A symbol of all that is British, Queen Elizabeth II celebrated 60 years on the throne during four days’ worth of activities, ending Tuesday, that drew crowds of admirers of the royal family.
The monarch is to England as the Constitution is to Americans, explained Michael Goldfarb, GlobalPost’s correspondent in London. “It’s this institution which says this is our history, this is our anchor and what makes us, us.” (He wrote about the queen’s hold on Britain’s collective subconscious in a recent dispatch.)
“No matter that one in five Brits would call themselves republicans and would like to do away with the monarchy, there is no other symbol of this country,” he said.
London, which partied just last year when Catherine and Prince William wed, was again bedecked in Union Jack flags. More festivities are coming later when London hosts the Olympics in August.
But for this week, it was all about the queen and a sense of nationalism as the UK celebrated only its second Diamond Jubilee of a monarch.
Part of the queen’s appeal is “she does her job more or less without complaint,” said Goldfarb. The queen “just carries on” free of the gossip machine that sometimes engulfs her children, including Prince Charles, he said.
Plus, she has longevity. “Whenever you meet someone in their mid-80s, who’s got all their marbles and all their moving body parts, and they are still doing a job, you’re impressed. I think that’s just natural,” he said.
Queen Elizabeth also has shown a willingness to adjust to public sentiment. The death of Princess Diana marked a low point for the royal family, but the queen’s heartfelt response was what people wanted to hear, said Goldfarb. “She improved her performance, so the people have improved their feeling of affection for her.”
Over the weekend, in unseasonably cold weather, the queen stood for three hours on a boat as part of a 1,000-strong flotilla traveling the Thames River. “She’s 86. That’s impressive,” Goldfarb noted. “They could have arranged for her to sit in some grand chair, but she stood up. That was her duty and people see that.”
At the end of it all on Tuesday, the queen said in a rare televised address: “It has touched me deeply to see so many thousands of families, neighbors and friends celebrating together in such a happy atmosphere. I will continue to treasure and draw inspiration from the countless kindnesses shown to me in this country and throughout the Commonwealth. Thank you all.”
How many U.S. presidents has the queen met? Find out here.
Watch some highlights of Jubilee events: