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Queen Elizabeth II, a life of selfless service so regally borne

By Lindy McDowell

Published 09/09/2015

Long reign: Queen Elizabeth II
is a record-setting monarch
Long reign: Queen Elizabeth II is a record-setting monarch

Today's the day that she makes it into the Royal record books. In the real life game of thrones, around about 5.30 this afternoon, Elizabeth II surpasses even her great-great granny Victoria's previous record to become the longest reigning British monarch. Ever.

Weirdly enough, she only makes it to 48th place on the longest-reigning monarch in global history chart which is topped by Sobhuza of Swaziland. Old Sobhuza managed almost 83 years, up until his death in 1982.

Still, long to reign over us ... you can't say she didn't take that bit seriously.

What will future historians make of her? Are they likely to agree with those acidic comments of present day historian David Starkey that she has never said or done anything that anyone will remember?

A bit extreme that, surely ... for even in the recent history of the complex relationship between the UK and Ireland (to take just one example) her words and gestures of reconciliation have been pretty memorable, powerful stuff.

But it would also be fair to say that whatever sort of queen history judges Elizabeth to have been, no, she will not be remembered as a drama queen.

She is in many ways a creature of the post-millennium era. You can't dispute that this 89-year-old great-grandmother hasn't managed to keep up with the technological age. She tweets. She does selfies.

But in one major respect, she is so very out of step with the times. Where she differs from today's standard issue public figure is that while we think we know everything about her, we know hardly anything. About the real woman beneath the crown, that is.

Elizabeth Windsor will not be going on Piers Morgan's Life Stories any time soon to blub about how she struggled to cope during the Diana crisis or how she now believes she has finally conquered her demons. If HM does indeed have demons, she keeps them under tighter check than the jewels in the Tower of London. Her own opinions have been subsumed beneath the demands of her role.

At her coronation she vowed to serve - "I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great Imperial country to which we all belong."

No one can argue that she hasn't done the business there.

What she must honestly have felt at times, we can only guess at. In 63 long years, she has kept her own views to herself behind that same serene, postage-stamp smile. No Elton-esque strops. Although, God knows, like the rest of us, there must have been days when she has felt like throwing the tiara far enough.

Her critics might counter she's had a pampered, privileged life. True. But who'd want it?

Would it have served her and the monarchy better if, in keeping with these need-to-share times, she'd been a bit more Diana?

Probably not. There comes a point when emotional outpouring just becomes wearying. Nobody needs a needy monarch. What she has delivered (despite the odd wobble during her annus horribilis period) has been stability.

Figurehead is not the most exciting of job descriptions but she has done it brilliantly.

No, she has not been an Elizabeth I, with the latter's legendary audacious gutsiness. Neither has she aimed to be queen of hearts.

But by adhering to those now old-fashioned concepts of being dutiful and steadfast she has earned her own place in history - and not solely on account of longevity.

She has been true to her vow, has steadied and saved the monarchy. But herein ironically lies the monarchy's great misfortune. For it reflects that other thing history may say of her.

Elizabeth II - last of a dying breed.

Putting their shirts on Northern Ireland

What a goal. What a game. What a night. Nobody can say that the Northern Ireland football team doesn't deliver on drama.

Even for those of us who are not particularly big footie fans, it was temperature-raising stuff.

And not just the action on the pitch. Fascinating to see how many of the Green and White Army in the stands took off their shirts to wave them in the air in triumph at the end of Monday's great game.

This on a Baltic September evening in Belfast.

Viewers in Hungary would never guess the truth about our climate.

Let's give refuge to our own needy

It is, of course, commendable that Lord Mayor Arder Carson has led a Belfast City Hall vigil for refugees. All our hearts go out to those poor souls. Of course we want to help them.

But I listened to news of the vigil while travelling down the Ormeau Road early in the cold morning, past a homeless man lying in his sleeping bag in a shop doorway.

What is the council planning to do to help people like him? Bring the refugees here, absolutely. But not as some trite gesture to make ourselves feel pious. Let's ensure those people are properly looked after when they do come here. Let's ensure our homegrown homeless are, too.

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