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Queen's unstinting devotion to duty will be her greatest legacy

Editor's Viewpoint

Published 09/09/2015

Longevity: The Queen in 1975
Longevity: The Queen in 1975

You don't have to be a royalist, or even a loyalist, to recognise the immense contribution that Queen Elizabeth II has made to the United Kingdom, and indeed the Commonwealth, during her reign which today sees her becoming the longest serving monarch in British history.

Through selfless service and devotion to duty she has maintained the monarchy as the cornerstone of British society and won the admiration of countless people around the world.

And in this small part of it, we are indebted to her continuing interest in the Province, which she has visited an astonishing 24 times as Princess and Queen, and her pivotal role in cementing the peace process and bringing relationships between the UK and Ireland to a level of cordiality and mutual respect unimaginable not so many years ago.

Her ground-breaking visit to the Republic in 2011 showed that she was prepared to go the extra mile in pursuit of creating a new atmosphere. She laid a wreath at the Garden of Remembrance in honour of those who had fought for Irish independence and stunned guests at the state banquet by opening her address in Irish. The following year she shook hands with former IRA commander Martin McGuinness in Belfast and he showed his willingness to reciprocate by attending a royal banquet at Windsor Castle last year.

These meetings could not have been easy for the Queen whose second cousin Lord Mountbatten was killed by the IRA. During her visit to Dublin she offered a rare insight into her grief. "These events have touched all of us, many of us personally, and are a painful legacy," she said, showing that royals still bleed like the rest of us.

Only once before had she so openly spoke of her feelings when describing 1992 as her annus horribilis following Princess Anne's divorce from Mark Phillips, the separation of Prince Charles and Princess Diana and Prince Andrew from the Duchess of York and a disastrous fire at Windsor Castle.

She may be one of the most recognisable people on the planet, but in an era when self-promotion is everything we still know very little about the woman behind the crown. An undercover reporter who worked as a footman at Buckingham Palace could find out little more than that she lived relatively frugally, ate breakfast out of Tupperware and liked EastEnders.

Yet this is a monarch who has seamlessly carried out her role through a rapidly changing political and cultural landscape, from the austerity of post-war Britain where debs were still presented at court, to today's multi-cultural society, awash with consumerism and increasingly secular.

In her role as head of the Anglican Church she has been keen to emphasise the timeless value of Christian principles. As a mother and grandmother she has endured the same heartaches as many of her subjects - break-up of children's marriages, the death of her daughter-in-law - but always borne with a steely resolve.

While good health and good genes have enabled her to reach today's milestone, it has been her devotion to duty - ably assisted by Prince Philip always a dutiful and watchful step behind - which will be her greatest legacy. She has held the monarchy in the safest of hands, ensuring that it will continue to be at the centre of British society for generations to come.

Belfast Telegraph

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