Her success lies in her passivity, which is the English genius. Long after the bombs have fallen and the Caliph has triumphed, there will be a small group of English tourists at the feet of the Sphinx drinking tea in the midday sun. People scorn us for our lack of passion and complete indifference to events. But the Queen’s endurance is a testament to how far doing very little very well will get you.
If only Britain’s other institutions had shown her reluctance to change. We might now have a Church that believes in God, schools that teach, or a Parliament that debates. HRH understood – unlike her liberal counselors – that at the heart of a healthy institution is ritual. The moment one undoes one’s tie or lifts one’s hem, all is lost. The smallest concession to modernity will, in short order, become a flood of change. Her Majesty has never changed. She is indefatigable. I can’t imagine life without her. I don’t want to.
I am sad to be so far away from home during a rare moment of national unity. But even when I am home, I feel distant from it. Apologies to the English, but I probably don’t belong among them anymore. It’s only the idea of England that I love. The Queen embodies it because she is the last remaining ritual.
My views on England are summed up in a play by Dennis Potter called, A Blade on the Feather. In a pivotal scene an aged professor tries to explain to his daughter the importance of always serving jam roll with custard. This is all England is and ever was, he says: not an ideology or an ethnicity, but a tradition. Remove the tradition and you remove the identity. The professor’s daughter laughs and he begins to cry. “There isn't any sort of England someone of my generation would think he had inherited,” he says. “Take away the pudding and the baked jam roll and the custard and there isn't very much left.” I suppose to outsiders, the professor’s talk is hollow and even effeminate (redolent of so many Brideshead boys walking around with their teddy bears). But you guys have to understand something about us English and our jam roll and custard – we have nothing else left.
Of course, the thought of the Queen makes me nostalgic for certain things: Plymouth gin, Granchester, wet dogs, warm pubs, rain, women with horse whips, making love in July, boats, bowties, shortbread – even shorter tutorials – evensong, bookshops, and Barton Lake. But most of all it does make me miss the stability of the Windsors. The monarchy might still keep the English living at the status of serfs, but at least it has preserved us from the horror of the presidential primaries.
(Only joking – bring ‘em on!)