Jubilee P10 column for June 2

One long reign, a multitude of distinct eras.

We all know, or think we know, about the Victorians – we are not amused, Dickensian conditions, and so on.

The Elizabethans too. Seeing off the Armada, and that supposed Tilbury speech, "I know I have the body of a weak, feeble woman, but I have the heart and stomach of a king..."

But what about us, the New Elizabethans, who have lived in the longest reign of any British monarch? Who are we? What defines our times?

Every period sees change, but the Britons and Britain of 1952 when Queen Elizabeth II came to the throne are very different to those of 70 years later in terms of lived experience, culture, attitudes, and diversity. And we haven't even begun on the great advances in science, technology, and medicine during the span of Her Majesty's reign.

It began at a time when Britain still had rationing and austerity, while the nation was collectively seared by the wartime experience and cities and towns had gaping holes where the bombs had fallen.

The 1960s was transformative with breaks from so many aspects of the past, and a desire to create a new Britain, redevelop towns, sweep away slums. That's before we consider the immense social changes.

And then on to the 1970s, mainly remembered for industrial strife, the 1980s with recession and boom, and the 1990s which brought many painful difficulties for the royal family, so much so that there seemed to be a question mark over the future of the monarchy.

Now here is the remarkable thing. Despite all those changes in so many aspects of British life, there is something common to the Britons of 1952 to the Britons now gearing up to celebrate the Platinum Jubilee of the Queen in 2022.

It is this. Back then nobody had a bad word to say about the Queen. And today, nobody has a bad word to say about the Queen either. When I say nobody, I don't include the nobodys on the internet who would say anything to get noticed.

Even republicans, ideologically opposed to the very idea of the monarchy, admire her as a person and for her sense of duty.

You might think that in 1952 it was all part of a culture of deference, politeness and respect from a generation which had come through war and for whom the new young Queen was a beacon of joy and hope.

But that can't be it. It is clearly to do with the qualities of the Queen herself. In 2022 people in public life have to earn the respect of ordinary folk, and the Queen has earned that respect by the bucketload.

She has been a shining example of duty and service and if there have been times when she has put a foot wrong, it is difficult to think of any. That is an incredible feat in this much-altered world with much-altered attitudes. Her beloved Philip, that rock by her side for almost her entire reign, was not so adept in that respect, although perhaps that simply underlines the Queen's ability to find the right thing to say, and the right way to act.

That is not to say that royals cannot have "views", as both Prince Charles and the late Duke of Edinburgh have contributed to public debate on things of passionate interest to them. It has simply been her way, and her dignity and calmness has sailed the monarchy through some very stormy seas.

It has been its great good fortune to have her on the throne during such testing times, and it has been Britain's great good fortune to have somebody of her quality to be the figurehead of the nation over the past 70 years.

For the children of today who will enjoy the street parties and the flag waving over the coming days, a new era will one day beckon, defined by a new monarch. That is a story yet to unfold.

As the jubilee celebrations reach their climax it is time to party, and in the quieter moments we might reflect that we, the New Elizabethans, from the very young to the very old, have all been particularly blessed to have lived through the greatest reign in British history.

It has been a great gift, and one for which the Queen deserves our enduring gratitude.

Lucky Britain. Lucky us.

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