Friday, April 21, 2006

Happy Birthday, Liz

Elizabeth II is a queen. George II thinks he's a king, as the post below on his nightmare presidency shows all too well.

Elizabeth Windsor turned 80 today and all but the most virulent monarchy bashers would have to agree that she has been an extraordinarily reassuring presence during her long reign and one of the most accomplished politicians of our time.

Jonathan Freedland notes in a thoughtfully Guardian commentary that Elizabeth could well be all that is keeping the British monarchy alive. He is emphatic that debate over whether it should continue (and he does not believe that it should) needs to take place now and not when the queen is in her dotage:
If genes are any guide - and when it comes to royalty, you would think that they would be - Elizabeth could well live and reign for another 20 years, overtaking even Victoria's 64-year record. But the way this system works, her successor will be anointed the second she dies: there will be no pause for a debate. If we want one, we have to have it now, so that we might reach a national consensus before the moment arises, not wait until it is too late. So let's wish the Queen a very happy birthday; let's hope she has many more to come and in good health; let's thank her for all she has done. But let's decide now that, when she goes, we bury this ludicrous institution with her.
While Freedland wants to kill the monarchy, The Economist reports that it's alive and very well, thank you, but maybe not for the reasons that you'd assume:
Compare the fortunes of the monarchy with those of another established institution with an ambient role, the Church of England, and it becomes clear that the royal family is doing rather well. . . . One reason is that the monarchy thrives on indifference, while the Church is hurt by it.

That might sound odd, given that evidence of interest in the royal family is everywhere . . . but this fascination does not run very deep. According to one poll, only 10% of people aged between 16 and 24 think the monarchy is important to their lives. But because the royal family is the monopoly provider of a something trivial, it hardly seems worth opposing. The Church, by contrast, offers a vital service to its 1.7m members—spiritual succour—and operates in a competitive confessional market where dissatisfied Christians can shop around. Indifference is thus a threat.
I don't get to vote on whether the monarchy should continue. Neither do Elizabeth's subjects, for that matter. But I must say that she has brought out the best in the British, a people with whom I have a thoroughly schizophrenic relationship.

Compare that to George II, who has brought out the worst.

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