April 21st is not just Easter Sunday this year; it is also the 93rd birthday of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II. She came to the throne at the age of 26 upon the death of her father in 1952, and has reigned for 67 years, the longest reigning monarch in our nation’s history.
She acceded to the throne when Britain was still recovering from World War II, and presided over the UK’s relinquishing of its colonial status and the assumption of its position as a Commonwealth Power. The Queen has always set great store by her position as head of the Commonwealth, believing that it brings together diverse peoples and is a force for good in the world. During the decades when Britain seemed to be leaving its old friends to join forces with Europe, she continually highlighted the importance of the Commonwealth.
She witnessed the decline of the UK’s great power status as the postwar world came to be dominated by continental powers rather than individual countries. She also saw the decline of Britain’s economic position, as the resources that could have provided the investment for regeneration and renewal were spent instead on welfare progammes and nationalization.
The rebirth of self-confidence and the economic revival that followed the abandonment of the Keynesian postwar consensus from 1979 meant that she was now head of state of one of the top economies of Europe, rather than of the bottom one.
She has shown careful and considered restraint, taking care to remain above politics and to accept and work with whatever governments her people chose to elect. Her continued popularity derives in part from her status as a national symbol who takes no part in the issues of the day that sometimes divide her subjects.
On a personal level, she is known to be both intelligent and well-informed. In her visits around the country she meets and talks to people from diverse fields and takes on their information. She is briefed weekly by the Prime Minister and at Privy Council meetings, and reads her ministerial red boxes every day. She is by no means a mere figurehead, though she is careful never to reveal her own views, in order to preserve her impartiality.
Thanks to the Queen, constitutional monarchy remains popular and firmly entrenched in Britain. We join the nation in congratulating her and wishing her a happy birthday, and more years of wise oversight of her realm.