Tuesday, January 31, 2012


Queen Elisabeth II acceded to the throne 60 years ago. This event will be celebrated in numerous ways. London will be the world capital of the crown and of the Olympic torch. Royal fever will rule, unbeknown elsewhere. No other monarch is able to command to such a degree both loyalty and respect. The paradox lies in the abstraction of the person who will be celebrated. With the exception of the events which followed Princess Diana’s death, the person of the Queen has remained unshaken by events, political turmoil or dysfunction amongst the royals. Indeed, nothing transpires besides an image which is unrolled by some hidden projector. There are no faux pas, no gossip worth mentioning. The peep-hole reveals nothing but corgis, horses and pageant. In all her representative, solemn, antiquated roles, the Queen has maintained an unfailing composure. Once, in what she called her annus horribilis, emotion got hold of her but that was the rare exception since the day she descended the airplane as Queen, after her father died.

The British monarch has the unique capacity to dwarf foreign royals or leaders. The mystique around her does compensate for the lack of words or more demonstrative emotions. Her presence is her “She”, who does not have to explain or legitimize her likes and dislikes which remain unknown to most. The British will celebrate a person they do not know and an institution which carries the pride and also the nostalgia of a nation which was “the” empire. No doubt the times of Elisabeth II will be the equals of Elisabeth I and Victoria Regina. Her devotion to the Commonwealth of voluntary associated states is proof that there is an iron ambition which lurks behind a benevolent fa├žade. Nobody has an inkling of what the future holds, neither should one try to foresee how the Prince of Wales or Prince William will balance continuity and change. One thing is certain: it is going to be a hard act to emulate. The Queen is a survivor, unchallenged by the socio-economic changes or fads which reshaped her realm. She uses distance as a guardian of the legitimacy of a style and a ceremony which adhere to her narrative, if not becoming it. The future will be less friendly with this class vocabulary which will certainly become more obsolete since the new generation representatives have already come out of the closet, so to speak, and there is no way back. Diana did not open the windows, she smashed them. The savoir-faire of the Queen herself was for a brief moment almost under siege.

We will all co-celebrate and there might be some sadness in many hearts because this monarch, frozen in pomp and style, has always retained a demeanor unmatched and a self control unequal. She continues to impress and fascinate because she neither gives in nor speaks out. We look up to a mystery wrapped in a mantle which has protected her from anything mediocre or demagogic. What she touches becomes the State. Her beloved Brittania was not a luxury yacht, it became the ship of state. The fire which destroyed part of Hampton Court in 1986 shattered her heart because in her vision castles are also the collective memory of the State.

This private woman has innumerable admirers and followers but nevertheless she carries with her an aura of loneliness which remains impenetrable. She is supposed to have all the qualities of a normal human being such as a sense of humor, a passion for animals, a supreme sense of duty, but she has chosen not to reveal rather than to exhibit. She remains the unquestioned master of her distance, unremitting. There is no other.

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