God Save Queen Elizabeth, who turns 92 today. The world’s longest-reigning monarch, she represents to many people a connection to the past and commitment to status quo. In reality, however, this global leader and head of state has navigated the often turbulent waters of many decades with a skillful sense of adaptability. Unique among world leaders, she blends the right amount of change with an enduring sense of stability.
Her Majesty’s appeal — both in her own country as well as the international community — is robust. Her life continues to be devoted to those she serves, her example is inspirational, and a source of pride to many, in Britain, the Commonwealth, and the world over.
This is not to say that there have not been dips in the public opinion of the British monarchy, such as during the aftermath of Princess Diana’s death. But to its credit, the royal family, affected by grief and personal loss, internalized some important feedback, which enabled even more admiration from the British people.
The relationship between royals and their subjects is delicate. Royals are human beings, but occupy a decisively different position in society than the rest of us. Blend with that the characteristically British “stiff upper lip,” and one can understand the necessity for a dignified, perhaps almost dispassionate public-facing queen.
However, the queen and her family, with the counsel of her advisers, recognized that showing a compassionate side is important to her extended family — the British people. One sees this particularly with her successor, Prince Charles, who often shows warm affection toward his sons. The queen, too, has displayed a more sentimental side, with her advancing years and ever-increasing grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
It is remarkable as well, to consider how far the queen has adapted in personal matters dealing with love and marriage. At the beginning of her reign, her sister, Princess Margaret, was denied the chance to pursue marriage with a divorced commoner because of factors ranging from the Royal Marriages Act to the trauma of Edward VIII’s abdication to marry twice-divorced American, Wallis Simpson.
Fast forward to next month when Prince Harry, with his grandmother’s blessing, will marry a divorced, biracial, Catholic American. One realizes just how far the queen has evolved — in a way that considers the emotional happiness not only of her family, but of a British people who crave a more demonstrative royal family.
The queen has shown great leadership qualities in her conduct as a head of state who is also a constitutional monarch and “defender of the faith.” During times of public reluctance to champion God and the Christian faith, the queen champions her role as Church of England head through deliberate discussion of her deep and robust faith.
So, too, Her Majesty has shown utmost discretion in not revealing publicly her personal political ideas. Though one finds it difficult to imagine she would not support her kingdom taking back its decision-making authority through Brexit, nor would she happily witness the departure of Scotland from her kingdom, she has remained admirably discrete about even these overarchingly important events, a sine qua non of her role.
And so the love affair of a nation with this queen and a commonwealth and the world with an enduring leader continues. Book after best-selling book, and the astronomical success of the miniseries “The Crown” are proof of the continued relevance of and interest in a remarkable woman —one who has advised not only with the wisdom of years, but also with her own powerful mix of skill, diplomacy and expertise.
On this occasion of Queen Elizabeth’s 92nd birthday, may God grant her many more years of good health so that her family, her people and the world may continue to benefit from her wisdom, diplomacy and example. The superb tribute of President Reagan, the only U.S. president to have received a (honorary) knighthood from the queen, is worthy of mention: “And ladies and gentlemen, happily and conscious of the honor that is ours tonight, I ask you to join me in a toast to Her Majesty the Queen.”
Lee Cohen is a senior fellow in Western European Affairs at the London Center for Policy Research, and the New York Director of the Anglosphere Society. He formerly was the director of the Congressional United Kingdom Caucus.