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Of the diamond queen

Speaking as someone who respects royalty only in so much as it represents the will of the British people and the history which binds us, I must say that Elizabeth seems to be a lucky name for monarchs. Elizabeth I made her own decisions, some good and some bad, wrote her own speeches, presided over a time of unprecedented genius in English culture, resolutely kept her throne and her kingdom together despite the many enemies ready to take it from her, citing her gender, her religion, her dubious ancestry as good reason (and god's reason) for her downfall. She survived, shone in her own brilliance, became a legend.

Elizabeth II is a solid business woman made extraordinary by her crown; Her predecessor made the crown an extaordinary thing. Early 21st century celebrity is the ordinary writ large. I am not saying it's a bad thing, it just is what it is. Faced with real dangerous glamour in the form of her first daughter-in-law, it is said that Her Majesty was not impressed. In this she resembles Elizabeth I, whose impatience with famed beauties like Lettice Knollys and her beautiful cousin in the North was well known. 'Two stars keep not their motion in one sphere,' says Prince Hal* and there's ever a truth in it. This queen's more a diamond than a star, and typical of diamonds is a bit colourless for all she's worth a mint. Still, this exhibition looks interesting:


The photo of her in her sparkly dress is fresh and sweet and gorgeously spring-like considering it's black and white; a pretty girl in a pretty dress. Then comes that strange state picture thick and stiff, monarchy meets taxidermy. I find myself comparing this to the coronation portraits of the first Elizabeth; both times we see a girl smothered in ermine and royal regalia. Elizabeth of England fills her portrait. The background overshadows Elizabeth of Britain. There's a story in it, of the two Elizabeths, and our current monarch clearly wants to draw the parallel, with her barge ride down the Thames this year. It will be grand. But she will never be Gloriana's equal, maybe cos she doesn't have it in her. Or maybe this just isn't the time.

*Henry IV part 1 - William Shakespeare



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