinstone.

Mrs Rhodes described people kissing each other, although the Royal party did not engage in such activity.

I hope this film tanks at the box office. Why make such a disrespectful movie about the world’s longest serving monarch, a lady who has served her country and the Commonwealth faithfully every day for 63 years?

Film aside, it was a rare outing on an historic and happy day:

The party returned to the Palace after midnight. ‘It was emancipation,’ says Mrs Rhodes. ‘I don’t think anybody realises what she has had to give up. You give up your independence. Poor Princess Margaret is dead, but that night is something I know the Queen will never forget.’

She explained:

It was like we had all been living under a huge, heavy, dark cloud. And suddenly, it had gone.

In a recent interview with the Radio Times, Mrs Rhodes said that the future Queen was excited about the prospect of her handsome beau, Prince Philip of Greece, returning from war. King George VI and the Queen Mother were planning on extending an invitation to him to spend several days with the Royal Family.

More memories of VE Day

A veteran quoted by the BBC said on Sunday, May 10, said that no brawls broke out that day because

everyone was sick of fighting.

The Radio Times (2-8 May 2015, p. 176) interviewed 88-year old Joan Alexander who spent the war at the Air Ministry, working long shifts. She was part of the Women’s Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF). She remembers Winston Churchill’s courtesy:

He used to come in at night, doff his hat and say ‘Good evening ladies!’ Very courteous.

Of VE Day, she said:

You nearly got squashed. Everyone went mad!

She was with her friends, fellow WAAF comrades, that day, adding:

And then the crowd surged up to Buckingham Palace to see the King and Queen on the balcony. There were all these Americans and Canadians. Some of us girls walked back to Chelsea to see my mum and dad, and everybody was celebrating because the war had gone on so long.

But VE Day wasn’t a party for everyone. One veteran whom the BBC interviewed on Sunday, May 10, recalled that he was still stationed in Italy. Despite war being declared over, fighting continued in parts of Europe for the next few weeks. This man remembered his commanding officer telling the troops that it was business as usual. Indeed, they were fired upon that day before the enemy eventually surrendered.

This Army veteran also said that his parents were preparing for his brother’s funeral on VE Day. The young soldier had been gunned down in another European country only a few days before peace was declared. The veteran was unable to attend his brother’s funeral or share in his parents’ grief because he had to concentrate on war.

For some, peacetime was boring

The BBC interviewed a woman who worked in the Timber Corps. She explained that she chose that route rather than enlisting in one of the women’s military corps because she never liked taking orders.

She remembered the Timber Corps as being very hard, yet gratifying, work. Despite the heavy lifting and felling of huge trees — as well as the constant blistered hands and feet — she missed the experience when the war ended:

Peace was here and we had to put up with it.

However, she was able to reminisce with her husband in the decades that followed. He also served in the Timber Corps. They married soon after the war.

Women’s conscription

It is worth mentioning that women were conscripted during the Second World War.

Although many volunteered to join the military and the Land Army whilst others worked in munitions factories, in December 1941, the British government passed a second National Service Act:

It widened the scope of conscription still further by making all unmarried women and all childless widows between the ages of 20 and 30 liable to call-up.  

Women served as pilots, lorry drivers and did what had been considered men’s work. The National Archives site has an excellent page describing the women’s effort:

Times had moved on and along with, still vital, clerical and domestic duties, women were driving and maintaining vehicles, manning anti-aircraft guns and RADAR stations, ferrying aircraft from factories to airfields, deciphering coded German messages in secret naval communications units and working as spies in the Special Operations Executive (SOE).

As part of the conscription requirement women had to chose whether to enter the armed forces or work in farming or industry. By December 1943 one in three factory workers was female and they were building planes, tanks, guns and making bullets needed for the war.

One civilian choice open to women was to join The Women’s Land Army, set up in June 1939. At its peak in 1943, there were over 80,000 ‘Land Girls’. The women undertook hard farm work including ploughing, turning hay, lifting potatoes, threshing, lambing and poultry management. Six thousand women worked in the Timber Corps, felling trees and running sawmills.

Women’s contributions were huge. It is no wonder that so many marvellously feisty females emerged from that generation!

Not such a happy time for all

Although the war was officially over in Europe, fighting was still going on in Asia. That did not end until August 1945.

Actress June Brown, 88, told the Radio Times (2-8 May 2015, p. 34) that she was in Scotland serving with the Wrens on VE Day:

… I was with a young naval chap at the time and he was being sent to the Far East. Things like that held it back from being a full celebration.

What children then remembered

The BBC commentators told us that, for security purposes, there were no weather forecasts during the war. Imagine six years of not knowing whether to carry a brolly or prepare for snow!

The Radio Times interviewed several actors and other media stars who were children when the war ended. Nearly all recalled the return of light, which after nightly blackouts, was as welcome as it was startling.

Joan Bakewell, now 82, remembered (p. 33):

I can remember the war ending, when I was 12, and this tram coming down the tracks from Stockport that night, illuminated so brightly, covered in light bulbs. We’d lived under a blackout for so long that we’d not seen any electric lights during the night. All of us children, we just ran out and started dancing around the tram, amazed to see so much electric light.

Raconteur and comedy writer Barry Cryer, 80, said that the smells from wartime England stuck in his mind, particularly wet earth and the rubber of his gas mask.

VE Day street parties were aplenty. Many octogenarians recall attending them or family-style parties in the pub. Euphoric dancing, singing, kissing and hugging marked VE Day.

Any readers who remember VE Day are most welcome to comment below!

In closing, I hope that, in future, these memories are passed down to younger generations. May we always remember our ancestors’ sacrifices for our freedom.

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