Queen Elizabeth commemorates the platinum jubilee, marking 70 years of reign


LONDON – Seventy years ago, Sunday, a young English princess climbed Treetops, a remote game viewing lodge in Kenya, built in the branches of a fig tree overlooking an elephant watering hole. The next morning, she became queen, although she learned of the death of her father, George VI, only later that day.

The 70th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth II’s accession to the throne will be much more earthbound: the 95-year-old monarch plans to spend a quiet day at her country estate, Sandringham, where her father died on February 6, 1952. Four days of festivities to celebrate his Platinum Jubilee are scheduled for June.

But the tributes to the queen came from the great, good and simply important of Great Britain. Justin Welby, the Archbishop of Canterbury, told the BBC: “She takes her duties seriously, but she doesn’t take herself very seriously.” Prime Minister Boris Johnson praised her for her “inspirational sense of duty and unwavering dedication to this nation.”

Those words, from a scandal-ridden leader whose tenure could be measured in days rather than decades, testified not only to the queen’s longevity but also to her immutability. In a country that has gone from Brexit storms to pandemic, it has been an unparalleled anchor of stability.

Time, of course, didn’t spare Elizabeth either. She is commemorating this milestone all by herself, having lost her 73-year-old husband Prince Philip in April. And her health has deteriorated in recent months, forcing her to cancel more public appearances, including a memorial service for war dead in November.

It was a blow to the queen, who served in the auxiliary service as a truck driver and mechanic during World War II. For worried Brits, it was another sign of her frailty and a melancholy reminder that the second Elizabethan age is drawing to a close.

In a message released on Saturday, the queen spoke candidly about a royal family in transition. And she made a surprise, in the form of her endorsement of her daughter-in-law, Camilla, the second wife of her son and heir to her, Prince Charles.

“When, in the fullness of time, my son Charles becomes king, I know that you will give him and his wife Camilla the same support you gave me” wrote the queen. “It is my sincere wish that, when that time comes, Camilla will be known as the queen consort as she continues her loyal service to her.”

This solved a long-standing and sensitive question as to whether Camilla, who had been romantically involved with Charles during her marriage to Princess Diana, would ever have the title of queen. It’s a win for Charles, who has long pushed for that accolade for his wife, now known as the Duchess of Cornwall.

Elizabeth has otherwise endured another rough time on the soap opera which is her family. She recently stripped her second son, Prince Andrew, of his honorary military titles as he fights a lawsuit in a New York court on suspicion of sexually abusing a teenager while he was a guest of the disgraced financier. Jeffrey Epstein.

His grandson, Prince Harry, and his wife, Meghan, remain strangers to the family, with Harry working on a memoir that palace officials fear will reopen the wounds of a bitter interview the couple gave to Oprah Winfrey. ‘Last year. The queen has yet to meet her niece Lilibet, named in honor of Elizabeth, whose parents called her by that nickname.

The queen, however, remains perpetually popular; her approval rating of 76 percent is number 1 among royalty, according to a survey from market research firm YouGov last year. Charles voted 45%; Prince William, next in line, at 66 percent; and former popular Harry at 39%.

“He has an instinctive understanding of the soul of the British people,” said Vernon Bogdanor, a professor of government at King’s College London. Despite all the upheavals in the House of Windsors, he added, “The monarchy is seen as a unifying force of stability and constitutional democracy.”

Achieving this milestone puts Elizabeth in rare company. It is documented that only three monarchs reigned for more than 70 years: Louis XIV of France; John II of Liechtenstein; and Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand, who died in 2016. Elizabeth is already the longest-lived British monarch, surpassing Queen Victoria in 2015 and the longest-living female monarch. She would have surpassed Louis XIV, the Sun King, in less than three years.

She was served by 14 prime ministers, starting with Winston Churchill. If politically handicapped people are to be believed, she may soon be fifteenth of her age. A protest at meetings held in Downing Street that violated the pandemic lockdown restrictions led her to demand a vote of no confidence in Mr. Johnson.

Perhaps his worst moment was having to apologize to Buckingham Palace for two rowdy parties organized by his staff the night before Philip’s funeral. The next day, a photographer captured an image of the queen, mourning alone in her service, masked and isolated in a choir stall in St George’s Chapel.

If Mr. Johnson holds out until June, when the Platinum Jubilee is celebrated, he could also benefit from the general party atmosphere. Among the scheduled events is a carnival procession of 5,000 artists through the streets of London, led by a dragon puppet the size of a double-decker bus. The government will give everyone an extra day of rest.

Accession day, however, has always been a melancholy anniversary for the queen, both for the death of her father and for her own accession to the throne. Although George VI was seriously ill, his death was traumatic for the 25-year-old princess, who by all accounts was very close to him.

However, Elizabeth threw some low-key parties on Saturday, cutting a cake and hosting members of volunteer groups. Among her guests was Angela Wood, an 88-year-old cooking student, who created the “coronation chicken,” the dish served to 350 VIPs at the coronation banquet in 1953.

Mrs. Wood and the Queen discussed the recipe, which involves diced chicken, tomato paste, a pinch of curry powder, brown sugar, a pinch of salt, a splash of red wine, and then mixed with mayonnaise and apricot puree.

“For a month or more,” he told the BBC, “I cooked a chicken a day and we had to change the balance of spices in the sauce to get it right.”