Queen Elizabeth's 30 years in the royalty business
There is in Britain a wealthy landowner who owns 11 corgi dogs.Skip to next paragraph
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Rich enough to give her son a handsome country house and estate when he was married recently, she nonetheless refused to part with an ancient green station wagon, because it has linoleum on the floor and is useful for transporting the dogs.
She is a grandmother, an expert breeder of dogs and horses -- and she possesses unrivaled experience of public affairs over the past 30 years - since Feb. 6, 1952, to be exact.
That was the day she acceded to the throne of Great Britain (to be crowned almost 16 months later, on June 2, 1953). Today, Elizabeth II, Queen of Britain and 16 other realms, head of the Church of England and of the Commonwealth, can look back on 30 years on the throne in the knowledge that the monarchy is one of the few institutions in a troubled Britain that not only succeeds, but can be seen to succeed.
Her place in British affections grows surer. A profile in The Times of London the other day caught the mood with its headline: ''Thirty years of rule that changed reverence to affection.''
Her eldest son, Prince Charles, says privately that he sees no prospect of his mother abdicating in his favor at any early point. In fact, there seems little likelihood that the Queen plans to abdicate at all. Experts from former editor of Debretts Peerage, William Montague-Smith, to Robert Lacey, author of the best-selling book ''Majesty,'' agree on the Queen's sense of duty to the monarchy and to her country.
Prince Charles believes it would be wrong for the experience the Queen has gained by 30 years of contacts with prime ministers, and of reading daily dispatch boxes full of state papers, to be lost.
Alan Hamilton, who wrote the Times profile, recalled that the Queen began her reign in a blaze of public adulation, which cooled somewhat as the 1960s wore on.
In the 1970s, however, when Buckingham Palace needed more money from Parliament to meet the mounting expenses of the royal family, public attention focused on her public duties -- and found that she performed them ably and well. She began to meet more people, to chat more easily.
The annual Civil List (government payments toward the royal family's costs) this year for her household is (STR)4.2 million ($7.8 million). Maintaining the Queen's aircraft, yacht, and palaces adds another (STR)12 million ($22 million) a year.
A major review of royalty's finances is expected within the next two years. But for now, the royal family appears on a new crest of popularity in Britain.
The Princess of Wales has brought a younger, more contemporary air of glamour and fashion to the monarchy. The birth of her first child this year is awaited with good feeling and affection.
Prince Charles is seen as a hard-working young man, eminently suited to what will undoubtedly be a growing list of public duties and travel as the Queen grows older.
Controversies surrounding Princess Margaret have faded from public view in recent years. The Queen Mother retains the warm approval of most Britons, from young people to pensioners. The remainder of the royal family, including the Duke and Duchess of Kent, and Princess Alexandra, are seen as conscientious and hard-working.
The monarchy is widely seen as a symbol of stability and nationhood in a time of economic trouble. It brings a dash of color and romance into headlines, television, and radio broadcasts. It is respected and appreciated around the world, in the United States as well as in Commonwealth countries.
Conservative member of Parliament Norman St. John-Stevas told The Times: ''The monarchy has become our only truly popular political institution at a time when the House of Commons has declined in public esteem, and the (House of) Lords is a matter of controversy.
''The monarchy is, in a real sense, underpinning the other two estates of the realm.''
Labour member of Parliament William Hamilton continues to criticize the monarchy as a waste of time and money.
But the monarchy has rebounded in public esteem since Edward VIII abdicated in 1936. Then, polls showed 50 percent of British people wanted to retain it: A poll in 1980 showed 80 percent.
Elizabeth II, 30 years Queen, takes her duties seriously -- and shows every sign of becoming even more popular.