“God save the Queen / She ain’t no human being” is a provocative and undeniably punk statement made by the band the Sex Pistols in 1977. With the Queen having served seventy years on England’s supposedly gleaming throne, the monarchy’s relevance and purpose are brought ever further into the forefront of national consciousness. Though I would not go so far as to agree with John Lydon that, “she ain’t no human being”, I do believe there is some resonance in the song’s next lines, “There is no future / In England’s dreaming”. As we continue adjusting to a post-covid world with international turmoil to contend with, affecting both our economy and arguably our national optimism, there are many questions to be asked concerning the Queen’s role today. How apt is a celebration for a woman born into wealth and privilege, whom most of us have never and will never meet in our lifetimes? For all the Queen’s years of service and merits, is the budget justified?
Throughout the Queen’s seventy years I would strongly agree that she has faced some extremely testing circumstances. Dealing with the grief of her father’s sudden passing she rose to Queen early, going on to suffer her Annus Horribilis in 1992 and serious familial divides with Harry and Megan as illustrated by the press. Elizabeth II has overseen both personal and nationwide tragedies as a figurehead, and yet remains steadfast in her job. Nonetheless, she is not the only person to have remained seventy years in a job or experienced troubling times. The 2.3 million people on Universal Credit since 10th December 2020 are likely experiencing similar struggles every day without the benefit of country homes and being waited on hand and foot. The Queen herself has likely never had to make the heart-breaking choice of eating or heating, a decision many parents are forced to make across the country. In February 2021, there were over 1,300 Trussell Trust food banks and in excess of 900 independent food banks. Therefore, those under the breadline cannot be blamed for an absence of feeling personal connection or commonality with this woman for whom we are expected to hold street parties and celebrations.
The government has declared that it has spent £11,993,888.72 on creating a children’s book detailing the monarch’s seventy years. Learning about the good the Queen has done may prove beneficial. Being for example a member of the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service makes her a feminist trailblazer as the first female royal active-duty member of the British Armed Forces. However, those children could have arguably equally effectively learnt about the Queen in their schools as they have done for generations. That money instead could have been better invested in the educational system or helping underprivileged children be prouder of a more compassionate nation that cares for its young people’s welfare.
Morale was raised while we strung out the red, white and blue bunting across the country and stamped various knick-knacks with the profile of a lady who has become synonymous with twentieth and twenty-first century Britain. Indeed, after the hardships of the past few years, some may believe the Jubilee was an opportunity for national unity. This is something I personally believe was well-needed after the national divides we have faced. However, the amount of money and celebrity faces thrown at the event made me question how it related to me as a young Northern woman, far removed from the tea and scones of Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle. While Holly Willoughby, Ed Sheeran and Craig David, to name but a few, rose in a chorus of God Save the Queen (and not the Sex Pistols this time), no feeling of national pride was aroused within me, despite the intention otherwise.
I congratulate and admire her majesty, the Queen, for her consistency during her seventy years on the throne and her ability to avoid the scandals arguably staining her family’s reputation. However, I cannot personally justify the £28 million spent on the whole affair when national socio-economic issues are considered.
Illustration credit: Verity Laycock