Diamonds Are Forever

Article excerpt

Byline: Tina Brown

Sixty years and hardly a slip.

Queen Elizabeth II has been impeccably present on the British throne for so long it's hard to remember or believe that she was ever the greatest "It" girl of them all 60 years ago. "She was so young and it was so long since we'd had a queen on the throne," an ancient debutantes' delight recalled when I was writing The Diana Chronicles in 2007.

Aside from that rough passage when all her kids got divorced; Prince Charles whinged to his biographer that she was an unfeeling mother; and the drama of Diana's death wrong-footed her, the queen's infallible aura has pretty much stayed intact. That's an achievement worth exalting, when the Brits celebrate her Diamond Jubilee and a thousand boats bob exuberantly down the Thames.

No one has been shrewder than the queen has at understanding the long game. No one knows better than she what it means to be royal. "Safer not to be too popular," her consort, Prince Philip, told his own biographer. "You can't fall too far." She saw "star power" wreck the lives of not just Diana but her more camera-ready younger sister Margaret, not to mention her uncle Edward VIII, who was a popular sensation before he messed it all up and abdicated. I'm told the queen most stubbornly rejects her advisers when they suggest any playing-to-the-gallery gesture she grimly terms a "stunt." (It's easier to hew to authenticity when you've been briefed every Tuesday by 12 different prime ministers, knowing they'll one day leave their jobs and you will not.)

It has helped, too, that like her indomitable mother who lived to 102, the queen isn't just emotionally stoic but physically tough. All that tramping through bracken at Balmoral, all that squinting at folk dancers on interminable tours through her beloved Commonwealth would not be possible without a Guardsman's constitution. Diana felt it was almost deemed bad manners by the queen ever to be sick. …