Patriotism is a Beautiful Thing

BY ALEX STORY

Patriotism is a beautiful thing. It is even more so when it is natural and spontaneous.

The Jubilee gave most who are free from political motivations the opportunity to bathe shamelessly in the warm and comfortable waters of our rich inheritance.

On one level, we celebrated the person of the Queen; on another, the Great British family, of which we are all an important part.

The Queen navigated a turbulent era with grace and humility.

She anchored her conduct on the rock of her oath, taken on the day of her coronation on June 2nd 1953.

Keeping her word, in other words, was the most potent weapon in her armoury.

She wed herself to the soil of our Islands and the soul of Britannica.

As James Pitt Watson, the moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, said to the young Elizabeth after she took her oath all these years ago:

“Our Gracious Queen: to keep your Majesty ever mindful of the law and the Gospel of God as the Rule for the whole life and Government of Christian Princes, we present you with this book, the most valuable thing that this world affords. Here is Wisdom; This is the Royal Law; These are the lively Oracles of God.”

If this sentence sounds a little bit alien to modern ears, it is merely because the solemnity of the sentiments attached to these words have slowly but surely been erased from our leaders’ vocabulary – if their behaviour is taken as a guide.

Her steadfastness in keeping to her oath, to put Duty ahead of Self-interest, is one of the key reasons why so many, so naturally celebrated her seven decade long reign.

However, every epoch brings its own challenges.

As Shakespeare reminds us in King Henry IV, written in 1599,

“Uneasy lies the head that wears a crown”.

It has been true for every single monarch.

Each one has, in his own ways, contributed to the incredibly beautiful tapestry of our Island History.

Some were great: Richard Lionheart; Edward III; Henry V; others were not: Stephen, John and Richard III among others.

All were tested by the times in which providence asked them to rule.

While there were some notable failures, most worked to build a remarkable land, the light of which has shone across the four corners of our world for much longer and much further than our size would have suggested possible.

Historic UK, an online History Magazine, reminds us that there have been 61 monarchs in England and Britain spread over a period of approximately 1200 years.

Our current Queen is the 32nd great grand-daughter of King Alfred, who 1151 years ago was the first effective King of England. He ruled from 871 to 899.

During the first years of his reign, he faced the Vikings.

His crown rested incredibly uneasily on his head.

His victory over this implacable foe at the Battle of Edington, Wiltshire in 878, was seen, perhaps understandably, as a miracle.

Defeat would have spelt the end of Christian England.

It is from this inauspicious start that our Island’s story started to roar into gear.

The Jubilee then was not just a celebration of Elizabeth.

It was the unofficial commemoration of a millennium long saga, in which today we are all actors.

Few of us, it would seem, want to witness the last chapter of this awesome Epic.

Indeed, the stories of our Kings and Queens are alive across the Great British Isles.

Parliament is not the only historical building in which some link to a very distant, but meaningful, past is observable.

Every city, town and village across the whole of our great country has a building, a church and a tale about some ancient or more recent link to our monarchs.

Fortresses, city walls, places, roads, and more are the multitude manifestations of a deep history in which the monarchy is the tie that binds us all together.

Our heroes, statesmen, soldiers, musicians, artists, across the ages have lived, loved and died in a country, whose many institutions are still broadly recognisable today – a Miracle indeed.

This continuity with our forefathers is partially the reason why the millions who paid their respect to our Queen over the last few days did so without prompting.

It is after all the celebrations of our own lives and our place in a greater whole.

It was impossible for most of us to remain untouched by the bonhomie, the friendliness and the goodwill of the crowds who roamed, joyfully, through the streets of London.

No word of anger; no political motives; no desire to criticise – only a deeply felt need to show gratitude for a person who worked dutifully her entire life to represent us.

The observable joy was mixed by an incredibly subtle, and yet profound, feeling of melancholy.

70 years on the throne, accomplished with the utmost grace and love for her subjects across the Commonwealth, is worthy of all the praise.

However, thinking beyond the moment, we saw a dignified Lady chased by Father Time, whose grip on life might soon give.

As we celebrated and proudly watched her Majesty standing on the Palace balcony as if in the first flushes of youth, emotions swelled up in many a heart and choked many a throat.

It is, unfortunately, not a question of if but when.

The question then beckons: what of us? 

Looking to the future, a new monarch, facing his own very different challenges will take over.

Hopefully, he will navigate the uncharted waters of the future with equal elegance, using his oath, when it comes to be taken, as the rock on which he leads the Great British Family.

After all, the Jubilee was a celebration of who we are, what we have always been and, God willing, always remain: profoundly thankful to have been born Brits.

Alex Story is Head of Business Development at a City broker working with Hedge Funds and other financial institutions. He stood for parliament in 2005, 2010 and 2015. In 2016, he won the right to represent Yorkshire & the Humber in the European Parliament. He didn’t take the seat.