London — Throwing a party for a 96-year-old woman who’s been in the same job for 70 years might seem like a last hurrah. But you have to be careful with the women of: Never write them off too soon.
The hurrahs for Queen Elizabeth II just keep on coming. Her mother did live to 101, after all.
The queen had been dialling back on public appearances even before Buckingham Palace said she waswhich have made life more difficult for the monarch.
Sir Paul McCartney and best-selling author Tina Brown reflect on Queen Elizabeth’s unprecedented reign in “Her Majesty The Queen: A Gayle King Special.”
So, it was left to her son and heir to the throne Prince Charles to officiate at the recent ceremonial opening of parliament. But to demonstrate who was still very much in charge, the queen sent not only her son, but her crown, which sat right next to Charles.
The royal presence endures, even when the most senior royal isn’t present.
“She’s incredibly dependable. You can set your clock by her,” Robert Hardman, author of “Queen of Our Times: The Life of Elizabeth II,” told CBS News.
“Every now and then, there are these landmark moments which we call jubilees, and they’re just a sort of moment for a national party,” Hardman said.
With seemingly uncanny timing, these national parties seem to come around just when the country could really use one.
Elizabeth’s marriage to Prince Philip in 1947 provided a welcome diversion from the grim business of Britain’s post-war reconstruction. Her coronation in 1953 was the first to be televised, and it provided some imperial glitter at a time when it was quickly becoming clear that the days of empire were fading forever.
When the queen marked her first jubilee — her Silver Jubilee in 1977, after just 20 years on the throne —- Hardman said, “Britain was nearly bankrupt.”
“That really was — we did need to party then,” he said. “This time, obviously, we’re coming out of a pandemic, we’ve got family issues and now, you know, the queen is in her 10th decade. So, it’s just a very different kind of party.”
Thanks to those “family issues,” this year’s jubilee will look different, too. Remember those big royal family photos on the Buckingham Palace balcony — always a centerpiece of these occasions?
Forget about them. This time, it will only be so-called “working royals” joining the queen on the balcony.
Prince Harry and Megan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, have left their self-imposed exile in California to be in Britain for this week’s celebrations, but they gave up their “working royal” status a couple years ago.
Harry’s unclefor his association with the child sex trafficker Jeffrey Epstein, is also out of the picture.
This year, it’s only Prince Charles and Camilla,, Prince Edward and Sophie’s family, and a few others still in the royal good books.
And of course, there’s no Prince Philip. The queen’s “strength and stay” for 73 years died just over a year ago.
The absences are all just a reminder of how much things have changed.
“The monarchy has evolved,” Hardman told CBS News. “I mean, you look at the court when she came to the throne, I mean, it was still Edwardian, if not Victorian — it was still run by, sort of, bumbling aristocrats. And I mean, you know, the décor, the uniforms, the attitudes hadn’t really changed in 100 years.”
The queen, however, for all she’s been through, hasn’t really changed. When she came to the throne, she vowed to live a lifetime of duty. And it ain’t over yet.
“I think she’s already looking forward to beating the one record she hasn’t broken yet, which comes in a couple of years when she beats Louis XIV of France for the all-time reigning record,” said Hardman.
The French monarch held the throne for 72 years and 110 days, until his death at the age of 76 in 1715.
“He had a head start as a boy king,” notes Hardman, whereas Elizabeth “was a 25-year-old mother of two. So, you know, she had a bit of catching up to do.”
But she’s almost there.
“I remember attending her mother’s 100th birthday party. It was a hell of a party,” said the biographer. “I think it’ll be an even bigger one for her.”