Queen Elizabeth II, there is no taking it away from her, has got staying power.
It is as if she had taken the United Kingdom’s national anthem (the part that says ‘long to reign over us’) entirely to heart.
She has been head of the realm for 60 years, just three less than Queen Victoria – and still counting.
Many of her subjects have been showering her with adoration at Diamond Jubilee celebrations up and down the land.
The constitutional monarch of many sovereign states with ties to Britain, she has held her throne since after her father, King George VI, died in 1952. Her coronation took place on 2 June 1953, in London’s Westminster Abbey. She was 26.
She proved her dedication to the role she had inherited, as her former imperial nation evolved in the years after World War Two and it decolonised rapidly. She travelled widely, with her husband Prince Philip, and they had four children: Charles, Anne, Andrew and Edward.
Diamond Jubilee events have been so numerous as to fill more than four days – while Victoria’s, a hundred years ago, were wrapped up in one. In the face of criticism in a time of some economic angst, and predictable grousing from more republican-minded Britons, there is no denying Elizabeth’s popularity.
Royal-watchers wonder if any successor will ever be able to match this. On the occasion of the United Kingdom’s royal jubilee, euronews went knocking at Number 10 Downing Street for a few informal words.
As he approached the threshold, our London correspondent said: In her 60-year reign, Queen Elisabeth has had 12 prime ministers. I am here today to see her number 12, about her years as a monarch and her role today.
Ali Sheikholeslami, of euronews, asked David Cameron: Prime Minister, you first met the Queen when you were nine years old. How did it feel then and what is it like to be her twelfth prime minister today ?
David Cameron, British Prime Minister: Well, when I met her when I was nine years old, I didn’t ever expect to be her prime minister. I remember being a little boy and being very excited and being rather amazed that I had this opportunity. But the moment you never forget is getting out of the car and walking into Buckingham Palace and going up the stairs to be asked by the Queen to form a government – although in my case, of course, I had to say it will be a coalition government , so I’ll do my best to form a government and I’ll come back to you if I manage. But fortunately I did.
euronews: And what is, in your opinion, the significance of the Diamond Jubilee for Britain as a country and how far would you say the country has come during the reign of the Queen?
Cameron: The country has come a huge way. When you think 60 years ago we were still after the Second World War, with rationing and all those problems and difficulties and we are a country transformed since then. I think what we’re celebrating really is two things: first of all a unique individual record, of 60 years on the throne, dedication, service, commitment to her people, to the Commonwealth, to the world and people can hardly think of a foot that she put wrong in those 60 years of remarkable record of public service. I think we’re celebrating something else in Britain, which is the institution of the monarchy. All countries want to have that combination of stability and institutions that reflect their history, but also democracy and choice and freedom. And I think in Britain we’ve found a good way; it’s not everybody’s way, but our way to deliver those two things and I think the monarchy has served us very well in that respect. It’s above politics, it’s a symbol of national unity and as you can see from the celebrations it brings people together.
euronews: And you meet the Queen every week. Many in the UK and abroad wonder whether it is just a jolly British tradition. Or is it?
Cameron: No, it is an important part of the constitution, because the Queen is the head of state. Obviously, we’ve evolved into a situation where the elected Prime Minister and the government takes the decisions and the Queen is the ceremonial head of state. But I think it’s an important function for the prime minister to see the monarch every week to set out the problems and challenges here and around the world, to explain themselves, to explain what the government is doing to the head of state and obviously the Queen – who’s on her twelfth prime minister, who started with Winston Churchill, who’s seen it all, who’s heard it all, who’s travelled all over the world, who knows virtually every head of state and every head of government – can give some very good advice and ask some very, very pertinent questions.
euronews: With the Olympics around the corner, what will the games mean for London and for Britain as a country?
Cameron: Obviously, it’s a big year for Britain. It’s a year where we can show ourselves off to the world. Right in East London the Olympics are transforming an area which was very rundown. And there’s a physical transformation taking place. But I think even more important than that is to open up to the world and say look: here is a country, yes, we have our economic difficulties but we have the European single market on our doorstep, we’re between the timezones of America and Japan, we’ve got the English language, the language of business, some of the best universities in the world, a vibrant business scene, great culture, art, science and the rest of it. Come and visit, come and see. It’s a great opportunity for Britain, and I hope, also, it will switch young people onto sport and competitive sport, in a way that will leave a really lasting legacy into the future.