Fit for a Queen
The Diamond Jubilee celebrates a long, lustrous career
Kate Middleton caused a bit of controversy at Sunday’s River Pageant with her stunning, brightly hued, and potentially show-stealing dress. The Diamond Jubilee, after all, is about the Queen, who pleased even Karl Lagerfeld with her Swarovski crystal-studded white dress and her trusty Ladies of Devonshire pearl earrings, a wedding present from her grandmother Queen Mary.
Queen Elizabeth II became a bride the same year she declared, in a radio address to her future subjects, “my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service.” It has proved to be quite long indeed. Sometime between appearing on the cover of Time at the age of three and working as a mechanic during WWII, she won the hearts of the British people, which she's retained, with some minor setbacks (see The Queen), throughout her sixty years upon the throne.
The Queen, who’s conferred with Winston Churchill, danced with Gerald Ford, and knighted Elton John, has seen a lot, but Sunday’s river pageant, in which she led a flotilla of 1,000 boats, harkened to a head of state well before her time—Queen Elizabeth I. In the Virgin Queen’s day, criminals’ heads sat on spikes on the London Bridge as a warning to would-be ne’er-do-wells, but the Thames was also the site of lavish patriotic processions. Those standing on its banks this past weekend spoke to Vicki Barker of NPR of another procession on another rainy day—Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation—which many watched on televisions purchased specifically for the event.
These old-timers notwithstanding, Queen Elizabeth II is the only head monarch most living British people have ever known, but what about those who know her as something else—as a wife or a mother or a grandmother? The Queen’s been dutifully private about her personal life. Those hungry for all things QEII must settle for a catalogue of fun facts (The Queen doesn’t have a passport! She once woke to find a crazy person sitting on the edge of her bed!), if not for the general sense of her steeliness. Princess Anne begs to differ. “I don’t believe any of us for a second thought that she didn’t care for us in exactly the same way as any mother,” she told BBC One.
Others members of the royal family spoke up on the recent ABC special, “The Jubilee Queen with Katie Couric.” Princess Eugenie, who plays cards with the Queen and usually loses, is a bit in awe of her majesty, whom she calls “Granny.” Perhaps most noteworthy was Prince William, who praised the Queen for being an incredible example and a good listener, and for letting him lead his own life. That said, he added, “you know when you’re in her bad books.”
“It’s a well-known look that makes strong men tremble,” said Lady Pamela Hicks. Equally well known, however, has to be her undeniably warm smile. —Kate Guadagnino