As the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebration drew to a close, a heartbreaking moment on the balcony of Buckingham Palace sent a clear message to the public.
If you were looking for the queen during the four days of the Platinum Jubilee, she was everywhere: on masks, kitchen towels, projections on Stonehenge, on the facade of Buckingham Palace in the lights, on every front page, on YouTube and on social networks. adorably drinking tea with Paddington Bear and even waving from the golden Imperial State Coach with a dainty hologram.
But in the flesh? For the woman who said, “To be believed, I must be seen”? A person who is widely believed to have ever met more people than any other person?
Her Majesty was AWOL.
In fact, with the garlands down and the horses safely tucked away in the Royal Mews, if you add up her three short turns on the Palace balcony and her appearance in the Windsor Castle quadrangle to light the jubilee beacon on Thursday evening, Her Majesty appeared in public in total 27 minutes for the entire anniversary.
The grim reality is that despite over 10,000 attendees, a $40 million bill, and the fact that her renegade royal grandson and granddaughter Harry and Meghan, the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, flew in for the grand event, we saw the Queen less than half an hour.
I would be so happy at this moment if I could say that the reason was that, in a fit of amazing stubbornness, she refused to leave her sofa because she wanted to catch up. succession or that after 70 years of work, she was just tired of playing mahi and wanted nothing more than to solve her Sudoku with the biggest genie in the world.
But we all know that this, unfortunately, is not true.
After a lifetime of tireless service and politely inquiring, “What are you doing?” by about 2,349,859 times age has very much caught up with the 96-year-old, whose growing weakness is all too obvious.
During Trooping the Color on Thursday, she made two brief appearances on the Palace balcony, causing such “discomfort” that she was unable to attend the thanksgiving service the following day at St. Paul’s Cathedral.
(On the other hand, by at least skipping it, she saved herself from having to sit during the first public reunion of the Sussexes face to face with Prince Charles, William and Kate, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, a situation that was about as relaxed as the exchange Cold War prisoners at Checkpoint Charlie.)
Saturday came, and despite the fact that Her Majesty loves the beautiful filly more than anything, including some may object to her children, she was not at the Derby Racecourse in Epsom, putting a five on each side on a couple of sure things, but again in Windsor. keeping your strength.
She was not at the palace party on Saturday night, nor in the auditorium of the platinum pageant on Sunday.
However, when the Royal Standard was raised in the middle of the competition, the jig was completed with the last discussed appearance on the balcony, along with Charles and his wife Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, the Cambridges and their three children, clearly about to be done.
When Her Majesty, dressed in a green dress by Stuart Parvin, carefully and slowly stepped out to greet the masses, it only lasted about three minutes.
As she walked back inside, the inevitable question was: would we ever see Her Majesty again on that most iconic of balconies?
Because while Jubilee was in many ways a joyful, raucous party and a touching tribute to a woman almost everyone adored, it was also an obvious book, ending her reign with unmistakable poignancy.
Yes, there is every chance (at least I hope so) that the Empress will live to be 101 years old, the age at which her own mother passed away, but what we have just witnessed this weekend is the end age of the second Elizabethan era.
The chances of seeing Her Majesty in public again in the near future seem slim, unless her health miraculously improves.
Beyond her weekly audience with Prime Minister Boris Johnson (a duty any sane person would be happy to slip) and granting her royal assent to legislation, for all intents and purposes, Charles is now sovereign in all but title.
It was the 73-year-old who took the salute at the Trooping the Color event, presided over the State Opening of Parliament and has represented the Crown at Commonwealth Heads of Government meetings since 2013.
If one of the key themes of the anniversary was honoring the queen, then another, no less important motive was to instill the faith of society in the future of the monarchy.
Again and again we saw the Cambridges and their children. Unlike in the past, when the little ones were taken out only in carefully rationed public doses, this weekend they were everywhere and attended all the same events as their parents, with the exception of St. Paul’s service.
Check out the video of the Queen and other members of the royal family making their way onto the Palace balcony after the pageant, and there’s a slightly heartbreaking moment when young Prince Louis, 4, is wedged between his older brother and his Hans. Gan. His father, William, instead puts his hands on his shoulders and helps him stand next to his mother to the side.
Louis may be the son, grandson, and great-grandson of the next three kings, but as fifth in line to the throne, he is not considered in a purely royal sense.
The tiny prince might have been adored by the masses and totally loved by his family, but he had no place in the finely posed iconography of the moment.
The palace frankly wanted to end the anniversary with one last shot: the queen surrounded by heirs. The supposed message was loud and clear: King Charles III, King William V and King George VII are waiting in the wings, the future of the monarchy is set.
Her Majesty may look a little shabby and Harry and Meghan may have rushed out, but look! We have a lot of HRH who fucking love doing it!
(Never for a moment underestimate the psychic shock that Her Majesty’s death will hopefully cause in Britain and the Commonwealth in a few years. The Palace is clearly aware of this and is already beginning a very delicate business in an attempt to smooth the way forward for Charles and others.)
Indeed, if you look beyond the drone-created Paddington Bear and Corgi in the night sky, Jubilee was clearly designed with the clear and pragmatic intention of truly building public confidence in the future of the crown.
Because despite being a family with all the theatricality, pouting, and seething resentment that comes with it, the British royal family is also one of the oldest functioning institutions in the world.
Ensuring the survival of the crown is at the heart of what they do, even when gummy-loving computer bears are involved.
Concluding the hearings, the Queen released a personal statement saying: “When it comes to how to celebrate your Queen’s 70th birthday, there is no guideline to follow. This is really the first time.”
“While I may not have attended every event in person, my heart was with you all.”
Ours too, Your Majesty. Ours too…
Daniela Elzer is a royal expert and writer with over 15 years of experience working with a range of leading Australian media outlets.