Elizabeth II turns 95 this Wednesday, and the official portrait that will remain in the memory of millions of British people will be that of a queen in rigorous mourning, with part of her face hidden by a black mask, who dismisses the man who accompanied her in solitude for more than seven decades. The United Kingdom has been full of praise for its head of State these days, and in passing has reaffirmed the stability and permanence of the Monarchy. The funeral of Philippe of Edinburgh has diluted the recent institutional crisis suffered by the royal family. The sovereign’s birthday, four days later, will be the tacit reminder that the country must prepare to face a new era.
When the artist Lucian Freud finished his official portrait of Elizabeth II in 2001, the general reaction was very negative. The oil was barely 24×15 centimeters, and it stripped all traces of sweetness from a sovereign who was then 75 years old. Few understood that the beauty of miniatures lies in allowing a first glance to concentrate the details and the essence. Over time, critics began to understand that the painter had managed to capture, in an economy of brushstrokes, the harsh discipline that the queen had imposed on herself for decades and the solemnity that she had conferred on the throne. The art historian, Simon Abrahams, went further and detected that Freud had merged his own face with that of the model on the canvas. Elizabeth II was the alter ego of the artist. Last Saturday, it took millions of British people just one glance to see themselves reflected in a small woman, isolated in a corner of the choir of St George’s Chapel, reduced to a minimal expression of sadness and dignity as she gave a final goodbye to her husband.
The queen never made a public comment on the portrait. This Wednesday he turns 95, and again he will let others imagine his state of mind. She will stick to her routines, to make clear that the UK remains under a pandemic that does not recommend excesses, and herself under a period of mourning that requires a calm transition to normalcy.
“The queen represents an old order in Britain, which values dignity, tradition; who appreciates that feelings are not expressed publicly and lips remain tight ”, explains Alexander Larmand, author of the book The Crown in Crisis (The Crown in Crisis), which recounts the most delicate moment of the House of Windsor, when Edward VIII abdicated for love. “No one else in his family, from Carlos on down, has lived under that same code. Perhaps when she is gone, we will see a revaluation of what the monarchy means in the 21st century. “
The national duel concluded at nine in the morning, Spanish peninsular time, last Sunday. Flags no longer fly at half mast in public buildings. The royal house, however, decided to maintain its particular mourning until this Thursday. Elizabeth II lives these days in Windsor Castle surrounded by the minimal “bubble” decided when the coronavirus began to devastate the island: 20 members of the service who until now attended to the needs of the queen and the prince consort. As she did hours after her husband’s funeral, she will once again drive the green Jaguar to the gardens of Frogmore House, inside Windsor Park, to walk with her two new cubs, Fergus and Muick. There will be no salutes of honor, to celebrate the anniversary. There are also no plans this year, as there were not in the past, to carry out the Trooping The Color, the military ceremony that for more than two and a half centuries has celebrated the Monarch’s birthday every June in front of Buckingham Palace.
The “revaluation” that a republican minority has put on the table each time a new knock made the British royal house tremble has always been rapidly diluted. In the shadow of Elizabeth II, whose popularity has not stopped growing, the next members of the family in the line of succession have had time to correct mistakes and build their own profile that will end up transmitting calm and ensuring continuity. Carlos de Inglaterra has consolidated the image of the first advisor to his mother and acting head of the family, capable of firmly straightening out the latest domestic crises. His son, Prince William, and his wife Kate Middleton, after a decade of marriage, symbolize the future of the institution. “Newspaper mogul Rupert Murdoch has once said that the monarchy would not survive a bad monarch today. Obviously, that depends on how bad he is or how long his reign lasts ”, defends the lawyer and former judge of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom, Jonathan Sumption. “Prince Charles does not have the touch of security that his mother does, and many people will never forgive him for the mistake of marrying someone as popular and yet as destructive as Diana. But he is a man of good intentions and supports many popular causes. And Prince William has shown signs of having the touch and sensitivity of his grandmother and has married an intelligent woman with very strong ideas. “
Members of the royal family have taken turns visiting Elizabeth II. It has been precisely the closest women, her daughter Princess Anne, her daughters-in-law Camilla Parker Bowles and Sofia of Wessex, and her political granddaughter Kate Middleton, who have organized the plans so that the queen does not spend too much time alone. There will be video calls so you can receive congratulations from your great-grandchildren, and little else. They have been conspired to fill in the “huge hole” left by the death of her husband. Those were the only words of the monarch, as transmitted to public opinion by her son Eduardo. Sources of the royal house, quoted by all the British media, however assure that Elizabeth II endures the duel with resistance, and will return to her obligations the minute after its conclusion. On Thursday he will receive the red leather briefcase with the State affairs that he must dispatch, and on May 11 he will preside, together with his son Carlos, the reopening of the session of the British Parliament, at the Palace of Westminster.
During the months of the pandemic, Elizabeth II became accustomed to videoconferencing and virtual public events. Nothing new for a monarch who a year ago, also through a screen, encouraged her compatriots to resist the scourge of the virus, and told them that of We´ll meet again (We will meet again).
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