The following is the exchange, as I remember it from a Sunday night social event three or four years ago.
First person: “Wasn’t the queen lovely on television this morning!”
Second person: “Yes, she looked so well!”
Third person: “No wonder! She’s never done a tap of work in her life.”
Thus, two for the monarch and one against – a proportion which holds roughly equivalent today as that same queen, Elizabeth II, aged 96, celebrates her Platinum Jubilee, marking 70 years on the throne.
It was during a visit to Kenya, on February 6, 1952, that the 25-year-old Princess Elizabeth learned that her father, King George VI, had died.
She was staying at Treetops Hotel near Nyeri that night and as all the papers had it, “She went up a princess and came down a queen.”
Across the intervening seven decades, Queen Elizabeth has advised 14 prime ministers, received countless heads of state and government, including 13 American presidents and travelled millions of miles on royal tours while remaining a constant figurehead through crises affecting her realm and the monarchy itself.
The royal edifice has creaked dangerously in recent years, notably when Princess Diana, the beautiful and popular wife of Prince Charles, the queen’s eldest son and heir to the throne, spoke publicly of there being “three in our marriage”.
She was referring to Camilla Parker-Bowles, with whom Charles was having an affair.
Diana, who admitted having an affair herself, died later in a car crash in Paris, while Ms Parker- Bowles married Charles and became the consort of the king-to-be.
More recently, the queen’s second son, Prince Andrew, was accused in New York of sexual abuse of a minor in a case that was settled out of court with a large payment from Andrew.
The prince resigned from all of his public roles.
There was unhappiness, too, when Prince Harry, the queen’s grandson, rejected his role as a senior royal and announced he would split his time, with his American wife, Meghan Markle, between the UK and California.
Meanwhile, the queen suffered a serious personal loss with the death of her husband of 70 years, Prince Philip, in April 2021, two months short of his 100th birthday.
Television film of the queen, looking tiny and forlorn, dressed in black and sitting alone at his funeral because of the Covid-19 pandemic, moved many in the nation.
However, when the mourning period was over and despite mobility problems, she began returning to public life, appearing at a celebration of the nation’s history at Windsor Castle and happily touring the Chelsea Flower Show in a buggy.
Although the actual jubilee date was February 6, hopes for better weather delayed celebrations until the summer, with a four-day national holiday from June 2 to 5. Celebrations kick off next Thursday, when 1,400 soldiers take part in the traditional Trooping of the Colour.
Other events include a service of thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral, the Derby horse race at Epsom Downs, and a concert featuring top world entertainers at Buckingham Palace to be broadcast live by the BBC.
Across the nation, more than 1,400 people registered to host lunches and street parties in their neighbourhoods.
As to why the British monarchy has survived long after other European royal families disappeared and what its future will be, who knows?
Many believe that it is the personal popularity of Queen Elizabeth that keeps the royal barge afloat.
While roughly 25 per cent of British citizens say they would prefer an elected head of state, 60-65 per cent support the monarchy, perhaps after considering glumly which particular public figure might become president!
FOOTNOTE: Queen Elizabeth is not the longest-reigning monarch in history.
Louis XIV, the “Sun King”, sat on the throne of France for more than 72 years.
But she could surpass even his record if she continues past September 2024.
A lesson in office management:
A bird was sitting in a tree, doing nothing all day.
A rabbit noticed this and asked, “Can I also sit like you and do nothing all day?”
The bird answered, “Sure, why not?”
So the rabbit sat happily on the ground below the bird and rested. Suddenly, a fox appeared, jumped on the rabbit and ate it up.
Management Lesson: To sit and do nothing all day, you must be sitting very, very high up.
Joe walks into his boss’s office and says, “Sir, I’ll be straight with you. I know the economy isn’t great but I have three companies after me and I would like respectfully to ask for a pay raise.”
After a few minutes of negotiation, the boss agrees to a five per cent raise and Joe gets up happily to leave.
“By the way,” says the boss, “which three companies are after you?”
“The electric company, the water company and the phone company,” Joe replies.