Few things fascinate American imaginations like fairy tales of knights, kings, queens, and princesses do, and every child has pretended to be one of those at some point. Perhaps this helps explain the equal fascination with the British Royals, whose lives people around the world follow with avid curiosity, from Princess Diana to Prince William’s wedding, and many other persons and events. One such event happened recently on February 6th, when Queen Elizabeth II held her Sapphire Jubilee.
A royal jubilee is an event honoring a significant anniversary of a monarch’s coronation. At 25 years, the Silver Jubilee is held, at 40 the Ruby Jubilee, at 50 the Golden Jubilee, at 60 the Diamond Jubilee, at 65 the Sapphire Jubilee, and at 70 the Platinum Jubilee. No monarch has ever held a Sapphire Jubilee before, as Queen Elizabeth is the longest reigning monarch in British history.
Traditionally, the Silver, Gold, and Platinum Jubilees are the larger celebrations, and the others are much smaller affairs. For her Sapphire Jubilee, Queen Elizabeth issued new coins and new stamp, and reissued a portrait taken by her photographer. She celebrated in private, as is traditional for the gemstone Jubilees, saving the pomp and circumstance for the next Jubilee.
This is not the first time in recent months that she has decided to recuse herself from public view on a special occasion. In early January, the Queen finally emerged after a long time fighting a cold, which caused her to miss Christmas and New Year’s, and reminded the world of her age and frailty. In fact, the Palace was forced to issue a statement denying Twitter rumors that she had died, as everyone had become so fearful for her health.
This health scare, coupled with her Sapphire Jubilee, have brought thoughts about the future, namely: what happens when Queen Elizabeth passes? As she is by no means the first monarch of England, there is plenty of precedent for what will happen. The death of a monarch would not be announced until the morning afterwards, at which time all the BBC channels would put up her portrait and the national anthem played, just as was done for Princess Diana in 1997.
No comedy shows would be aired in England until after her funeral, as the country mourns. Union Jacks will fly half mast, and the London Stock Exchange will most likely close for the day, costing the economy billions. Her funeral will be the biggest in English history, and is currently being planned by a committee codenamed: London Bridge. It will take place twelve days after her death.
The body of the Queen will be displayed in Westminster Abbey for the public to pay their respects, and the men of the Royal Family will keep a vigil by her body the night before the funeral itself. Tens of thousands of flowers are expected to be left outside Buckingham Palace, as they were for Princess Diana. Her body would then be laid to rest in one of several sites reserved for royalty.
Her son Prince Charles would then automatically ascend to the throne, at which time he may choose to adopt a regnal name, such as George VII, or simply be known as King Charles III. New money and stamps will be issued, and Prince William and Kate will be invested as the Prince and Princess of Wales, although Kate may choose to forgo that title due to its intimate association with Princess Diana.
Whatever one’s view if the monarchy politically, they are an undeniable cultural force, and a political institution as well. Queen Elizabeth is one of the most recognizable people in the world, and her passing would shake the world. For now, however, she continues to reign, and awaits her Platinum Jubilee eagerly.