Friday, June 8, 2012

Diamond Liz

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

I have ridden this mud ball called Earth a mere sixty-four years, but in that time I have witnessed the ego-spasms of twelve United States Presidents.  During that same period, however, the British Commonwealth has had only two monarchs, the first of whom, George VI, died when I was three-years-old.   His daughter and successor, Elizabeth II, has been the Queen forever – at least from my limited perspective.

This year marks the Queen’s “Diamond Jubilee,” a week-long celebration (that just ended) marking her sixty years on the throne.    She actually assumed the title when her father died of cancer on February 6, 1952. 

The Queen, who was born on April 21, 1926, was a mere slip of a girl of twenty-five when she ascended to the throne.  She is now a stately eighty-six, and apparently in very good health.  (Her mother died in 2002 at the age of one hundred-and-one.)  Queen Elizabeth II is currently the second-longest serving monarch in British history, and she will pass the mark set by her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria, if she survives through September of 2015.

(Victoria was just eighteen-years-old when she was burdened with the crown, and she spent over sixty-three years on the throne.)

Elizabeth II is more than just the Queen of England.  Her “rule” (more pomp than circumstance) encompasses the United Kingdom (England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland) and fifteen other “Commonwealth Realms,” that include:  Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Grenada, Jamaica, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia (my personal favorite), Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the Solomon Islands, and Tuvalu.

While Elizabeth II has very little to do with the actual governance of the Commonwealth Realms, she does attend to assorted official functions which are mostly for show, and her likeness often adorns the currency and postage stamps of those countries.  Her primary function in life is serving as a tourist attraction.

But if the Queen has little control over the activities of her “realms,” they do have an impact on her.  It is the politicians of the Commonwealth Realms who set the rules under which the monarchy operates.  Last year, in fact, two major changes in the operation of the monarchy were decided by representatives of the Commonwealth Realms.  First, those in the line of succession to the throne may now marry Catholics – and that represents a seismic shift in tolerance since the monarch is historically the head of the Church of England.  Second, the crown will now pass to the oldest child of the monarch, whether that child is a male or a female.  Older sisters will no longer be skipped over so their younger brothers can be kings.  That rule will take effect with the children of William and Kate.  These changes are the first to occur in the rules of succession in more than three hundred years.

Queen Elizabeth currently has fourteen direct descendants.  The line of succession goes through those fourteen and then jumps over to the six descendants of the Queen’s late sister, Princess Margaret:  The line of succession is as follows:

1.       Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales (the Queen’s oldest son)
2.       Prince William, the Duke of Cambridge (Prince Charles’ oldest son)
3.       Prince Harry of Wales (Prince Charles’ youngest son)
4.       Prince Andrew, the Duke of York (the Queen’s second-oldest son)
5.       Princess Beatrice of York (Prince Andrew’s oldest daughter)
6.       Princess Eugenie of York (Prince Andrew’s youngest daughter)
7.       Prince Edward, the Earl of Wessex (the Queen’s youngest son)
8.       James, Viscount Severn (Prince Edward’s 4-year-old son)
9.       The Lady Louise Windsor (Prince Edward’s 8-year-old daughter)
10.   Princess Anne, the Princess Royal (the Queen’s only daughter)
11.   Peter Phillips (Princess Anne’s son – and the Queen’s oldest grandchild)
12.   Savannah Phillips (oldest daughter of Peter Phillips)
13.   Isla Elizabeth Phillips (youngest daughter of Peter Phillips)
14.   Zara Phillips (Princess Anne’s daughter)
15.   David Armstrong-Jones, Viscount Linley (Princess Margaret’s son)
16.   The Honourable Charles Armstrong-Jones (David Armstrong-Jones’ son)
17.   The Honourable Margarita Armstrong-Jones (David Armstrong-Jones’ daughter)
18.   The Lady Sarah Chatto (Princess Margaret’s daughter)
19.   Samuel Chatto  (Lady Sarah Chatto’s oldest son)
20.   Arthur Chatto  (Lady Sarah Chatto’s youngest son)

The Queen’s sixty years on the throne have not been worry-free.    She has had to suffer through the divorces of her three oldest children, the death of Princess Diana, a son and grandson going off to war, a strange man breaking into her bedroom, a terrible fire at Windsor Castle, her mother and sister dying in the same year, and being the first British monarch to have her wealth taxed.  But through it all she has kept her stiff British upper-lip and reigned over her subjects with a grace and dignity befitting …well…a Queen.

Good job, Liz!

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