Before I begin, I appreciate that the relevance of a monarchy is a divisive subject. Yet, last weekend’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations for Queen Elizabeth II’s 70-year reign also proved what a uniting institution it can be, too. Having followed the jubilee in great detail, and the ensuing comments on social media, I thought I’d try and explain how a Catholic like me can love the Queen. (And I’ve given her a capital as that’s what us Brits do!)
Firstly, I’ve had the pleasure — and honor — of writing about Elizabeth II for a number of years. I’ve done a lot of research that has involved far more than watching The Crown on Netflix — although I’ve definitely enjoyed the series, despite some frustration with the dramatization at times. The more I have looked into the 96-year-old’s life, the more I admire her. But why?
There are a number of very valid points made by those who feel the actual institution of the Crown is past its sell-by date. After all, millions of British people fund this unelected family to seemingly jet-set around the world, shake hands with important people, and wear some very expensive outfits and jewels without having to worry about paying their fuel bills.
Looking at it from this point of view I’d certainly agree that they represent a bygone era that does seem unjust.
But to me the role of the royal family, especially the Queen, is priceless, and goes way beyond the approximately $2 a year that each British taxpayer pays towards the Crown annually.
The nation’s grandmother
I sadly never met one of my grandmothers, as she died before my birth, and my other grandmother died when I was very young. My grandfathers didn’t fare so well either. I therefore had very little experience with grandparents.
Yet, as there’s a substantial age gap between me and the British sovereign, she has very much been an elderly woman in the public eye that I’ve been familiar with all my life. Without even realizing it, she has probably been the most prominent elderly person in my life. And this would apply to many other Brits who’ve seen her face every day in the media, andeven in the shops when paying for goods with her face adorning all the coins and bills.
She’s everywhere, and there’s a level of comfort in this. When society is changing so quickly, it’s reassuring to have something constant, especially in the shape of an elderly woman who wears very colorful clothes.
A phenomenal work ethic
While I took the Queen for granted when I was younger, in my adult years I’ve appreciated her sacrifices and work ethic that have made her an excellent role model for all generations.
Ah yes, I hear the comments of “shaking hands with people isn’t exactly work.” On the surface I would agree, but without going through her incredible daily schedule, how many of us would like to go around smiling at strangers, paying an interest in their lives, and making sure we’re always camera-ready?
And this is something I deeply admire in Elizabeth II. I always try to pay an interest in others, but it’s so easy to brush people off with excuses just so I can get on with something else that I feel is more important.
The Queen has shown throughout her reign that people matter to her. COVID provided her with the perfect opportunity to switch off and put her royal feet up. But she embraced Zoom and contacted people and charities — and they were boosted by her calls.
However, that’s just scraping the surface of what she does. I’ve previously reported on some of the staggering figures associated with her reign, including the fact she takes just one day off a year from governmental work. And even at 96, with mobility issues, she’s still getting dressed up, complete with thoughtfully selected accessories, to send a message to her people: she is there and she cares.
A perfectly chosen leader
If you think about it, in every country throughout the world there is a lot of conflict when electing an official, even neighbors turn against each other. Yet as the Queen is a leader (mainly in name only today) through her birthright — which for centuries was dictated by the belief that the sovereign was chosen by God — it leaves little room for discussion or heated debate.
Of course, in the running of Great Britain there is an elected parliament, but the fact that a figurehead is placed on the throne through such tradition is quite peaceful. And in fact, if you look at the woman who’s been sitting on the throne for seven decades, and if you believe in the divine right to the throne, you could say that God has done a marvelous job!
When you admire someone and see their flaws and how they surmount them, it makes you appreciate them even more. For me, this is key to Elizabeth’s success. The world press has followed her life in incredible detail. We’ve seen the mistakes she’s made, and we’ve seen how she has learned from them.
It’s an honor to honor
As a Catholic one of the fundamental tenets of our faith is that we’re called to love one another. I could have just cut this article short and say, “well, I have to love the Queen!” But that would be cheating. What’s interesting about the need to love one another, is that it’s not always easy.
When we love someone we have to honor them. In Britain we’re called to honor the Queen by curtsying or bowing. Would I curtsy to the monarch if I ever met her? To be honest, I’d be a little starstruck, and my knees are getting a little dodgy, so I might just keel over. But, if I could, I would.
It would be a humbling experience, which is something we could all do with now and again. It’s not that I feel subservient; it’s more a sign of respect. These signs of respect are important, and many people bemoan that younger generations are lacking in respect. Thankfully, Catholics get to practice respect every Sunday at Mass when kneeling before God. Whether it’s shaking hands to an unknown house guest, or saying “thank you” at the store, these little gestures are humbling in nature and remind us of our humanity. I think it’s healthy to have these traditions which help strengthen our characters, and to see it played out in public with the Queen is not such a bad thing.
And finally …
Truthfully, I could write a lot more about why I love the Queen. I know when she does finally pass away there’ll be a shockwave around the globe as we say goodbye to someone who is known by most of the world.
But if there is one thing I would like to say, it’s that very few people on this planet have been given a job they didn’t necessarily want and then carried it out for 70 years without complaining. Elizabeth made an oath to God, and her faith is so strong that she would never want to break the promise she made as a young 26-year-old woman. What’s not to love about that?