The monarch has merely been alive to witness historic events
Much of Britain has decided that the last 70 years are to be remembered as the Second Elizabethan era.
The concert in her honour on Saturday outside Buckingham Palace connected her with the major cultural changes in Britain during her period in office. These ranged from the Beatles to bands so recent I can’t surely be expected at my age to know their names.
The problem is that change in the past 70 years has been so massive that it can’t easily be summed up in any other way.
‘That was in the time Elizabeth was on the throne’ they will say, if they are talking about the Suez Crisis or the Irish Peace Process, the death of Churchill or Partygate, Kenyan independence or the handover of Hong Kong to China; the arming of Saudi Arabia to pulverise Yemen and the arming of Ukraine to fend off Russia.
The problem with linking Elizabeth R to all these events is that you can do the same with anyone else who is her age.
Her greatest achievement is surely that she has lived so long. The odds of getting past 90 are still about 100 to 1.
She has been associated contemporaneously with massive change but she did not effect those changes. And for that she was presented with the humble deference of people of real talent and achievement.
The finale was led by Diana Ross. I was watching her on Tops of the Pops when I was a teenager. How could I ever think that the Queen had made more of an impression on me than Diana Ross?
I have never run home to see the Queen’s Speech but I have ordered hush in the living room for Diana Ross and Rod Stewart who was there to lift my spirits in my youth too.
To such real greats; much honour.
They shouldn’t have been deferring to her. It should all have been the other way round.
Maybe that’s just me and my anti-Royal impulses.
But consider this, everyone who remembers the last 70 years was part of the making of that era, if it is an era. Paying homage to the Queen for being old and having been there is neglecting those who really struggled and really did change the times they lived in.
Perhaps there was no Second Elizabethan era.
I think the period will be remembered by something that had much greater impact, television. The television age was stimulated by the broadcast of her coronation and is already on the wane now too as it gives way to the internet.
Of course we watch The Crown on Netflix through our televisions but it is not really the same. At the height of the television age we were all watching together.
The news came on at six o’clock and Richard Baker or Robert Dougall assured us that all was well in calamitous times. The broadcast schedulers controlled everything. Now power has shifted to the audience. We don’t receive television, we control it. We are all schedulers now.
It was also the age of the end of Empire. India had already been partitioned three ways and surrendered in 1947, by Lord Mountbatten, as casually as if he was wrapping up a late night card game, and millions died in the rush to get to the safer side of a new border.
But Nigeria went in 1960, Tanganyika in 1961, Uganda in 1962, Kenya in 1963, Zambia in 1964, Northern Rhodesia in 1964. Southern Rhodesia’s independence was complicated by a white power grab.
And after withdrawal from the colonies came the colouring of Britain so that today London is a gloriously diverse city, more global, more cosmopolitan, more interesting than it could ever have imagined being in 1952.
The Queen has visited the surrendered colonies and welcomed them into the Commonwealth but she must wonder at how her recent predecessors were emperors and how the empire fell apart on her watch.
It was right that it should but she is in the lineage of monarchs who thought they had a God given right to rule other peoples and might have expected that to continue when the crown was placed on her head.
This was also the era of sexual liberation.
There had been a loosening up of the old strictures during the war but a return to them in the Fifties. The iconic image of that time is the nuclear family around a coal fire in a small living room.
The children of the Fifties family could expect to have many sexual partners before they married, if they married at all.
And following on that came the feminist revolution, perhaps the greatest cultural revolution of our time though one on which the Queen has not taken a leadership role. And then the gay revolution. It is not unusual now to see a same-sex couple holding hands in the street. In Belfast the Pride parade is as big as the Twelfth.
Economic growth was amazing too. I think there were four cars in our street in 1960.
Should we call it the era of central heating which we learnt to take for granted and now see becoming too expensive?
The world has been transformed in these 70 years which are coincidentally the years of Elizabeth II and the period of my own life, so far.
It has been a marvellous time but I take no credit for it and neither should she.