Queen Elizabeth: Ahead of your Platinum Jubilee, I have just one thing to say: thank you, Ma'am – Christine Jardine MP

This week has seemed filled with memories as everywhere there are reminders of a woman who has been the one constant in our society for seven decades. The Queen.

The vast majority of us who will this weekend witness the extraordinary achievement that is the Platinum Jubilee have only ever known only one head of state, one monarch.

And amid all the reviews and assessments of her reign, it is difficult not to reflect on our own experiences and the impact she might have had.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Not all the Royal visits, weddings and announcements that have punctuated the years, but the real, unseen influence.

As she has matured in her role, we have grown with her through good times and bad, as individuals and as a country.

And while that role throughout has been as a benign, constitutional figurehead, the impression it has made has been positive and far-reaching.

In 70 years, the Queen has given Royal Assent to around 4,000 pieces of legislation.

Among them are some of the most significant in British social history on abortion, race relations, equal rights, same-sex marriage and devolution.

Queen Elizabeth has been the only head of state many people in the UK have known (Picture: Jacob King-WPA pool/Getty Images)Queen Elizabeth has been the only head of state many people in the UK have known (Picture: Jacob King-WPA pool/Getty Images)
Queen Elizabeth has been the only head of state many people in the UK have known (Picture: Jacob King-WPA pool/Getty Images)

Her Majesty has shared the crisis points and joyous moments of our history.

Read More
The Queen In Scotland: 21 pictures from the 1950s and 1960s of HRH Queen Elizabe...

In the Second World War, she served in the military as a truck mechanic and sneaked out of Buckingham Palace to share the victory celebrations on the streets of London.

At the height of the pandemic, her broadcast to the nation struck a vital common chord that eludes party politicians.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

She has known and quietly counselled 14 Prime Ministers from Winston Churchill to Boris Johnson, presented the World Cup to England captain Bobby Moore, the Wimbledon trophy to Virginia Wade, and ‘parachuted’ into the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympics. There were also memorable Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh and Glasgow.

But in some ways, perhaps her biggest influence might have been simply the fact of being female. It’s hard to envisage now but when the then 26-year-old Princess Elizabeth ascended to the throne in 1952 there were only 17 female MPs.

The idea of one, never mind two female Prime Ministers, in her lifetime would have been unthinkable. Girls did not play football or rugby and the boardrooms of Britain were bereft of female influence.

Even in the ‘Swinging 60s’, a decade marked by social and sexual revolution in the UK, the perceived wisdom imparted to those of us at school was that the boys would be the doctors, engineers and lawyers. The girls would be nurses, teachers and secretaries until we stopped to have our babies.

Seems madness now, but that is the world our mothers had to deal with, and that we overcame or are at least overcoming.

How important has it been to that change that our head state, the image presented to the world and to us, has been a woman?

And while we have developed as a society, our individual experiences have changed too. In 1952, most families in Scotland lived in modest homes.

The outside toilet was still a fact of life for some and the air we breathed was thick with industrial pollution.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

My grandparents could never have imagined that my generation of the family would live in multi-bathroom homes that we own, and that the tenement streets they knew would be renovated and transformed by the upwardly mobile.

I suspect they would also be intrigued at how the young girl they knew has become the loved and respected great grandmother that even the most fervent anti-royalist seems to have a soft spot for.

Perhaps that attachment has grown from the fact that the Queen also acts as a reminder to all of us of a generation, indeed more than one, that we have lost.

The generation who overcame the trials of the Second World War, and the one that then emerged to build modern Britain. The people we loved and have lost.

The already elderly relatives who reminisced about the coronation amidst the bunting of the Silver Jubilee. Sharing the sheer audacity of Brian May playing God Save the Queen on the roof of Buckingham Palace for the Golden Jubilee with my mother and my young daughter. Or the Diamond Jubilee which seemed then like a milestone unlikely to be surpassed.

Just last night, I was reminiscing with my daughter about her memories of the two Jubilees she has known. She is 26 now. The age the Queen was when she began the long journey to this coming weekend.

The thought stopped both of us in our tracks as we realised what a weight had been placed on young shoulders and how long she has carried it and that, beyond the bunting and afternoon teas and bringing together of friends and neighbours, we should remember the gravity of the weight of the duty. Heavy is the head that wears the crown.

On her coronation 70 years ago, Queen Elizabeth II said: “I have in sincerity pledged myself to your service, as so many of you are pledged to mine. Throughout all my life and with all my heart I shall strive to be worthy of trust… therefore I am sure that this, my Coronation, is not the symbol of a power and a splendour that are gone but a declaration of our hopes for the future, and for the years I may, by God’s Grace and Mercy, be given to reign and serve as your Queen.”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

It’s a promise fulfilled and for all those in public service, a height we must always strive to reach. There is only thing that I find fitting to say in response.

Thank you, Ma’am.

Christine Jardine is the Scottish Liberal Democrat MP for Edinburgh West

Related topics:



Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.