'She's magic, but the world ain't magic': People reflect on the Royal Family as the Queen celebrates 70 years on the throne

Sky News

Hands up if you’re excited about the Platinum Jubilee… from doughnut makers to champagne houses to dogs’ charities my inbox has been bombarded as everyone’s getting in on the act.

The first big national celebration since the start of the pandemic, a chance for us to actually come out and party together, is undoubtedly a big deal. And don’t forget we really haven’t ever seen anything like it.

No other British monarch has ever reached 70 years on the throne and a Platinum Jubilee. It will be a huge international event, where the spotlight will again be on the Queen and of course how much we’ll see her over the four days of celebrations, after her recent problems walking.

But inevitably the world will also be watching her family, and after a difficult time for the Windsors recently, with the Prince Andrew saga and what happened with the Sussexes. In some ways it’ll be a test to see how Britain is really feeling about the monarchy.

“She’s magic, but the world ain’t magic at the minute,” are the words of Francis Bloss, the new landlord at the Jubilee Pub on Queen’s Square in Hemel Hempstead.

The pub is on the Adeyfield estate, one of the first towns Elizabeth visited as Queen in 1952.

The black and white footage of the visit immediately takes you back; the plummy voiced broadcaster comments on the little half-naked girl standing outside a house in only her cotton shorts as a young glamorous Queen Elizabeth walks out.

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The Jubilee pub was opened after that visit, on Sunday the bunting and platinum signs are up, but Francis isn’t as excited about the weekend as I expected a landlord to be.

“I’m looking forward to it because it’s going to bring a crowd into the pub which the hospitality (sector) needs at the minute.”

But he adds: “I think there are going to be a lot of sceptical people out there, there’ll be a lot of people who are just thinking it’s two days extra off work.

“I think it’s going to be mixed, because you’ve got all the scandal that’s come with the royal family at the minute. If I was to ask a lot of young people, they wouldn’t care one way or the other, it’s always the older generation now that will because we’ve grown up knowing her from when she was young”.

And there’s the cost-of-living crisis too, he says: “Self-employment you lose two days money and that’s got to hurt a lot of families”.

Francis Bloss is the landlord of the Jubilee Pub on Queen's Square in Hemel Hempstead, one of the first towns Elizabeth visited as Queen in 1952
Francis Bloss is the landlord of the Jubilee Pub on Queen’s Square in Hemel Hempstead, one of the first towns Elizabeth visited as Queen in 1952
The Jubilee pub was opened after the Queen's visit
The Jubilee pub was opened after the Queen’s visit

The royals have shown there is ‘great stability in a constitutional monarchy’

Donna Ellis, who works behind the bar is more excited: “I like the Queen, it’s good for the country considering what we’ve had to put up with over the last few years, I think we should all be out celebrating and making a big deal out of it really”.

Some of the locals tell me their grandparents lived on the estate when the Queen came, I ask Stuart Hazlett what reaction her majesty or her family would get now.

“She’d be alright,” he tells me. “I don’t know about the rest of them. I suppose it all depends on if she bought a drink or not”. He laughs.

Donna Ellis, who works behind the bar, is excited about the Platinum Jubilee
Donna Ellis, who works behind the bar, is excited about the Platinum Jubilee

Throughout her 70-year reign there have been difficulties that the monarchy has had to navigate. Decades of social and political change, the economic troubles of the 1970s provided the backdrop for the Silver Jubilee in 1977, the Golden Jubilee in 2002 came after a decade of dramas for the royal family and while there was huge excitement around the Diamond Jubilee in 2012, only the year before there’d been riots on the streets of London.

Historian and author Tessa Dunlop tells me the Queen has always been very aware of how necessary it’s been for the institution to move with the times.

She says: “She has moderated and adapted to changing times and so too have her family. More recently we’ve seen huge social movements, the me-too movement, Black Lives Matter, these impact on us all not just externally in the news forum but often personally.

“Our lives come up against these different ways of interacting and being with each other, likewise the queen’s very own family.”

But Historian Sir Anthony Seldon says it hasn’t always been change for the sake of it, saying: “She has also survived so long because she herself has had an extraordinary intuition about when and how far to change.

“Her advisers, commentators, politicians have been saying ‘come on your majesty time to change’ and sometimes she has and sometimes she hasn’t and knowing when and how far to change has been key to the survival of the monarchy and its enduring popularity.”

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In recent years it has again been her own family members who have caused the most difficulties for the reputation of the institution.

And it does seem to have had an impact on recent polling about the royals, which suggests that under 25’s are increasingly more keen to have an elected head of state.

Peaches Golding is the Lord Lieutenant for Bristol, one of dozens of Lord Lieutenants who represent the Queen up and down the country. She still believes the royals are winning people over with their work.

Talking about the various social issues that now make up the majority of their charitable efforts she tells me: “These are the things that pull us together as a country, themes from the environment to mental health, there is I think great stability in a constitutional monarchy, her Majesty has proven that time and time again”.

The Queen, modest as always, doesn’t want the celebrations to be all about her, she wants it to be a celebration of what Britain does best: the elaborate and spectacular pageantry, and a chance to recognise the ways communities came together to support each other during the pandemic.

But on a weekend where yes, we will look back, but also inevitably look to the future, Her Majesty will use those big picture moments to send a clear message to the world, to show us that despite everything that has gone on she has great faith in the ability of her family, her heirs, and believes the monarchy is in safe hands.

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September 2022
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