A remarkable lady with staying power

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There was a time when it was a relatively simple matter to find out what was going on in the world – just tune in to the BBC Home Service or read any newspaper.

For the most part, information disseminated by the Beeb or newspapers was simple, easy to understand and, above all else, a whole lot more truthful than it is today. In fact, the only time the citizens of the UK ever doubted what was given to them as news was generally because they just did not want to believe it.

During the early fifties – like February 6, 1952 – nobody wanted to listen to the radio, but felt compelled to do so because the newsreader’s solemn tones told them their king was no more.

King George VI and his hugely-popular Queen, known more to modern generations as the Queen Mum, had within a short reign of 18 years rallied a nation confused and demoralised by the abdication of the worthless Edward. They played a major part in leading the people – not just of this country, but its Empire and a large chunk of the free world – through a devastating war, all of which, combined with a dangerous love of fags, ruined his already-fragile health.

To say that George VI gave his life to Great Britain is by no means an understatement, and for the young Princess Elizabeth he proved to be a hard act to follow.

To a five-year-old lad like me, sitting round a wireless with his family, it was all a baffling mystery, but I can still recall my parents’ huge distress at the news of his passing.

After six decades, Queen Elizabeth I or II (according to choice) chalks up another milestone anniversary as she marks her big Six-oh in the job.

I suspect Her Maj will find the year-long programme of celebrations of her accession more than a little wearing, but will endure the tedious bits with her usual courtesy, though occasionally the regal grin might look a little forced. After all, she is well into her eighties and a reasonable number of her subjects wish she would back off the gas a little and take life a lot easier at an age when many of her vintage are visibly auld and done.

But that is unlikely and the odds are she will put in some very big days around the country, keenly aware that by unfortunate coincidence the House of Windsor will need to compete with the razzmatazz of the Olympic Games, perchance even a General Election and all that goes with it.

And that rather begs the big question.

The country is said to be broke – unless of course you are a senior employee of a bank or large public utility company, not forgetting professional footballers and a large section of show business – which should surely mean as a nation we should keep our sleeves rolled up and work hard to restore prosperity where it has been lost.

However, we will all in some way find a little time and cash to wish Queen Elizabeth all the best, even if we occasionally wonder how much longer it will be before a change of monarch brings about what cannot be any less than a major social revolution in this country.

OK, so the Queen does not exercise power in the sense that she has a major say in how any government is run, or who gets or loses a knighthood, but her opinion counts for a lot. No matter how intense the political and public debate on the independence referendum rages this way and that, one simple sentence from the monarch in a speech could kill the issue stone dead on the spot – and there are times when some of our friends in government should keep that in mind.

I see on the news tonight a bottle of Diamond Anniversary Whisky will set you back a hundred grand, which equates to around four grand a slug, depending on who is pouring. A little over the top maybe – but irrespective of whether you are a royalist or republican, raising a glass of something perchance a little more modest to toast the health of a monarch who has done such a good job for so long seems like a very good idea.