On February 6th, Queen Elizabeth II of England celebrated 60 years on the throne. Now in her 86th year, she became queen as a young woman of 25, and her reign has seen enormous cultural, social, and technological change. At the time of her ascension to the throne, Britain was still reeling from the shock of WWII: she has witnessed decolonisation, depression, miners’ strikes, the Falklands War, and the controversy over the death of her daughter-in-law Princess Diana. However, despite these trials, and ruling over 13 successive Prime Ministers, she shows no signs of slowing down, and was this week marking the anniversary with public events and speeches.
Following in the impressive tradition trail-blazed by her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria, and distant ancestor Elizabeth I, the Queen has ruled alone (her husband Philip holds the title of consort, rather than king). Yet she has also had to juggle this responsibility with the pressures of raising four children and being a grandmother of 8. Whilst there are clearly admirable aspects to Elizabeth’s reign, the issue of the monarchy remains a thorny one, with many questioning the relevance of such an ancient institution in the world of today. However, the Queen herself has instigated modernising changes: she abolished the presentation of debutantes at court, and allowed Prince Charles to remain heir despite his divorce, whilst awarding his second wife Camilla a royal title (of course, her uncle Edward VIII famously abdicated over a similar issue). Royal tourism also contributes an enormous amount to the British economy.
Whatever your politics, it is clear that Queen Elizabeth II has been a strong female figurehead for her country. As the second-longest-serving British monarch in history, she has provided consistency to a nation often in need of direction: it now remains to be seen what sort of shape (if any) the royal family will take in future.
The official Diamond Jubilee celebrations will take place over the extended holiday of 2-5 June.
Girl Museum Inc.