From Diamond to Platinum – How have we changed? | Nina Skinner
This June saw Her Majesty celebrate 70 years on the throne. This platinum jubilee is the first of its kind, and most likely the only that most of us will see in our lifetimes. Being born in 2001, I only remember two jubilees, those of 2012 and 2022. Given the debates that have arisen over British identity over the last 10 years, it seems worth considering how the ways in which these events were marked reflects (or does not reflect) these changes.
Between 2012 and 2022, we have had a net inward migration of around 250,000 per year, with a short break during the covid-19 period. This means that over the course of the 2010’s, over 2 million more people entered the UK than those who left. When the high net immigration during the 1990’s and 2000’s is considered, it does not seem unreasonable to suggest that Britain has become substantially less British since 2012; and even less since 2002, 1992 and prior.
As well as a lack of British people who would want to partake in celebrations for Her Majesty, there is also the fact that even those who are undeniably British are of a less monarchist disposition than in the past. According to YouGov, in 2019 only 31% of 18–24-year-olds actively supported the monarchy, compared to 81% of those aged over 65 in the same year. As support for the monarchy increases in a roughly linear fashion with age, it follows that those who have been lost over the last 10 years were, in the abstract, the most monarchist of all, and that with the passage of time support for the monarchy will continue to wane; with the question inevitably coming to a head upon the death of Her Majesty.
Another factor is that Her Majesty, aged an impressive 86 during the diamond jubilee, is now a widow aged 96. I remember my grandparents remarking at how impressive it was to see her standing for a good 3 hours on the royal barge down the Thames. Unfortunately, this time around the people have not been able to see their sovereign as closely, and the lack of her consort has been sorely felt. Seeing as his late Highness was the ‘strength and stay’ of Her Majesty, it is to be expected that celebrations of what was once the royal family cannot be replicated by one lone Queen and a somewhat disorderly rabble of her supposed descendants.
However, one blessing to anyone who values Britain, tradition, conservatism, or common sense, is that coverage of Harry and Meghan has been relatively limited. After some discussion of whether or not they would attend, fortunately the coverage has returned to the topics of Her Majesty’s health, her unique reign, and the attire of the Duchess of Cambridge.
The good news does not end there. Even in famously ‘progressive’ cities such as London, flags abounded. In my home of Bristol, a local nursery displayed children’s artwork dedicated to Her Majesty, even if no larger businesses marked the occasion. I was pleasantly surprised to be handed a small flag by a smiling employee at Victoria station on bank holiday Friday, and even more pleased to pass it on to a child on the train who was being educated by her father about the origins of our flag and the reign of our queen.
There were always going to be those of a republican persuasion who write articles in the Guardian with titles akin to ‘How to Survive Jubilee Weekend for Republicans’ (by Helen Pidd published on Wednesday 1st June), but articles of this nature were rightly confined to the Guardian and ridiculed by even those of a more moderate conservative disposition on social media. One lone republican protester outside the House of Commons was put in his place by a chorus of God Save the Queen led by myself which bystanders felt inspired to sing along to.
Overall, this jubilee went off with great success. Operation ‘keep Meghan out of the press’ was largely successful, Her Majesty’s appearance gave the strong impression that we have come to expect, and anti-monarchist sentiment was kept to a minimum. However, while this weekend has been a worthwhile celebration of what it means to be British after a decade of struggle over the questions of Brexit, Black Lives Matter, and sub-state nationalism, it does not give any suggestions as to how these questions may be answered; as opposed to put aside.
While this weekend demonstrated the truism that to not display some form of reverence for Her Majesty is a social taboo, the same does not extend to any other royals – with the potential exception of the Duchess of Cambridge, leaving the monarchy open to serious threats in the future. While there have been some suggestions that the monarchy will outlive Her Majesty, such as the lack of complaint or ridicule over the Prince of Wales delivering the speech at the opening of this session of parliament, there is an immense gap in the respect offered to Her Majesty, and that offered to her successor, which leaves serious problems for the future of the monarchy. T
he announcement that the Duchess of Cornwall will become queen consort demonstrates that the nation is starting to move on from Diana, but whether or not this new liberal monarchy can succeed in a world increasingly hostile to the values on which any monarchy rests remains to be seen.