The Luvilee Jubilee: underwhelmed by opposition to Her Majesty's Big Day

There was little surprise at Queen Elizabeth II's Diamond Jubilee, but that's probably the point. Dutifully present were the Queen, the rain, the warm beer and the National Health Service glasses and teeth (I can say this, I’m British) and, surreally, hundreds of photographic Queen masks handed out for free. Parts of the crowd looked like a monarchist V for Vendetta; R for Regina?

There were some other traditions wheeled out for the occasion. The campaign group Republic, with some disdain for the 1.2 million lining the Thames to cheer the Queen (or ‘sausage’, as her husband calls her), had a spirited and—for them—historic turn out of about 1200. There were chants and moderate, reasonable speeches. This precluded any Greenpeace-style stunt: a lost opportunity, some might say, as in a nod to another British tradition, they were undermined by a bored Metropolitan Police force. The Met divided the protest into two, with most protestors corralled some way from the riverside. Those allowed to gather next to City Hall, the seat of London’s Mayor, had no chance of getting near enough to the river bank to be featured in photography of the main event.

So the case against the monarchy was laid out a few yards back from the crowds, with no PA, to huddled protestors. The wealth (nineteen royal ‘residences’, the royal Duchies, the newly-sanctioned share of profits from the Crown Estates, the hundreds of millions in personal wealth, the seven hundred servants for the family), such power as she has, the power wielded in her name (through the ‘royal prerogative’ to declare war without recourse to parliament, for example, as fomer Prime Minister Tony Blair most recently did), the secrecy (a recent amendment to Britain's Freedom of Information Act made the royal family’s correspondence uniquely protected from disclosure) and above all the unprincipled outrage that is, for republicans, the hereditary title, were all roundly declaimed.

1977 was the year of the Queen’s silver jubilee, a far more enthusiastic affair with bunting and union jack posters seemingly ubiquitous on the one hand, and Irish republicans branding her ‘Queen of Death’ on the other. The Sex Pistols' God Save The Queeninfamously reached number 2 in the UK singles chart, largely because of hysterical outrage directed at it. There were no histrionics this time around, though a few demonstrators shouted the Pistols' lyrics at the drunken, lairy, plastic-Union-Jack-hatted mass, which did its best to enjoy a very wet day.

“They made you a moron!”, shouted one protestor. Private security moved in.

“Glad to be a peasant!” one shouted back.

“End the reign! Democracy Now!”, chanted demonstrators. Geddit? It was raining.

“They’re not bad people, they just don’t want a Queen”, another explained carefully to his son. Then the security guard stepped in, to prevent the reconciliatory handshake offered by the protestor to the man he’d called a moron.

‘Votes not boats’, sang the crowd.

One among the throng, who wouldn’t let it lie, tried to explain to the demonstrators that The Great Rock n Roll Swindle“was taking the piss out of you lot as well”. He too was moved back, perhaps for being too esoteric.

More merry royalists sang ‘we love our history’ to the tune of Ta-ra-ra Boom-de-ayat the republicans as Peter Tatchell spoke. A radical activist in an appeasing mood, Tatchell offered his own version of a tolerant, Nationally Healthy, multi-cultural, anti-racist, Hitler-vanquishing Britannia—with an elected head of state. Evoking the Nazis, it must be said, is a bizarre strategy, because the Queen and her family are closely associated with victory over them. The Windsors' role—selling an otherwise unpalatable reality in ways politicians couldn’t—came into its own in World War II. And it's not just the proverbial King's Speech. The Queen's mother, stepping in to placate the pulverized East End when Churchill had been met with anger and resentment, cemented a basic reality which is their main pull now: that they are not politicians.

60 years on, current Prime Minister David Cameron confidently proclaims “She hasn’t put a foot wrong.” He wouldn’t make the same claim for his own last 6 months. The Queen is an adaptable monarch, noted for stoicisim and yet willing to be led by public sentiment when it matters (such after the death of Diana, when she unstiffened her British upper lip in favour of the confessional TV broadcast).

She is now led, however, by the requirements of a highly sophisticated PR machine, which is determined to exploit her non-political status in a time when for many, all politics in Britain is tainted with cynicism and empty of content. In misty, myth-making mood, Cameron referred to the Queen as a guiding light “who has never shut the door on the future; instead, she has lead the way through it.”

If only this were so. The celebrity status of the Windsors is what keeps them aloft, apart from their people. There is nothing pageant and ‘tradition’ can do about this, but by the same token, there is nothing an alternative ‘tradition’ can do to shake it.

“What do we want? Democracy!”, chanted the demonstrators.

“When do we want it?”

“You’ve already got it,” shouted one informed member of the rain-soaked crowd.

An argument about representative parliamentary democracy with an unelected but ‘constitutional’ head of state began over the head of a steward. It is still going on.

The Queen, who eats out of Tupperware and has only been seen running once, sailed past. She was majestically oblivious in the drizzling rain, the day’s uncontested excuse for a good piss-up.


  1. Line of the day:

    “What do we want? Democracy!”, chanted the demonstrators.
    “When do we want it?”
    “You’ve already got it,” shouted one informed member of the rain-soaked crowd.

    As an Atheist, who nonetheless supports the monarchy, I find myself unsure what to shout instead of “God Save the Queen”.  Long Live the Queen I suppose, but it doesn’t have the same ring to it.

    1.  Well the queen is, technically, the head of a theocracy (head of state and head of state religion).

      Let god keep her safe, then.

      1. I dunno, her mother lived to be 102. If QEII is similarly lucky, she may well be at least as long-lived. Poor Charles.

      1. I usually do:

        As an Athiest, could I have a large black coffee and a carrot muffin please?

        As an Athiest, you wanna go back to my place and get jiggy with it? (surprisingly effective)

        As an Athiest, I prefer the yellow one.

        And so on.

          1. Shouldn’t it be Athiestest?

            Anyway, as an Athiest, I don’t think I am really. I’d keep that for like Chris Hitchens, who I worship as like unto a deity.

        1. “As an Athiest, you wanna go back to my place and get jiggy with it? (surprisingly effective)”

          -abs LOL-d

    2. It is sad that so many seem to think that our feeble two (and a half) party system of representative oligarchy is a sufficient approximation to democracy…

    3. The Anglican Church of England was a Royal offspring, created by Henry VIII as part of royal politics against the Church of Rome and absolutely nothing to do with being created to praise God. 

  2. Well, the opposition to the Jubilee/the monarchy may have underwhelmed, but I can safely say that outside of London and a handful of other places, the whole royalist thing didn’t exactly happen.
    Folk had an extra day off. And that’s about it. In the North east and in Scotland, there were very,very few celebrations (there’s an interactive map somewhere showing street parties and our area was reassuringly short on them).
    The royals as an institution will just wither away, dwindle to extinction. No big hoo-ha, no revolution, just marginalisation into not being there. A very British solution.

    1. The royals as an institution will just wither away, dwindle to extinction. No big hoo-ha, no revolution, just marginalisation into not being there.

      The 60 republicans who showed up to demonstrate (versus the million who showed up to celebrate) keep saying that. Yet the monarchy is as popular as it’s ever been, with higher approval ratings than any elected official.

      1. Higher approval rates than any elected official? Look a bloody earthworm would have higher approval rates. That says nothing about the institution, and simply reflects the dismal calibre of Westminster politicians. I’ve nothing against them as individuals and am not a fervent republican but the relevance of royalty as an institution, as opposed to a curio or relic is very much in question. And pace what some else has said on the thread, there was suat all festivity devoted to the Jubilee in Newcastle, Tyne and Wear or Northumberland, while Scotland was particularly quiet.Far, far less than one might expect given the hype and hoopla and the build-up across so much of the media.

  3. As a democratic Republican I happily accept that I  was very much in the minority here in the UK. In fact current figures show republicanism in the UK to be about 15% (with a slightly higher percentage in my home country of Scotland). This – as I say – I happily accept, and neither do I have a problem with others enjoying a bloody good party! BUT…Where the failure in democracy comes about – as this article fails to grasp – is that we Brits are supposed to be represented in our media by the BBC, a national institution which we pay a TV licence to support.

    So, as we support this national broadcasting service you might expect that coverage of events like the Jubilee would be fair and impartial and represent the fact that there is a thriving minority that does not agree with the monarchy. In fact would it be too much to ask for at least 15% of the coverage to reflect this opinion – that would, after all, be democratic.

    But no. I would hazard an informed guesstimate that republican views did not receive even 1.5% of the total BBC programming during the Jubilee holiday period.

    So when republicans say they want a democracy in the UK this is based on the totalitarian control of our principal media outlets by the pro-monarchist establishment.

    1. I was pretty much nodding along with you ’til you said “totalitarian control of our principal media outlets by the pro-monarchist establishment”. Such ridiculous hyperbole just makes you sound a screaming hysteric with no sense of proportion.

      Having now passed a more critical eye over the rest of your post as a consequence, I must say…

      – I’ve not heard a single republican before you claim that the only reason why they think the monarchy is undemocratic is because the BBC doesn’t criticise them enough. I’ve seen it mentioned, but only as an incidental point. Making it the crux of your argument sounds to me like you’re back-pedalling from a stronger claim.

      – and focussing on *all* BBC programming *only* during the Jubilee period sounds like deliberately skewing your statistics to try to prove a point. Of course there’s going to be more pro-monarchy programming around, er, a celebration of the monarchy; and counting shows that don’t even mention the monarchy at all is completely disingenuous. Surely looking at BBC programming throughout the year, and only that relevant to the monarchy, would produce a far more relevant figure? They do criticise the royals now and then, you know. They’ve reported Andrew’s dodgy dealings with Russians, Charles’ crackpottery, etc etc.

      1. Hi ET – I think what makes my plea sound like hyperbole is the misunderstanding of just how much the British media has a strong grip of the news the British people hear/see and their power to influence because of this. Likewise there is a general lack of understanding regarding how a corporation like the BBC is inherently supportive of the monarchy and the establishment in general.

        I in no way back-peddle, but am trying to make an important point about control and the dissemination of news and fact.

        I do have a sense of proportion – hence my preamble about fully accepting my statistical place within our society with my beliefs – but do understand and am a daily witness to the inherent fawning that goes on at the BBC, which is sadly passed off as reportage.

        …Of course I could have taken a more direct route to voicing my dissent, but if I am perceived to ‘hysterical’ on the basis of an opinion on a matter of fact how might more emotive and passionate views be received?

        Principal among these is the more obvious – it is undemocratic because – as outlined in Monty Python and the Holy Grail – who voted for them?

        But I stick to my point, and I apologise if it seems ‘flakey’ to others – but when you have just come through four days of the monarchist version of the televisual water torture you’ll forgive me if I am somewhat ‘hysterical’! ;)

    2. So, as we support this national broadcasting service you might expect that coverage of events like the Jubilee would be fair and impartial

      From what I read online, the BBC coverage of the Jubilee barely covered the actual events of the Jubilee, as they were too busy giving face time to minor reality show stars and up and coming ‘journalists’ doing vague human interest stories.

    3. Do you also complain when the BBC is covering a football match and doesn’t devote 1/3 of that coverage to rugby?

      1. A football usually last about 95 minutes including stoppage time.  Unfortunately there was no stoppage time for the jubilee.  It was relentless indeed.  And awful to boot. 

  4. National Health Service glasses, which decade are you living in? NHS specs were phased out years and years ago.
    It was really hard to avoid the jubilee celebrations on the TV and radio – it was relentless.

        1. OK sorry about the national health glasses anomoly. All that talk of the pistols sent me back into the seventies, which is regrettable. The punks were supposed to gather this last weekend for a festival in Bath called ‘The Last Jubilee’ but the hosts, Bath Racecourse, cancelled it citing ‘health and safety’ and contractural issues. The organisers seem to think it is much more political but there has been no outcry. It is not ’77 and I apologise for the slip. Ok and the warm beer, who knows and the teeth? I was simply projecting myself. All reprehensible use of stereotypes but the atmosphere of all those archaic remnants was there to be sniffed, like the smell of an old book about deindustrialisation. 
          I am sorry if I offended any of my fellow Brits cos we must stand together brothers, an injury to one is an injury to all, sorry there go the seventies again.

  5. As an Australian, I dread republicans here. The thought of all those self-serving politicians literally gagging to rewrite our laws (no doubt to inferior standards) and crown one of their own as president. Vermin to the last one.

    I hope the Queen lives to be 150. Regardless of how she is received in her homeland, she is well liked here – and every time she is in the public consciousness (as she is right now) support for a republic plummets. I’ve no great love for the principle of monarchy, but I cannot deny the current set-up works great for us.

    1. Apart from no longer having the government endorse the principle that it is a good thing for social standing to be inherited, what would practically change with some randomly appointed empty suit taking the place of Bryce and QEII?

      1. Nothing, as long as they have no real power, which is where a constitutional monarchy is great.  You can’t have no head of state, since someone would feel like they should be it, and try to appoint themselves on their own terms, and if you elect someone, it usually ends up that they want power, and you end up with shit like they have in the States, or France, or wherever. 

        From a practical perspective, the situation here in Canada is what you describe, since we have the Governor General and Lieutenant Generals who are selected by the government then appointed by the monarch on the PM’s recommendation, who are then the Queen’s representatives in Canada.

          1. In Canada, and I suspect also in the UK, the HoS can’t and won’t use the power they have, both because of constitutional convention (which most of the actual day-to-day running of both of our governments is based upon) and because they know that if they tried to, the government would swiftly move to take it away from them. 

            Someone holding up the power of the Monarch in a modern constitutional monarchy and saying that “they could use this power against all of us!” is just fear-mongering.

            Take my word for it: if a powerful person is trying to convince you that republicanism is a good thing, it’s because they fancy themselves wearing the President’s hat. Or controlling the new President. Either way.

          2. Just because Elizabeth Windsor has not used most of these powers during her reign, doesn’t mean her anti-science meddler son Charles won’t.

            Why don’t you try look at a neutral source instead of political propaganda? The monarch is constitutionally unable to exert devolved powers despite them being in the monarch’s name.

    2. The Queen may indeed be well liked, but you miss the point. In a monarchy the successor is the next in line, whoever they are. You take what you get. You can get madmen, wastrels, idiots, so long as it’s their turn. It’s no way to run a country. 

      And I resent having to pay for all this expensive jubilee jollity. Think yourself lucky. In Oz you only have to pay for one of the richest women in the world when she actually visits.

      Roll on the Independent Republic of Scotland.

      1.  Yes, you get madmen, wastrels, idiots, but you also get decent, well meaning ones. Means nothing as they have no real power. Sure they’re rich and over-privileged. Let them shoot pheasants & go to Ascot. The minute they tired to mess with the actual running of the country they’d be shouted down by pretty much everyone. Compare that to the situation in the US, where you have to be rich and over-privileged to run for president (the millions spend on the campaign prove that) and end up in a position of incredible power, not only in the US but also in all the other counties in whose politics they interfere directly and indirectly.

      2. Yes, all those tyrants that Britain has endured while democracy has bloomed elsewhere. When was the last time that you had a really bad monarch? The 17th Century?

        1. As well as Edward VIII, I’d say all of these were bad kings:

          Richard I
          Edward II
          Richard II
          Henry VI
          Richard III
          Charles I
          James II
          George IV

          1. Richard III was actually a good king. He just got rewritten by Shakespeare to please the Tudors. Some of those bad ones, like Henry VI, were just puppets to other interests. I’m surprised that you didn’t include the ultimate toxic monarch, Mary I.

          2. “Meanwhile, at Dagenham the unofficial strike committee at Ford have increased their demands to thirteen reasons why Henry III was a bad king.”

          3. Richard II was actually surprisingly good; he got a lot of bad publicity because he tried to take power away from the nobles (not the commoners, who didn’t have any power to take away). But he was a patron of the arts, and established some of the first bits of English law.

            Henry VI was a peaceful guy caught in a brutal time. He ended up being a good educationist, building Eton and King’s College at Cambridge.

            John was handed a bad brief by his dear brother, the “good King Richard”.

            Anyway, the more important question is, “how good/bad have British monarchs been since the beginning of constitutional government?”, and equally, “how much power have they actually had in government in that time?”. I’d argue that since Victoria, at the best, their power has mostly been minimal. As such, it’s only a question of whether the British want to go through the bother of maintaining a family on an extremely high social security bill, or elect somebody to an office with no power. Put that way, it’s a choice I’d have no interest in actually making either way, personally…

      3. The Windsors are a well oiled PR machine, they aren’t about to screw up their position of privilege. Charles will never sit on the throne, he’s just not popular enough and they aren’t about to give people reason to be questioning the institution. William is the next ruler, and that’s why his profile is so elevated. So, barring totally unpredictable events, I know exactly who I’m getting (and given his age, there’s a genuine possibility that he’ll outlive me).

        The Royals don’t run anything (other than their own brand), they are figureheads. In that role, they do a great job for my country.

        1. It has nothing to do with popularity.  Charles will be on the throne and Camilla will be queen and there is nothing we can do about it. 

          1. What keeps the monarchy alive? Plenty of other countries have ditched theirs, so the only thing keeping the Queen (and the rest of the family) as royalty is popularity and politics – they don’t put a foot wrong because they know that would be the beginning of the end for them. Once they’re out, they’re out for good.

            Knowing this, who’s the better choice for succession Charles or William? That’s an easy question to answer IMO.

  6. Away from London and the affluent counties which surround it, we saw scant little celebration. No street parties, no bunting. Just rain, rising unemployment and communities licked to a splinter by the pursuit of neoliberal economics. Meanwhile the BBC, terrified of a further kicking at the hands of the press, has spent much of the past year in weapons-grade arse-licking mode, genuflecting before this most dysfunctional of institutions.

    Alas and alack, like the class coward who creeps around the school bully, it did not work and the BBC is under attack from the right-wing press for the frivolous tone of their coverage. Meanwhile, their natural constituency of what are increasingly former supporters – myself included – could no longer give enough of a flying fuck in a high wind to try and offer a defence.

  7. I spent the weekend in west Wales, where the the whole thing was simply ignored.

    For a while, I thought the universal lack of Union Jacks and abundance of red, white & green (the colours of our flag) bunting was some sort of backlash, but it wasn’t even that: it was just that the Urdd Eisteddfod is in the area this week.  The jubilee didn’t even warrant a negative reaction.

  8. I am constantly baffled by people who think that an elected politician as head of state would do a better job and be more popular than the Queen. Considering the endless scandals that our politicians get embroiled in, I can’t help but think that the last thing we need is an elected head of state. One of the best things about the Queen is that she is emphatically not a politician.  

    1. This tired old excuse keeps getting trotted out but I’d rather have a Head of State who at least had a clue about more than who’s the favorite for the Epsom race and who had a clue about how ordinary people lived let alone actually gave a shit about us. Her family is hardly short on scandals. FFS we could have had Nazi Edward still on the throne for WWII. 

      The Queen is almost vestigial now. A waste of space and money who is sitting on a fortune pillaged from us and our ancestors (Cornwall anyone?). If all she’s there for is a bit of meeting and greeting (despite being HoS she can’t actually get involved in diplomacy or politics even if she had a clue), we can get that for much less along with all the pomp and pageantry that the (self selected) peasants so loved this weekend.

      1. but you won’t get that, without a history of electing a head of state we will end up with a choice of has beens and celebs.

        When faced with the choice of President John Prescott, or President Jeremy Clarkson who will you choose?

          1. The inclusion of Princess Diana was a clue that it was from 16 years ago.

          2. @antinous I didn’t remember seeing it on the internet, I remembered seeing the old ITV programme it was commissioned for. I’m kind of surprised it’s available online.
            I reckon Diana would make a better president now than then anyway. I’ve certainly found her a lot less annoying recently.

          3. I reckon Diana would make a better president now than then anyway. I’ve certainly found her a lot less annoying recently.

            I suppose that some of it is retconning, but she was a bit of a whiny narcissist.

        1. Then isn’t it about time we started a history of electing (or appointing) a HoS? At the very least we break the hereditary principle, the foundation of the remaining aristocracy and the civil list won’t be supporting an extended family of spongers. Perhaps we can finally have sensible discussion of land reform (starting of course with the Crown Estates). 
          I continue to be amazed at the lengths people go to to defend this obnoxious feudal relic.

    2. What about all the royal scandals over the years? too numerous to mention, but the most recent being Princess ‘Freeloading’ Margaret, Edward ‘Heil Hitler’     VIII and Duke Edward ‘I am a colonel in chief but ran home to mommy from the military’ Wessex Windsor ‘not forgetting  Prince Charles ‘I married my mistress’ Windsor  

      1. Oh, the horror. They cheated on their wives. Just like every leader in the US and Europe in recorded history.

  9. Pleased to say, that in our bit of Scotland, Not a single fuck was given about Liz Winsors wee party. 

  10. One of my German colleagues tells me that many of his countrypeople don’t even know who their president is. They’re appointed, not elected, and it’s a purely ceremonial position.

    That’s the way I’d do it, or something similar.  The head of state’s only job is to represent the whole country, so needs to be non-partisan, and shouldn’t have any power. They serve to keep politicians down at the level of public servants, where they should be (Gratuitous Douglas Adams quote: Anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job).

     However, it definitely shouldn’t fall to some half-wit inbred purely because of who his mother is. The Queen’s okay, but Charlie-boy is probably the best thing that could possibly happen to the republican cause.

    1. Agree. Have a charismatic figurehead with no political power by all  means, but the people running the country should do it on behalf of the people, and be elected by them.

  11. I was in the North East for the Jubilee  – and there were quite a few street parties, events and the like, both in rural Northumberland and inner city Newcastle.  I’d challenge the “its only London and the South East” line some here are pedalling. 

    I’m afraid for those of a republican bent, this was a pretty powerful demonstration that the vast majority of people in the UK are pretty happy with the monarchy at the moment, thanks very much.  Obviously there will be big challenges ahead in the future – particularly when the Queen hands over the reins (voluntarily or otherwise) – but I’d be pretty surprised if we see a republic any time soon…

  12. Poor Republican protestors. They’re a stoic lot aren’t they? Just hang in there boys. You only have to hold out for the biggest Republican gift this universe could ever provide. I got three words for you:

    King Charles IIIWhen that day comes just watch those monarchist throngs disappear with their fingers in their ears “lalalalala I can’t hear you”. 

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