Some wonder why Queen Elizabeth II, an octogenarian, hasn’t made a similar concession to youth. But the modern British monarchy is founded on a different set of principles. As much as Britons might enjoy a change of pace at Windsor Castle, something faster and fresher, the monarchy in Britain is not about novelty. It’s about staying the course, resolve and perseverance.
Indeed in a culture similar to ours that places a premium on youth and beauty, the British monarchy stands out as one of those rare institutions where aging, with all of its complications and humiliations, is allowed to — and expected to — take place in full public view.
The current British monarch follows in her predecessors’ footsteps. When the young Elizabeth received word in February 1952, while traveling abroad in Kenya, that her father George VI had passed away, she rushed home knowing that the title she had just inherited would be hers until death.
“By the sudden death of my dear father I am called to assume the duties and responsibilities of sovereignty,” the 25-year old queen explained to her privy councilors back in London.
“My heart is too full for me to say more to you today than I shall always work, as my father did throughout his reign, to advance the happiness and prosperity of my peoples, spread as they are all the world over.”
When Elizabeth said “I shall always work,” she meant it. Sixty years later, at the age of 86, the Queen maintains an active schedule and is the patron of more than 600 charities and organizations.
Add to this the fact that Elizabeth’s reign, like those of her predecessors, has only seemed to improve with age, at least if measured by public approval ratings — last May, shortly before the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, the market research company Ipsos MORI determined that support for the monarchy among adults in Britain is at an all-time high — and there’s little reason to think that Elizabeth will leave her post anytime soon.
Much as Prince Charles and Prince William may grow tired of waiting in the wings, a Platinum Jubilee could well take place in 2022.