Her crowning moment: Her beaming smile last night said it all. The Queen has secured her dynasty with THREE heirs to see the monarchy through to the next century
By A. N. Wilson
To become a grandparent is an awe-inspiring experience. It gives you the feeling of a future being guaranteed. I should know: I have six grandchildren, and I am only 62! Someone who is a grandparent can say to themselves: ‘I shall die — as shall we all — but I have handed on the baton. The story goes on.’
How much more must this be the case with the birth of a great-grandchild. And with a royal great-grandchild, the feelings are shared by everyone who has an interest in the future of the Monarchy and of our country.
The great-grandmother in this story has not been a passive observer. Now the Duchess of Cambridge has had her son, the Queen will know that she has secured her dynasty, and the Monarchy, up to three generations into the future — perhaps into the 22nd century.
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The Queen will know that she has secured her dynasty. This is not something purely accidental. It is something in which, discreetly, she has been more involved than many people would think
To become a grandparent is an awe-inspiring experience. It gives you the feeling of a future being guaranteed. How much more must this be the case with the birth of a great-grandchild, and a royal one at that
Now the Duchess of Cambridge has had her son, the Queen will know that she has secured the Monarchy up to three generations into the future – perhaps into the 22nd century
This is not something purely accidental. It was not bound to happen. It is something in which, discreetly, the Queen has been more involved than many people would think.
Only a few decades ago in Britain, the public was in republican mood. The Press could be blamed for some of the bad taste with which it reported stories, but it could not be blamed for the stories themselves — of royal marriages breaking up at the rate of plates in a Greek restaurant, amid a political climate in which the very idea of monarchy was looking questionable.
The Queen is the person who has steered the Monarchy out of the troubled waters. She has been able to do so in part because she obviously gets on so well with Prince William, her grandchild, with whom — since the death of his mother — she has had a particularly warm relationship.
In unsuccessful institutions, whether a family, a company, a church or even a royal family, the die-hard oldies distrust the up-and-coming young. ‘It wasn’t like that in my day,’ is given as a reason for never changing.
Queen is ‘thrilled’ at arrival of first great-grandson
When Prince William went to university at St Andrews, the Royal Family all knew that he was almost bound to meet a girl, form a relationship, and fall in love.
The Queen could have put pressure on him not to marry the woman he loved, but — ‘for the sake of the Monarchy’ — to go and find some princess or aristocrat from the European marriage-pool, or to wait until someone ‘suitable’ turned up.
Instead, the Queen could see that the best hope for the future of the Crown was for Prince William to marry for love.
And she could also see that, in the modern world, one of the factors which would do most damage to the Monarchy was the old, class-obsessed sense of hierarchy.
Condoned: When Prince William went to university at St Andrews, the Royal Family all knew that he was almost bound to meet a girl, form a relationship, and fall in love
The Queen could see that the best hope for the future of the Crown was for Prince William to marry for love
Republicans like Tony Benn have always reiterated that the Monarchy is just the apex of a pyramid of privilege from which ‘ordinary people’ are shut out.
The Queen’s extraordinary triumph — and the single most valuable gift she bequeaths to her new great-grandchild — is to have made those arguments seem oddly quaint and irrelevant.
Tony Benn, of course, belongs to the proud old socialist tradition of Keir Hardie, a working-class Scot who’d been down the mines before becoming Labour’s first ever MP in the 1890s.
In 1896, when the then Duchess of York provided Queen Victoria with a great-grandchild — the future Edward VIII — Hardie was brave enough to get up amid the jeers and boos of all the gentlemen in Parliament and utter a strange prophecy.
‘From his childhood onward, this boy will be surrounded by sycophants and flatterers by the score . . . a line will be drawn between him and the people he is called upon some day to reign over,’ he declared.
‘In due course . . . he will be sent on a tour round the world, and probably rumours of a morganatic [to someone of a lower station] marriage will follow, and the end of it will be the country will be called upon to pay the bill.’
In spite of her diffidence and her innately small-c conservative nature, this is the woman who has transformed the British Monarchy
It was an amazing prophecy because, of course, Edward VIII did grow up surrounded by flatterers; he did make an unsuitable marriage; and he nearly brought the Monarchy to its knees.
When Elizabeth II came to the throne, there were, likewise, critics who said that she was too cut off from ordinary people, that her court was composed of ‘tweedy’ upper-class toffs, and her voice was off-puttingly posh.
Given the fact that the Queen is who she is — the daughter of Scottish aristocracy and a long line of European royalty — it is not surprising that, born when she was, she should indeed be a posh lady.
She is plainly no revolutionary. In many respects, she is an old-fashioned person and always has been.
That was what annoyed the critics at the beginning of her reign: she was Christian, she was dutiful, she seemed to approve of very ungroovy things like the Commonwealth.
But in spite of her diffidence and her innately small-c conservative nature, this is the woman who has transformed the British Monarchy. The sheer numbers of people who celebrated the Diamond Jubilee, in appalling weather conditions, showed how successful she has been in transforming public perceptions of the Monarchy.
It was only in 1997 — not so very long ago — that the Mall filled with an angry crowd, and some sections of the media were accusing the Queen of callousness, indifference to her people, and failure to sense the mood of a national tragedy in Diana’s death.
With hindsight, most of those who expressed such views can probably see now that the Queen’s first priority was to be with her grandsons in a moment of terrible grief, and to shield Harry and William as much as possible from the painful glare of publicity.
But even in that traumatic week of their mother’s death, the Queen did in fact demonstrate she was in control. She made a broadcast, with the window of Buckingham Palace open, to reveal the half-angry crowd outside. The window was a symbol of her approach. She was in fact listening, in spite of what the critics said.
And many people watching Her Majesty give that broadcast felt that she had in fact, for almost half a century, been ‘there’ for her people, visiting hospitals, scenes of disaster such as Aberfan, as well as doing her duty with the ceremonial and regimental stuff.
The Queen is plainly no revolutionary. In many respects, she is an old-fashioned person and always has been
After the death of Lady Diana, the Queen’s first priority was to be with her grandsons in a moment of terrible grief, and to shield Harry and William as much as possible from the painful glare of publicity
But she committed herself to revere Diana’s memory and to learn lessons from the tragedy. Within weeks, the public began to see a different Queen, one who realised that she need not always be hidden behind a screen of protocol but could reveal her smiling, kindly nature when visiting schools, factories and the like.
She was not pretending to be Diana. She acknowledged that Diana was irreplaceable. But she became less formal, less reserved.
Royal visits around the country do actually cheer people up. This is patently the case. And in a society which is increasingly seen as being fragmented and broken, the Monarchy, in the past 20 years, has been seen to be more, and not less, of a focus for unity.
The fact that the Queen’s political views remain completely unspoken is one of the ingredients in this success story. Although the monarch is our Head of State, she or he needs to be something which is not political.
The Queen is a very religious woman, and that, no doubt, is the chief source of her inner strength personally.
When the Queen, pictured yesterday with her ladies-in-waiting, holds her great-grandson in her arms, she will know that she is handing on a Monarchy in better shape than it has ever been
The fact that the Queen’s political views remain completely unspoken is one of the ingredients in this success story. Although the monarch is our Head of State, she or he needs to be something which is not political
A Queen who is so long- lived becomes associated in the minds of her subjects with the life-experience of her nation. During her reign, Britain has moved through the Cold War, the industrial unrest of the Seventies, and all the amazing technological and social changes of the past quarter of a century.
Everything, from the way we communicate to the sexual mores we regard as normal, seems to have altered. One fixed point has been the Monarchy.
If it had really remained unchanging, however, it would have cracked and become useless. It is because, under our Queen, the Monarchy has constantly changed that it has managed to remain that ‘fixed point’ in our firmament; just as the heavenly bodies are not really fixed, but perpetually revolving and spinning.
At the wedding of the future George V and Queen Mary in the Chapel Royal, St James’s, the then Archbishop of Canterbury, E.W. Benson, said: ‘This is an age, and this is a people which, in spite of many outward changes, still, in its heart of hearts, looks to the Family. The first element of society is the Family.’
He defined exactly why our Monarchy works. It is based on an organic, living thing which we all recognise.
William and Kate’s child will now have the chance to have as ‘normal’ a life as any royal person in history
During the last years of Queen Victoria’s reign, there were more republicans in Britain than there are today.
And within 20 years of her death, many of the monarchies of Europe (ruled over by her grandchildren in Germany and Russia, for example) had been wiped away.
The 20th century saw some of the most inhuman forms of government in recorded history — in the Soviet Union, in Germany, in Italy, Communism and Fascism tried to rule by dogma, and fit human beings into their cruel, rigid theories of what humanity should be like.
Monarchy, in contrast, was based not on a dogma, but on a family. For this reason, it knows its worst crises when that family breaks up — as when Edward VIII abdicated, or the present Queen’s children had marriages which came unstuck.
William and Kate’s child will have the chance to have as ‘normal’ a life as any royal person in history.
That is because the Queen took the bold step of modernising the Monarchy little by little — including the vitally important decision to abolish male primogeniture, and saying that Kate’s first child, male or female, would be next in line to the throne after William.
When the Queen holds her great-grandson in her arms, she will know that she is handing on a Monarchy in better shape than it has ever been.
The writer G.K. Chesterton said that a true democrat would be happy to choose rulers by sticking pins in a telephone directory and taking out the names he had pricked. In some ways, this is what Monarchy is.
The Queen is a modest person. She does not think that the House of Windsor is the best family in Britain: it is a representative family. Just as the Unknown Warrior in Westminster Abbey represents all the fallen in war, so the Royal Family represents all families.
Thousands flocked to Buckingham Palace this week for news of the royal birth, just as millions swarmed into the Mall during the two Royal Jubilees to thank the Queen for getting it so very right.
The future is safe — thanks to her.