This morning, I was one of the guest speakers at a Diamond Jubilee celebration organised by the Dominion House Church in Brigstock Road.
It’s a much over-used word but the Diamond Jubilee is a historic occasion. Only once before in our country’s long history has a monarch ruled for 60 years and it’s highly unlikely that anyone alive today will live to see another Diamond Jubilee.
The country has changed a great deal in those 60 years. When the Queen came to the throne, Winston Churchill was Prime Minister; food was still rationed in the aftermath of the Second World War; the Cold War had just started; Britain still had an empire and hadn’t joined the EEC; man hadn’t been into space; homosexuality was illegal; Britain was still an overwhelmingly white country; and there was no internet, no mobile phones, no pop music and only one TV channel.
Throughout this period of incredible change, the Queen has been a symbol of constancy. Some argue that royalty is an anachronism in a democratic world but how lucky we are that our head of state is above the cut and thrust of party politics, a unifying figure who somehow manages appeal to all ages and all backgrounds as this morning’s event and yesterday’s picnic in the Queen’s Gardens organised by the borough’s Indian community demonstrate.
In some ways, the Queen has led an incredibly privileged life but in other ways it has been a life of incredible service. For 60 years, she has dedicated herself to this role, undertaking countless public engagements, visiting 116 countries, heading up the Church of England, developing the Commonwealth yet never publicly voicing her private opinions on issues of political debate. It is a record of public service that many MPs and others in positions of responsibility could learn a lot from.
At 86, when most of us would be well into our retirement, she continues to fulfil the oath she swore. You don’t have to be a fanatical royalist to take some time this weekend to celebrate the achievement of this remarkable woman, our Queen.