Congratulations Elizabeth II, I Guess

Queen Elizabeth IILast week, a great event took place, Queen Elizabeth II Becomes Longest-Reigning UK Monarch. I’m kidding, of course. The royal family is precisely as important to the UK as Mickey Mouse is to the US — and in exactly the same way. But I do find it interesting. The queen has certainly lived a long time. Next April, she’ll turn 90. And her mom made it to 101, so who knows how long this is going to go on. The things is, it doesn’t matter how old she gets. Any actual duties of the office have largely been passed onto the younger generations. And my, doesn’t Catherine look lovely in whatever she’s wearing.

Apparently, I am not the only one who thinks this. I had always thought that John Oliver was rather a fan of the royal family, but apparently that was just a character he was playing on The Daily Show. Last weekend, on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, he was commenting on a comparison that a broadcaster made between the queen and a new train, “You cannot compare Queen Elizabeth to a train. For one thing, people need trains. Trains still serve a practical purpose in the modern era. You’re being mean to trains.” Which is nothing against her. It’s just fate: she was born to be useless.

The previous reigning champ of reigning was Queen Victoria — who only lived to be 81 years old. Better water, better medicine. But how exactly we got from Victoria to Elizabeth — just 50 years later is kind of a mess. That’s one of the most interesting things about the British royal families, it is not simple. Growing up, I always thought it was father to son to son to son. Of course, the more traditional — and appropriate — way for people to become king is just to kill the current one. But it hasn’t been like that for a long time.

In the following CGP Grey video, he goes through the royal family from 1066. They had been at it before that. And it even took another century for them to decide on some rules about who reigns when the current king or queen dies. Or more like 500 years before anyone got really serious about it. And even still, as I’ve indicated, it is a mess. The only reason I know any of this at all is because I’ve read Shakespeare and Marlowe and I’ve gone out of my way to put it into some kind of perspective — even if Shakespeare is a terrible guy to go to for history. This is a great video though:

So what have we learned? People still respect the royal family out of a ridiculous notion of divine right. Yet as we saw in CGP Grey’s video, there is nothing very divine about it. The best you can hope for are long periods of queens like Victoria and Elizabeth where nothing really happens so that people can continue to live the fantasy that royalty are something important — other than being tourist attractions. They really should just open up Disney UK.

7 thoughts on “Congratulations Elizabeth II, I Guess

  1. CGP Grey could have put in a bit more. Right at the beginning, William I wasn’t succeeded as king of England by his eldest son – that was Robert, who got the Duchy of Normandy, while England went to William II, the second son. The family got along famously:

    “In 1077, Robert instigated his first insurrection against his father as the result of a prank played by his younger brothers William Rufus and Henry, who had dumped a full chamber-pot over his head. Robert was enraged and urged on by his companions started a brawl with his brothers that was only interrupted by the intercession of their father. Feeling that his dignity was wounded, Robert was further angered when King William failed to punish his brothers. The next day Robert and his followers attempted to seize the castle of Rouen. The siege failed, but when King William ordered their arrest Robert and his companions took refuge with Hugh of Chateauneuf-en-Thymerais.” (and that is backed up by proper history books)

    Henry (the First) eventually conquered Normandy off Robert.

  2. That video kind of ignores that Henry VII and VIII pretty much killed off every non-Tudor royal so the only people that could be considered were the children of Henry VIII’s sisters-and of them, the Stuarts in Scotland or the Seymours as Lady Catherine Gray only had one child who had issue himself.

    Fun fact, both Elizabeths were 25 upon their accession to the throne.

    • That is a fun fact. And I’m just going to trust you and not look it up.

      Yeah, the Tudors were bastards. But they did provide an excellent ending for Richard III — one of my favorite of That Bard’s plays.

  3. Elizabeth I had just turned 25 in 1558 (9/7/1533) and Elizabeth II was just shy of her 26th in 1952 (4/21/1926).

    Elizabeth I was the best of that lot. Edward VII would have been horrid, Mary I was horrid, Henry VIII went insane but managed to hide it and Henry VII was probably what was needed at the time.

    • So you are saying I can’t trust Blackadder?! Damn! Yes, I know that Mary was terrible. I’m reminded of my favorite line from The Madness of King George, “Who can flourish on such a daily diet of compliance?” I think they were all mad to one extent or another.

  4. Sadly no, you cannot trust Blackadder. Elizabeth did use her emotional reactions to control people but the vast majority of them were obviously staged.

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