The Queen's Diamond Jubilee
Munson, James, Contemporary Review
LAST year, when staying in a small Austrian spa town, I went to check out of my hotel. The manageress was not there so the woman in charge of cleaning sorted out my bill. We got into conversation and spoke of life in Britain and Austria, of politics, of politicians and inevitably of corruption in public life. The woman, who was far from educated, paused for a moment after we had condemned virtually every elected official in both countries and then added, 'Ja, ja, aber Sie haben die Konigin'--'Yes, yes, but you have the Queen!' She had not said 'eine Konigin'--a Queen (for after all there are queens regnant in The Netherlands and Denmark)--but the Queen. For her there was only one Queen. Such is the reputation and standing of the woman whom we honour this summer.
Not surprisingly, publishers have decided that the Jubilee is an occasion for issuing a wide range of new titles. Viking has brought out Queen Elizabeth II: Her Life in Our Times by Sarah Bradford, an updated edition of her 1996 biography, Elizabeth. In this version she takes a slightly different tack by combining a biography of a living person (always difficult especially when a reigning sovereign) with a history of her reign. The author sees the Queen as a 'living representative of sixty years of our history' and her treatment, based on the usual mixture of research and discussions with unnamed sources at or near the Court, gives a good, solid history of the last sixty years of the monarchy and its place in British and (to a much lesser extent) Commonwealth life. Another reissue, this time from Continuum, is Ian Bradley's God Save the Queen: The Spiritual Heart of the Monarchy first published in 1999. The Rev Dr Ian Bradley is a minister in the Church of Scotland and the Reader in Practical Theology and Church History in the University of St Andrews. This is an excellent study of the role of religion in the life of our Queen and the historic relationship between Christianity and monarchy. Like her parents and her sister, The Queen takes her Christian faith seriously and, as she has stated publicly, has no doubt that she will have to answer for her actions to a God of love Who is also a God of judgement. (Whereas her mother and sister were 'high church' the Queen is usually defined as 'middle stump' Anglican.) It is appropriate to note here that those who know the Queen testify to a deep humility in her character, an awareness that she has been called by God to fill a great position--such humility is not usually the defining mark of politicians or elected heads of state.
As Dr Bradley points out, religion has always been a key ingredient in the British monarchy, whether it was Edward the Confessor, Henry VI, Victoria or George VI. Sometimes, of course, as with Henry VIII, Charles the Martyr King or James II it has dominated the reign and shaped subsequent history. Occasionally there is a humorous element: anyone who was unsure that Queen Victoria had really died could have put aside his doubts when the new King, Edward VII and his Queen, Alexandra, commanded Bishop Randall Davidson to celebrate the Eucharist in the room where Victoria's body lay. Had she been alive she would have exploded at her successor's 'popery', at what was in fact, if not in name, a Requiem Mass. Dr Bradley traces the history of monarchy in the Old and New Testaments as well as in the history of the British monarchy. He looks at the importance of the coronation (a crowning and anointing within the Eucharist), the defining influence of the Reformation, the Victorian legacy and the Queen's own reign. His is a profound examination of the religious aspect inherent in our monarchy and in monarchy itself and a healthy reminder that the Queen's ties to the Church of England cannot be severed without unforeseen damage to both.
The final re-issue, and one which would undoubtedly give the Queen pleasure, comes from I.B. Tauris which has brought out a new paperback edition of Professor Denis Judd's 1982 biography of his late Majesty King George VI, the Queen's father. …