It is incredible to think of an individual staying in the same job for 70 years. Not so very long ago, it wasn’t a half bad achievement to live to 70. This weekend, as everyone knows, we will be celebrating the Platinum Jubilee of HM The Queen, Elizabeth II.
This makes her the longest serving British monarch, and one of the longest serving monarch in the world alive today. It is an extraordinary achievement. Only those in their mid-seventies and older will remember someone different on the throne. Millions of people have been born, grown up, married, raised children, supported grandchildren – great grandchildren, even – all in the working life of our much loved Queen.
For most of us, I guess, she is an individual who opens events, appears at garden parties, and does her civic duties. But she is, of course, the Head of State, the Head of the Church of England, and the Head of the Commonwealth. She is head of state to a number of other countries within the Commonwealth and in theory carries a huge amount of power. When we have a general election, for example, it can only happen with her permission.
This, of course, raises any number of issues that republicans get excited about. How, they ask, can an individual chosen by an accident of birth, have so much power?
The reality is that our queen has conducted herself in such a way, over her 70 years as head of state, that recognises the limit of influence. Should she exercise her theoretical power in a way that causes problems, we would change the constitution pretty quickly. Yet it is her that prime ministers go to every Tuesday for an audience – an occasion when PMs can speak utterly candidly to someone who has an immense amount of experience and wisdom.
I cannot imagine a time when she will not be our queen. She has helped guide our country through incredibly tough times and has always been a steady rock of wisdom and inspiration.
Not all will share my views, but I know that there are millions across the country and the Commonwealth who will be celebrating the Platinum Jubilee this weekend, thanking an individual who, through no more than an accident of birth, has dedicated her life to serving us all.