She’s tiny, wears extraordinary hats and travels everywhere with a purse slung just-so over her arm. (What’s IN there, anyway?) She’s Queen Elizabeth II, who’s about to celebrate 60 years on the throne, a reign second only to Queen Victoria’s 63. She runs the show in the United Kingdom with a palace full of royal relatives, including an eccentric husband, a slightly daffy son and heir to the throne, two rock-star grandsons and an “It Girl” granddaughter-in-law, whose clothes and reproductive status are a subject of incessant global intrigue.
As Britain prepares lavish Diamond Jubilee celebrations for Her Majesty, Style asked Britons living here to explain to us Yanks what we are missing out on by not having a royal family.
For better or worse, wonderful pageantry, profound continuity and rich symbolism. The queen’s sheer stamina has provided for two generations of Britons comforting stability amid a kaleidoscope of change.
— Robert Moore,
Leaders who don’t have to talk to Barbara Walters.
Leaders who don’t have to look as if they are enjoying themselves in public.
— Adrian Higgins,
Post gardening writer
When I was young, I thought Americans missed nothing by not having a royal family. Why worship inherited privilege or waste energy on pointless pomp? I played soccer against Prince Edward’s school, and I kicked him in the shins and thought, “Ha!”
Many years on, I have outgrown my republicanism. Nobody should invent a royal family, but if you’ve got one, why not make the most of it? The royals do seem to unite the country, like the BBC or the national pastime of griping about the lousy weather. They offer glamour of a kind, but with more stability than Hollywood. A friend recently remarked that a royal wedding was just about the only event that excited everybody in his Dorset village. Perhaps polarized Americans are missing something after all.
— Sebastian Mallaby,
journalist and writer
A symbol of exemplary leadership, public service and permanence at an amazingly good price, as well as the best pageantry on Earth. Do Americans miss it, 236 years after separating from the crown? Not for me to say. But 30 million of you watched the royal wedding last year, and I am sure millions more will join us in congratulating Her Majesty on her 60th anniversary. That says something.
— Peter Westmacott,
The crucial roles that the royal family performs, to the immense pride and relief of British subjects:
1. Blocking access to the top spot. The U.S. and the U.K. are seething with limelight seekers, many of whom are tiresome. The royal family blocks these people from cluttering up British TV screens by occupying the top spot in a graceful, authoritative way. Unfortunately, in the U.S. (where I happily live), there is a continuous struggle for said top spot by reality stars and other.
2. Outstanding leadership in hats: How many British women would wear hats if it weren’t for HMQ showing the way? This is all good for one’s skin, stimulates conversation and gives hope to the fashion industry.
3. High-end family TV dramas: No need in the U.K. for shows like “Dynasty.”
— Piers Sellers,
former shuttle astronaut
The queen, who may be as uncertain about her role as the rest of us, but at least she has the dignity to keep it to herself and carry on. Hers is a Beckettian role in 19th-century costume and like “Endgame” not exactly a bundle of fun, but we all love her for playing it.
— Antony Gormley,
artist whose show “ Drawing Space ” is at the Phillips
The fact that all the deference due to a head of state goes to the queen (some would say to a foolish level). But that means that little to no deference is due to the head of government, the prime minister. That, in turn, makes for a generally more feisty relationship with the media that Americans, with their head of state and government represented by the president, might occasionally relish.
— Frances Kerry,
training manager and longtime reporter and editor for Reuters in the Americas
The constant low-rent grumbling about the outrageous cost of bunting this year.
— Margaux Bergen,
vice president for strategic communications at Vital Voices
Continuity, of course. Presidents come and presidents go. But the queen, like a royal version of the dude in “The Big Lebowski,” abides.
— Helen Fitzwilliam,
Bunting (the happiest word in the English language).
Black Velvet: the cocktail invented to commemorate Prince Albert — Guinness and champagne.
Birthday greetings: No one here gets a telegram, card or even Facebook message from the queen on their 100th birthday.
By Appointment: Probably the first and certainly the most discriminating consumer report tool ever.
— Jo Benn, Becky Marshall, Shar Taylor and Sally O’Brien, the “British Birds” at the Pew Charitable Trusts
Not much; a bit of pageantry, some soap opera, but Americans do both better anyway. To be perfectly honest, if royalty impinges on the thought process at all, which it rarely does, I think more of the empress of Japan, with whom I once danced and played tennis, than the queen, though she did once pin a medal on me.
— Jurek Martin,
Financial Times columnist
History. When the first settlement was made here, we in Great Britain had already been around for a couple of thousand years.
— Stephen Rayne,
director of the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s “The Merry Wives of Windsor”
Are Americans missing out by not having their own Brenda (our nickname for QE2)? Yes, emphatically, YES! Brenda is a mooring unifying force. We Brits love Brenda because she is an icon of old-fashioned frumpy consistency. No matter how sleazy, corrupt or trashy the cultural landscape becomes, HRH remains effortlessly and fabulously above it all. She is the un-Kardashian.
The U.S. needs a Brenda now more than ever.
— Simon Doonan,
Slate columnist and creative ambassador, Barneys New York