LONDON: Putting aside the searing inflation crisis and doubts about the future of the monarchy, Britons are set to celebrate this week to mark a record 70 years on the throne for Queen Elizabeth II.
The Platinum Jubilee offers a four-day respite from a spike in prices not seen since the 1970s, with reports emerging daily of people struggling to put food on the table and clothe their children.
With two bank holidays from Thursday and then the weekend, pubs, restaurants and retailers are hoping for a timely sales boost, after a difficult period including the Covid pandemic.
“With the sun setting to shine for all four days, we look forward to seeing pub gardens packed with people toasting Her Majesty the Queen and showing their support for two great British institutions,” the British Beer and Pub Association said.
There are thousands fewer pubs in Britain than when the queen ascended the throne amid grim post-war rationing in 1952.
And support for the monarchy itself is an open question once the increasingly frail 96-year-old monarch leaves the scene.
– The coming change –
With Prince Charles taking on more of his mother’s duties for state occasions, there’s a feeling that the first, and possibly last, Platinum Jubilee in British history marks a page turn.
A poll in The Sun newspaper this week gave the queen an approval rating of 91.7 percent. But Charles controlled just 67.5 percent, behind his son Prince William with 87.4 percent.
Historian Anthony Seldon, in a debate at the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE), said the centuries-old power of the monarchy to adapt and survive should not be underestimated.
But he added: “And how traumatic it’s going to be when it unravels, just as it could be in the next two, three, four years when the change comes.”
Unlike the vocal Charles, the queen has rarely voiced her opinion in public, and her sheer longevity means she has been a fixture in the lives of almost every living Briton.
She has overcome numerous family traumas, including Charles’s very public split from Princess Diana, and personal anguish when his consort, Prince Philip, died at the age of 99 last year, modernizing the monarchy along the way.
– Spitfires and Sheeran –
Jubilee events begin Thursday with Trooping the Colour, the military parade that officially marks the birthday of the British monarch for more than 250 years.
A past flight will include Spitfires, the iconic fighter aircraft that helped win the Battle of Britain and fend off Nazi Germany in 1940.
The airshow is expected to be watched by the queen and royals from the balcony of Buckingham Palace.
Numbers have been limited to “working royalty” only, leaving no room for self-exiled grandson Prince Harry and his American wife Meghan, or Elizabeth’s disgraced second son Prince Andrew.
Patriotic nostalgia turns red, white and blue during the four days of festivities, culminating in Ed Sheeran singing “God Save the Queen” outside Buckingham Palace on Sunday.
The participants in a giant public parade through central London on Sunday will be familiar to anyone familiar with British popular culture since 1952.
But Bollywood dancers and a Caribbean carnival will also reflect the changes in British society since then, from a predominantly white and Christian one, to a multi-cultural and multi-confessional one.
The British Empire has given way to a Commonwealth of nations, 14 of which still have the queen as their head of state, including Australia and Canada.
But recent royal tours of the Caribbean have highlighted growing tensions over the status of the British monarchy beyond.
“This queen has been a major glue within that Commonwealth,” said Michael Cox, emeritus professor of international relations at LSE.
“Whether, how successfully, Charles is going to play the same role, I don’t know,” he said.