Queen Elizabeth II was crowned on June 2, 1953—a year after she had ascended the throne.
Throughout history, kings and queens have often been villains—ruling without restraint, slaughtering enemies, enriching themselves at their people’s expense, and generally acting very badly indeed. With the development of representative government, however, a hybrid form of government was created—the constitutional monarchy. In a constitutional monarchy, the king or queen cannot do whatever he or she wants to do. Instead, a democratically elected legislature and its leaders hold the real power.
The United Kingdom is the world’s oldest constitutional monarchy. In June the UK celebrates its monarch’s golden jubilee, the 60th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II beginning her reign. Queen Elizabeth has been, in general, quite popular. Since her days as a princess, when, during World War II, she trained as a driver and mechanic, she has worked hard at the tasks demanded of a royal. Now, at the age of 86, she still keeps a full schedule of charity work and public appearances.
Debate has raged for decades over whether the UK should eliminate the monarchy. Critics say that it is too expensive, out-dated, and anti-democratic. Supporters answer that not only does the queen, who has a vast store of inherited wealth, pay her own way, but the royal family and their doings help draw tourists. Tourism is big business in the UK; visitors from the United States alone pump some $3.3 billion into the economy annually. Anti-monarchists argue that the royal family’s value to tourism is minimal. They also claim that, although Queen Elizabeth is still much loved, her son Prince Charles, who will inherit the throne, is not, and fewer than half of the people want him and his wife Camilla to rule as king and queen.
Still, the monarchy endures. Perhaps the basic reason is its power as a symbol. Because the monarchy is not aligned with any political party, it represents continuity—the ability of the kingdom’s people to endure as a great nation, even after centuries of upheaval.
Image credit: © AP Images
Diamond Jubilee of Elizabeth II
This site tells how places in the Commonwealth of Nations—what is left of the British Empire—will celebrate the occasion.
(Source: Wikipedia; accessed May 31, 2012)
Her Majesty the Queen
Read all about the queen—from her early life to her daily life—at this official site.
(Source: The Official Web Site of the British Monarchy; accessed May 31, 2012)
A Visitor’s Guide to the Diamond Jubilee
If you want to visit the UK during the celebration, here is a good place to start planning your trip. Get all the details on the various events.
(Source: BBC New; accessed May 31, 2012)
Republicans in the UK!
Read excerpts from an interview with Graham Smith, head of Republic, Britain’s biggest anti-monarchy pressure group. The article is written by Tom Sykes, who reports daily on the royal family.
(Source: The Daily Beast, May 20, 2012)