Leading article

Queen Elizabeth the great

The second Elizabethan age has been an era of achievement – and the Queen deserves a significant share of the credit

5 September 2015

9:00 AM

5 September 2015

9:00 AM

That the Queen has lived to become our longest-reigning monarch — a milestone which she will mark quietly with a lunch next Wednesday — is in itself a sign of the golden age of prosperity which has been the second Elizabethan age. Over the 63 years of her reign, life expectancy for women has increased by a dozen years, to 83. The Queen may be remarkable for her age, but she is far from alone in modern Britain for having lived to a great age in good health. A team of 12 is now needed to send out royal telegrams congratulating those of her subjects to celebrate their 100th birthday.

To the increase in longevity over the past six decades can be added huge economic and social advancements. Almost all of it would, of course, have happened whoever was on the throne — and, as the Queen recognises, no matter who was in Downing Street. In a speech to the UN five years ago, she observed a truth that few politicians acknowledge: the greatest achievements are not guided by leaders, but by people being left alone to achieve what they can. ‘Remarkably, many of these sweeping advances have come about not because of governments, committee resolutions, or central directives — although all these have played a part — but instead because millions of people around the world have wanted them.’

The Queen’s own patriotism — a faith in the courage and character of her subjects — has informed her approach to her reign. She does not itch, as her eldest son sometimes does, to steer ministers one direction or another. Her approach has been one of service. Her daily schedule would alarm and exhaust someone half her age.


The most remarkable aspect of her reign is not its longevity, but its success. Britain has achieved something almost unprecedented in the history of human societies: the peaceful unwinding of an empire which, with a few exceptions, has been neither violent nor tragic. The Queen leads the Commonwealth with as much confidence as her great-great-grandmother ruled the empire; the difference being, of course, that membership of the Commonwealth is by choice and it is therefore an institution which is likely to be far longer lasting.

The Queen has succeeded in persuading former colonies to maintain an alliance with Britain because she is the world’s most accomplished diplomat. She is a tireless traveller and a meticulous observer of protocol. It is a tribute to her skill and carefulness that, even after being the centre of national life and appearing on a public platform in some form for almost every day for the past six decades, we still have next to no idea of her politics. We can guess, from her interests, that her private views are probably more aligned with those of the Countryside Alliance than the animal rights groups. Yet if she has political conversations in private, these have never leaked out.

Stability is one of the greatest arguments for monarchy, and one to which republicans tend to blind themselves. European countries from Portugal to Russia had miserable experiences after ditching their monarchies. Even the US, which can claim to be one of the world’s finest democracies, might benefit from having a non-political head of state. The partisanship which afflicts US institutions from the Supreme Court downwards is not something from which British national life suffers.

The hopelessness of the republican cause in Britain was underlined when, two decades ago, an opinion poll asked the public whom they would like to be their first president should Britain become a republic. The most popular choice — from a prepared list — was Princess Anne. The Queen was not offered as a choice, but doubtless she would have been chosen had she been an option. Those who try to belittle royal events, or play down public support for celebrations such as the Queen’s jubilees, are invariably confounded by the mass turnout.

That is the point about the reign of Elizabeth II. It is not just that the British public supports the monarchy by a very comfortable majority; they hold the Queen herself in huge affection — so much so that not even the Scottish Nationalists, who would happily untie everything else from the Act of Union, wish to remove the Queen as their head of state.

The British monarchy could easily have crumbled in 1936, or fallen with the empire, or been weakened by the marital scandals of the 1990s. That the crown has never been stronger is largely down to the strength of character of the Queen herself. She has preserved and strengthened the monarchy through humility and patriotism. The people whom she has served with such devotion have every reason to wish that the second Elizabethan age lasts many more years.

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  • rob232

    A very nicely written article but quite a load of old rubbish. What is a successful reign bearing in mind that the events from 1953 to 2015 had little to do with her efforts or planning? Things left in her hands such as educating her family, preparing her son for kinghood have hardly been very successful.
    The Russian revolution was much more than simply declaring a republic and it is dishonest to suggest otherwise. France, Germany,Italy Greece have not looked back since abolishing their monarchies. Spain regrets restoring the Bourbons.
    A nice tribute but really silly.

    • Hugh

      the spanish don’t regret it, the kings popularity is on the rise.

      • rob232

        Juan Carlos left the monarchy in tatters. His manipulative mistress lived in the palace, his estranged wife in London and he hunted elephants in Africa. His daughter and her husband being prosecuted for the millions they stole from the state. Forced to abdicate his son took over with a very low key coronation ( they couldn’t push their luck with celebrations). The monarchy couldn’t become more unpopular so one thinks things can only get better. However the monarchy as an institution is very unpopular in Spain.

  • Hegelman

    “European countries from Portugal to Russia had miserable experiences after ditching their monarchies.”

    Since the monarchy got them into messes in the first place, they could hardly be the answer. It is like a businessman who has bankrupted a company smugly telling the redundant employees that things were much better under him.

    People who argue for monarchy are always dim wits.

    • laurence

      Precisely. BoJo rather exemplifies your point. Charles Moore’s fawning encomium in The Telegraph is toe-curling awful.

    • jeremy Morfey

      No member of the royal family has ever told me I am redundant.

      Plenty from civil society have, including those in the political cronocracy who bankrupted the nation paying out malpractice fines for bankers and foreign-based organised criminals, who then awarded themselves megabonuses from the proceeds. Not even the Duke of York got away with that.

    • jennybloggs

      And people who are too clever by half always end up loathed. Both Thatcher and Blair were widely hated, and therefore divisive, but there is a country beyond factional politics, and to represent that country we need a non party political head of state. It would not be possible to elect a figure who could attract the majority support which the queen has.

      • Paul Montgomery

        Somehow if the old bag had to fight an election defending her record etc., this majority would soon disappear.

        • right1_left1

          That gave me a chuckle at 02 ; 00 on Monday the 7th
          Not sleeping too well

          • Paul Montgomery

            She would come out very badly from a Paxman style interrogation.
            We would see how grossly overrated she is.,

  • MahatmaFarage

    Propaganda for dimwits.

    This week my German and Austrian friends demonstrated how to respond to a crisis in compassionate fashion – we are presented with Ms Justine Greening on TV telling us all about how she is managing decline, her own it would appear.

    • jeremy Morfey

      Since when did Ms Justine Greening represent the Royal Family, rather than the dimwits who voted for her Party?

      I have frequently attacked the present Government on a wide number of things, not least their lack of compassion (perhaps again only representing the dimwits who voted for them), but I do think Cameron is right to concentrate on those poor souls stuck in the camps, rather than those who took matters into their own hands, undermining the very principles of justice and national order they claim to be fleeing towards. Unless they are fifth columnists – in which case they should be arrested, interrogated, and if let in, followed.

      Germany and Austria act with the very best intentions and with the very best motives, I am sure, but paying ransom demands only encourages more to try it on. It is a form of moral blackmail. Syria is just one country emptying its population. What if Egypt, Iran, Congo, Indonesia, China even follows suit?

      • Mary Ann

        Problem is, as they are already in Europe and something has to be done with them, as a unified Europe it is not fair to expect countries like Hungry Italy and France to bear the brunt just because they are on the edges of the EU Hungry could perhaps turn them away but there’s nothing that France and Italy could do apart from take them in.

      • EUROJESUS

        JG is an appointed Minister in Her Majesty’s government.

    • right1_left1

      re your German/Austian friends response to a crisis.

      Just wait till the bills start arriving !
      I read somewhere that the estimated future cost to Germany is 10 billion euros. A total guess I suppose but the figure will NOT be negligable

      adding : i have a feeling i may have missed ur point.
      If so i couldnt care less
      Stop being so mysterious..

      • MahatmaFarage

        Who cares what the bill is? You’re not paying it, unless you are German.
        Stop being such a cretinous dolt. This is not the daily mail website.

    • jennybloggs

      The Austrians and Germans are already pulling back on their commitments to refugees.

  • victor67

    All she has done is manage to stay alive , not that difficult given her obscene amounts of inherited wealth
    A truly archaic instituiton that has no place in a modern democratic society .It should have been dropped in the middle ages where it belongs

    • Augustus

      “A truly archaic instituiton that has no place in a modern democratic society .It should have been dropped in the middle ages where it belongs”

      Substitute that reference to the Queen with Islam and you have identified a far more modern societal problem. A president doesn’t do the job for nothing either. And I wouldn’t be happy with a turd like Hollande, I’d rather have the Queen any day.

      • Paul Montgomery

        Only an idiot would find the constitutional roles of old Lizzie & Hollande comparable.

        • Augustus

          I quite agree, and that’s why the overwhelming majority of people in this country don’t want an elected president.

          • Paul Montgomery

            I think that you are confused.

            I suspect that your knowledge is limited to executive presidents like Holland & Obama.

            It would be far more sensible to have a president who is not involved in the day to day running of government as in Germany,Ireland,Italy etc..

  • right1_left1

    It always amazes me how we are told on the one hand that the monarch has no political role and on the other hand she has achieved so much.
    Sitting on a thorne<– amusung typo lol) smiling and waving an arm is not much of an achievement.

    Enough is enough.
    The time is approaching.
    No King Charles or whoever is available when the time comes.

    An anachronisim cocooned in an absurd level of privilege.

    • jeremy Morfey

      I disagree. If that’s all she needs to do to keep the constitution in good order and the nation fit to reign over, then that’s quite an achievement in itself. Imagine the mess President Blair or President Scargill or President Thatcher would have made of it by working at it much harder. It is right and proper that the Head of State (as well as the scrutinising chamber) should be free of Party politics, and so it is, even if each royal has their own particular passions to patronise (and that is in a positive sense, rather than the way feminists use it).

      I fear King Charles (if he outlives his mother) will face a much tougher time of it, with a world war looming, ecological catastrophe and a collapse in the meaning of money. I think he’ll make a fine king, and so will his son.

      • right1_left1

        A rather odd response Mr Morfey..

        Both Blair and Thatcher did make a complete mess when in power and Lillibet did nothing about it.
        Basically ‘cos she cant. (In theory anyway)

        Privilege of the type enjoyed by a monartch is not earned.
        It simply depends on their location when they first emerge and their bottom smacked. !

        • jeremy Morfey

          Indeed, but in both cases the blame for that can be laid with the electorate, not the Queen. Neither Thatcher nor Blair exceeded their powers beyond what the Constitution allowed them (for example by cancelling a General Election and ruling by decree).

          The closest we got recently to the sort of Constitutional abuse that warranted royal intervention came with the Single Sex Marriage Act of 2014, which was pushed through Parliament without it being in any election manifesto nor in any Queen’s Speech, without a Green Paper or White Paper, without proper public consultation, guillotined through both houses, and the Second Reading debate was a disgrace where both proposer and Opposition used up 90 minutes of grossly curtailed parliamentary time saying precisely the same thing. Nor did it have overwhelming public support – polls put it at around 50/50 with the young and secular favouring the Bill and the old and religious against it. However, it had overwhelming media support, and anyone successfully opposing the Bill would have been crucified by very powerful forces there. Effectively the media hijacked democracy, and the public let them get away with it. The partiality of the BBC in particular did it no favours when having to renew its Charter, which relies on its impartiality on all contentious issues.

          The other dodgy move was entry into the Iraq War, where the Prime Minister deceived Parliament and the Nation. A degree of political justice has been done now, with the likely election of Jeremy Corbyn to lead the party that was in Government then, but it might have warranted some royal intervention if the Queen felt it was against the interest of her subjects.

          In both cases, I suspect the Queen felt it was not a battle worth fighting – she no doubt discussed the whole thing with the Prime Minister of the day during the weekly Audience.

          The whole point of an hereditary Head of State is that no political process put her there – therefore she and her successors cannot be corrupted by what passes for democracy in the Lower House, or the Party croneyism of the Upper House that has rendered the Lords useless since they ditched the hereditaries there.

          • right1_left1

            (1) you appear to have a touching faith in what the ‘public’ can do especially as political debate is conducted in such amorphous terms
            Vote for me and I will make things better
            or
            What is needed is a solution to the crisis in Syria
            Both of which say nothing of substance and allow scope for any kind of subsequent policy which may or may not be subjected to media glare dissection and attempted destruction.

            The BBC is in full party political mode at the moment re the population movements.

            (2) You appear to have a touching faith in what the Queen can or cannot do.
            You respond as a SUBJECT should:
            I dont.

            If the Queen does NOTHING politically then clearly she will not exhibit political corruption either.
            Go with the flow babes !

            Incidently: do we have a constitution or dont we ?
            I get very confused on that issue.
            Also historically ye (typo lol) monarchs were either put into place by God (a likely story on a par the the promise of land to Israel) or got there by the application of force and some cases homicide.
            (see again Israel,)

          • jeremy Morfey

            So everything happens by accident? What then do we pay our politicians for?

            You have put the royals in a bind there – if they do nothing, they are not earning their keep; if they do anything, they are interfering. The balance they strike has been worked on over centuries – a constitutional monarchy extends to a political backstop when things get really bad, careful nurturing of the military so ambitious generals are kept benign, and patronage of charities corresponding to their personal interests: in the case of the Prince of Wales, it is the environment, religious tolerance, opportunity for deprived city youngsters, and community architecture. For the Princess Royal, it is horses and starving children, and so on.

            A study of British history reveals the process by which the Queen was crowned. Apart from simple inheritance, if Edward VIII had not abdicated, then we might have ended up governed by Hitler, but even if we didn’t, the present Queen would have come to the throne in 1972 when Edward died.

            Victoria owes her position to the principle in British Constitution recognising female rights to the throne – otherwise we’d have ended up with the Duke of Cumberland, and eventually perhaps Kaiser Bill.

            George I came in after the last of the Stuarts died without surviving heirs because of religion. The British Constitution until 2011 fobade Catholics or spouses of Catholics to claim the throne, and he was the nearest Stuart descendant who was a Protestant. Otherwise, we’d have ended up first with Bonnie Prince Charlie, and then the King of Naples and a French cardinal.

            Henry VII took the throne by combat from Richard III. His claim was the ambitious social climb of a Welsh peasant, Owen Tudor and cemented his dynasty by marrying the surviving child of Edward IV. Edward IV’s claim was tentative – his legitimate father was away on campaign nine months before he was born, and a handsome tall French cavalier happened to be visiting the castle where his mother was. Edward bore an uncanny resemblance to this French nobleman. If his claim was declared null and void, then we’d have ended up with King Simon, a republican drongo living somewhere in the Australian outback.

            If we’d have recognised the legitimacy of William IV’s daughters, then who knows we’d might have David Cameron as King now.

            Anyway, what’s important is none of this came about through PR, corporate patronage and a stupid electorate that will swallow anything spun at them.

          • right1_left1

            “interesting” post

            My main regret is that Oliver Cromwell died too soon.
            Like Enoch Powell he was a visionary.
            A bit touched by religion possiblwelfare y but at root an all round good guy.

            He MUST be judged by the ethos of the times.
            Not by namby pamby posy wosy spineless lets all weep together.products of modern left leaning Uni welfare dependent pseuds.

            Boadiccea was a right witch too.

          • right1_left1

            re parliamentary political debate
            I forget the subject but that last I actually listened to for an hour two (yes I did !!) contributions were superficial mostly consisting of dreary repetition.
            Since career progress is at stake I guess this is the norm !

            The originals I recall were John Redwood Frank Field and one or two others whose names I forget.

  • Gilbert White

    She has done well but Mayerling will lose it no doubt.

  • davidofkent

    I’m at a loss to understand what part in our political and social evolution our Queen and Royal Family took. The Monarch’s role is purely to add some window-dressing and she does that beautifully. At no time have any members of the Royal Family contributed any work towards the society we now have. The Queen’s success has been in maintaining sufficient popularity for the idea of our British Monarchy to ensure that the family retains its privileges. It will not be the same for the next monarch, presumably King George VII, as Prince Charles wishes to be known on his succession.

    • jeremy Morfey

      The internationally-important National Top Fruit Collection at Brogdale in Kent, whose site was going to be sold off by the Thatcher Government for executive housing development, but was rescued at the last minute by the Prince of Wales.

      • samton909

        It’s a shame about Prince Charles. he will become King and then,, poof! The earth will be destroyed by global warming.

        • jeremy Morfey

          Except it won’t be. The Earth will be around until the Sun blows up in a few billion years time, unless a meteor gets it first.

          What might well be destroyed by global warming is civilisation. As certain climates degenerate, creating firestorms and deserts in some places and typhoons in others, the damage to the human infrastructure will force whole populations to migrate or scrap with one another for whatever land can be habited. As the mass migrations occur, this will destabilise host nations, which themselves descend into civil war. Government will be impossible under such circumstances, and then it will be the survival of the least scrupulous. Most of the monuments of civilisation will be blown up, but some might survive as curiosities.

          If, say 4 or 5 billion people can slaughter one another, then that leaves us with a human population the Earth can support, and on it goes. There may well be a mass extinction of a wide number of species from soil bacteria to elephants, and as key predators are killed off by humanity, certain prey species without their natural control will take over in a great plague. The most likely are jellyfish, since much life in the oceans will be exterminated by humanity. Who knows, in a few million years, those jellyfish might evolve into an intelligent species that aliens from outer space can communicate with. Who’d have thought that Spock the Vulcan would be making First Contact with a jellyfish! How does a jellyfish do that strange four fingered salute?

          • right1_left1

            Dont forget bacteria as the most likely prime survivors of any impending global catastrophe.

            In you last para you sound like Dr Strangelove lol

            adding : the Yellowstone volcano is scheduled to add some mayhem in the not to distant future
            Expect massive retaliation from the US Air Force

          • jeremy Morfey

            Let’s bomb the shit out of that mother-fucker volcano.

            Freedom & democracy will of course then prevail.

  • trace9

    A doll in fancy dress.

  • Precambrian

    The Queen is part of an aesthetic that does not fit with the transient modern world, and so will be abandoned with her passing.

    And we will be so much the poorer for it.

  • SNP “AJOCKALYPSE”

    “The purring queen” will live to see Scotland become independent, and then a republic.

    YES SCOTLAND

    • sidor

      Do you mean a EU republic? A change of the imperial affiliation?

      This continental patriotism was quite popular 300-400 years ago. Remember, remember the 5th of November…

    • samton909

      And then the fairies will come and present the world with a magic elixir to bring about world peace.

      • SNP “AJOCKALYPSE”

        Support for SNP : 62%…… and rising.

        Support for SNP amongst 16-34yr olds : 73%

        Support for independence : 53%…….and rising.

        Support for union : 44%……and falling.

        This is only going one way, the outcome is “inevitable”.

        Scotland is on the one road to independence.

        YES SCOTLAND

        • jeremy Morfey

          What is support for a republic? After all the Queen is more Scottish than English. Even her German ancestors were descended from James VI.

          • SNP “AJOCKALYPSE”

            I don’t know that one, but I suspect that support for a Scottish Republic will continually increase.

            YES SCOTLAND

          • SNP “AJOCKALYPSE”

            Her ethnicity is irrelevant . The monarch is an undemocratic throwback,

        • Picquet

          Carry on. Even as a Scot I find that sort of belief juvenile; and I’ve seen a lot of African countries.

          • SNP “AJOCKALYPSE”

            You are as ignorant as you are arrogant.

          • Picquet

            Very probable.

      • Steve Larson

        Betty Windsor has a magic elixir that brings peace and the fairies. It is called Gin.

  • Lady Magdalene

    Yes, it’s been quite an achievement to take an independent Sovereign nation and turn it into a satrapy of the EU over the past 50 years, with no mandate from the people to do so.
    Personally, I wouldn’t call it a sign of patriotism though. Treachery, yes.

    • Mary Ann

      So you have forgotten about the last referendum with its reference to greater union.

      • Lady Magdalene

        You mean in 1975. The Establishment deliberately lied in order to get the vote they wanted …. as Heath admitted in later life.
        The British people were assured they were joining a Trading Club and there would be no loss of Sovereignty.
        40 years later, with no mandate, and we can’t govern our own country.
        And the Queen has signed every single Treaty transferring power from our elected Parliament to the unelected, unaccountable EU.
        Personally I don’t think that’s anything to celebrate.

        • right1_left1

          Good post.
          I voted NO to entry.

          I came to that conclusion due to some programmes on BBC Panorama (can you believe that ?) presented and possibly created/written by an American correspondent Robert McNeil

          Pretty sure that was his name
          My memory is fading fast lol.
          Almost correct
          His name is spelt MacNeil and he is Canadian.

  • Dogsnob

    What’s to cheer about a reign during which the nation has been lost without even a fight?

    • To the extent that your contention is true, D., it’s hardly E. Windsor’s fault!

      • Dogsnob

        The Second Elizabethan Age will not be remembered as the ‘Great’ period that this and so many other articles go to great pains to try to construct.

        • I’d rather live in THIS reign than in the first!

          • Dogsnob

            It’s not all about us. We will be gone and those who are to live with the consequences of this craven reign, will occupy a most dreadful age.

          • You mean: you hope we shall be gone. And I think we’re talking at cross-purposes. I am saying that whatever has fallen away during this queen’s reign is not her fault.

          • Dogsnob

            There’s little here to do with hope. What I meant by gone is ‘dead’. That’s a thing we all seem to be ignoring: again, we are not important; the ones we leave are the main story.
            As far as the current Monarch goes, of course she is not to be held personally responsible for the absolute catastrophe which has taken place during her reign. But the unavoidable fact is that she will be recognised in future years, as the Queen whose time on the throne witnessed the passing of Britain from Sovereign state, to Euro acolyte, in preparation for the new theocracy.
            Elizabeth the Handled, perhaps.

          • Callipygian

            Yes, I knew what you meant by ‘gone’. I don’t know your age but I’m only in my 40s. If I live to be 100, or even 90 or 80, anything could change by then.

            If the future is as dire as you say it is, I doubt that she or we shall be remembered at all.

          • Dogsnob

            50s me. The age when it’s no longer embarrassing to pop off. Lost 2 of my old mates this last year. But that’s just it: we seem to take our reluctance to face mortality, to a ridiculous degree, such that we simply do not think of what we leave to those who follow. And we should. We make more fuss about sodding polar bears than we do our kids.
            We seem happy to watch as their world – which didn’t just fall to us but was won at great expense – is just given away.

            You make a valid point in that QE2 and her reign stand a fair chance of being erased.
            Sorry to bang on in such a dispiriting way but, quite honestly, how could the future be any other way? How might Western culture – with all its faults, admittedly – be saved?

  • Augustus

    All members of the Royal Family live in a fishbowl in which their lives are always on display, and the press and paparazzi are forever buzzing around and passing judgment, along with everyone else. That cannot be a particularly pleasant way to go through life. The Queen herself is indeed remarkable for her age, and throughout her long and often bumpy reign she has taken her position seriously and has served her nation well. Her role may be largely symbolic, but it is a popular role because it signifies a sense of continuity as well as a link with the past.

    • Paul Montgomery

      You may now rise to a kneeling position.

  • Picquet

    I wouldn’t be too surprised if the percentages in favour of retaining HM the Q as our Sovereign had changed since the date when the nation (or a tiny ‘representative’ portion) was asked whether they would consider a republic to be of greater benefit. The nation’s makeup has since been intentionally changed by one of her Governments, in a deliberate attempt to change national attitudes, for – specifically – their own political and personal ambitions. It is quite likely that the malignant effect on our society which this conspiracy has had will show up in any current poll.

  • Steve Larson

    A gin hound who never did a real day’s work in her life.

    Her contribution didn’t change or shape the last 60+ years at even the smallest level.

    • What a petty and ignorant remark. I hope you find some way to drown your ingratitude, poor bloke.

      • Steve Larson

        Never worked a day in her life. Spin it all you like but that remains the truth.

        • Depends how you define ‘work’. Your presumably restricted definition would exclude millions of other people, as well.

  • Jackthesmilingblack

    Long live the Queen. Save us from Prince Chuck.

  • My American husband: ‘Great lady: good for her’. And me, as her subject: Long live the Queen! Though there are a few close contenders in recent times, she is probably the warmest, most knowledgeable, and most decent person ever to reign over us — in the history of the British Isles — and I shall be genuinely sad when she goes.

  • Amgine

    I guess we could have a non-political head of state with no actual political influence at home, only a visiting dignitary who promotes the UK abroad and helps with social cohesion through the land. We could still make this post more democratic through elections. Last time I read about who people would want as our head of state, Richard Branson’s name was being touted. Nowadays, we’d probably elect Malala Yousafzai. And, why not if she becomes a British Citizen?

    I’d suggest, as the first election, we should allow all citizens to stand, including the current monarch. Even if Elizabeth was voted into the post, at least it would be democratic and she could be removed without any bloodshed at the end of her term in office.

  • Augustus

    “A milestone which she will mark quietly with a lunch next Wednesday”

    I hope she enjoyed her lunch. Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to propose a toast to: The Queen. May the second Elizabethan age last for many more years!

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