The annual Christmas speech by Mrs Elizabeth Windsor is one of those things that is impossible to explain, mainly because I don’t actually watch it.
It is a curious throw-back to the 1950s. Listen to any left wing “woke” British stand-up comedian and he will talk about how their parents made him stand up at 3pm every Christmas Day and they all sang “God Save the Queen” at the end.
That is the thing about England. There are traditionalists for whom the Queens Speech is a patriotic duty. For English folks who read the Guardian, it is a farce.
And of course in our part of the world it is no different. Unionists love the Queen. Nationalists are indifferent and we boast about we have never actually seen or heard it. Was it 1985 or was it 1986 when nobody in our house could find the TV remote and I had to throw myself across the living room to switch the TV off manually. We still talk about that.
Back in 2012, the RTE Guide (the Irish TV listings magazine) kinda summed up our feelings. “The British monarch lectures her subjects” yes its childish and inappropriate and crass but aren’t we glad that a Republican minded Irishman got this past the sub editors of RTE Guide. It will be there forever.
Actually, the Queen’s Speech is kinda predictable. She mentions the Commonwealth….she is probably the only woman in England who gives a tinkers curse about the Commonwealth. And now that Barbados is a republic, there are very few people in the Commonwealth who are overly bothered about Elizabeth Windsor.
She also talks a lot about Family. Apparently this year, she did not dwell on Family. Andrew is still in hiding. And Harry and the Duchess of Somewhere and their babies also did not get a mention.
Does all this matter?
I think it does. As she approaches seventy years as monarch, it draws attention that the monarchy has missed two, maybe three generational opportunities to re-boot itself. Much is made of the modernising approach of Dukey Embra and the BBCs Huw Weldon in the late 1960s and 1970s. And of course the farcical “Its a Royal Knockout”, not to mention closer inspection of the business and private lives of the Royals.
The Royals is a curious soap opera. These are actors who are playing parts.
Rather like “Coronation Street” where hapless Ken Barlow was jailed for a week in the 1960s for a protest against nuclear weapons is played by arch Conservative, William Roache.
So Dukey Embra…that wonderful Scotsman was actually a part played by Philip (his surname is variable) an economic migrant from Greece.
The actors playing the parts of politically neutral royals are actually dyed in the wool Tories.
Fifty years ago, I used to walk down a corridor at work. The walls were plastered with faded newspaper cuttings dating to the Coronation of Elizabeth Windsor in the early 1950s.
It seems a million years ago. Charlie Chuck as my Auntie Sheila called him is a few years older than me. He might have been a lovable child and even looked like a Prince Charming. Now he looks like a befuddled, grumpy old git….as indeed do I.
Sometime in his late teens, he was made Prince of Wales (a new part for the actor to play) and classicly Prince Charming for most of the 1970s. But from Prince of Wales to Lady Di via deflowering every available English Rose, he is past his sell by date.
It is not necessarily ghoulish to think 2022 will be a big year for the English Royal Family. But surely a high watermark will be the Platinum Anniversary…70 years is no mean feat. By all accounts, Elizabeth is an excellent Queen (if you like that kinda thing) and is it ghoulish to think that she wont be around for ever. Her heir is now an elderly man himself…and that is not really supposed to happen.
It occurs to be that nobody has actually said “GOD Save the King!” in at least seventy years. Only one Coronation has ever been televised. And a person would have to be at least 75 years old to even remember Elizabeth’s predecessor.
The customary acknowledgement of a new monarch….how does that actually play out in the next five years. Will 5 year old children gather in school playgrounds to shout “GOD Save the King”?. Will BBC Newsreaders be compelled to say it?
Will Newsreaders in Norn Iron have to say it?
And within Stormont, what exactly is the new protocol for the death of a monarch and the coronation of a new one.
Two different dynamics. Might even be tears on Unionist benches. All of which seems reasonable. And it would be churlish for Sinn Féin and SDLP leaders to express sympathy across the aisle. It is the decent thing to do. She is after all a 95 year old lady who has given a life of service to (her) people.
But proclaiming “GOD Save the King” seems a step too far for any nationalist.
Yet it is hard to be neutral. How does Alliance react? Obviously a congratulations at Platinum time is appropriate. But joining in the acclamation for a monarch seems like a difficult step for a party that says there are both nationalists and unionists within its ranks.