In case you weren’t aware, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II visited UEA on Friday. This was the third such visit she has made to campus, this time to be shown an exhibition on Fiji in the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts. The visit caused a fair amount of excitement for many people, but for others this enthusiasm is seen as foolish, and there is no place for such passionate deference in today’s modern society. They see the Queen as a powerless and pointless figurehead, a relic of a bygone era, someone we have no reason to celebrate or respect.
Now, putting aside for the moment the arguments about democracy versus monarchy, and historical anachronisms or out-dated traditions, let us examine what the Queen and Prince Philip have actually done, which might engender such reverence. To begin with, during the Second World War, the Queen voluntarily joined the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service, where she worked as an engineer. The Duke of Edinburgh was also an active participant during the war, serving in the Royal Navy on board several battleships and taking part in various battles. So, even if they had no other importance or achievements, and played no role whatsoever in Britain, they might still be greeted with respect and honour as veterans of World War Two.
However, I do not believe it is true to say that they have not provided anything for the United Kingdom since the Second World War. The Royal Family as a whole are involved in various important charities, from Cancer Research UK to the Scottish Youth Hostels Association, to name but two out of the over two thousand that the Royal family support in the UK, with additional ones abroad. The good work of the Queen alone has helped raise over £1.4 billion for the charities she she is a patron of, an astounding sum that would surely qualify her for at least an OBE for charity work if she wasn’t already the Queen of England.
As for Prince Philip, myself and many other people have taken part in the Duke of Edinburgh awards at various levels, learning new skills, volunteering to help in various areas, undertaking much physical exercise, and all with the encouragement and recognition of the Duke of Edinburgh. Again, people have good reason to praise and admire such people, and any UEA student who wants to should celebrate her visit however they wish.
Additionally, the Queen is the Head of State, and whatever people may say about her only having a ceremonial role, this is an important part of the United Kingdom. She acts as an unofficial diplomat, visiting other countries and hosting foreign leaders. The recognition of the Queen’s dedication to this country, and the celebration of her and her family for their service in various areas, is at worst harmless. The ceremony and deference that surrounds them is unnecessary perhaps, but important to many. The Queen is a public figure more beloved than our politicians, and I’d argue no one could be blamed for being ecstatic at a chance to see her in person, and to be honoured by her visit to our university. Lastly, ignoring everything else, the simple fact is that the Queen is a famous person, and whatever the reason for their fame, such people attract a lot of attention, and will be a figure of interest wherever they go. Seeing famous people understandably excites people, it is a talking point they can tell people about, a notable event, something to remember. People are excited and happy, no reason to judge that. TG