Her Majesty's 70 years of service: what does that actually mean? And what is a "working Royal"?
"She’s had the same job for 70 years... and she’s literally dedicated her life in service to her people. Some perks may be wealth, jewels, and castles. She still works and she pays taxes..."
A Facebook friend of mine recently posted the following:
Most of you know I’m a royal watcher and I find this woman’s life extraordinary. She’s had the same job for 70 years (none of us can say that) and she’s literally dedicated her life in service to her people. Some perks may be wealth, jewels, and castles. She still works and she pays taxes like her people do. Her #PlatinumJubilee celebrations are over so tomorrow, it’s probably back to work for her. #godsavethequeen
I agree wholeheartedly! And yes, Her Majesty undoubtedly got back to work once the four-day celebrations (June 2nd through 5th) of her unprecedented and likely never to be equaled Platinum Jubilee – celebrating 70 years on the Throne of the United Kingdom of Great Britain (including England, Scotland, and Wales) and Northern Ireland – had come to an end. She has slowed down in recent years, and has lately been dealing with what have been described as “intermittent mobility issues,” but she continues to slog gamely onward!
One of the comments on the above post inquired, “I have no clue about the royal family. What kind of work does the Queen do?” and my friend responded, “the monarchy is more about being seen at events. They are patrons to tons of charities that people donate to because of that. YouTube has a lot of documentaries to help educate people.” All of which is true! But I couldn’t help elaborating a bit, and I’ll share those reflections here:
As Head of State, Her Majesty is also “diplomat-in-chief,” receiving other heads of state, other nations’ diplomats, and a wide variety of officials and functionaries. Also, as a constitutional monarch, she is required to give “Royal Assent” to Acts of Parliament: most of it is pro-forma and just paperwork... but it’s paperwork she’s been doing nearly every day for seventy years!
As Barrow Hepburn & Gale – makes of the red boxes in which much of that paperwork comes to Her Majesty’s desk – notes,
Despatch Boxes [UK spelling – “dispatch” in the U.S.] or ‘Red Boxes’, are a visible symbol of our democratic system of government. They ensure the efficient and secure transportation of sensitive documents that impact the United Kingdom and our relations with other countries. They contain the state decisions that are made by The Queen, the Prime Minister and other ministers.
The designation of the Despatch box goes back to the reign of Queen Elizabeth I and refers to an important message for the Queen. The modern role of Boxes in the governance process has not changed for over a century. The papers they contain ensure there is transparency in the decision making process, and provide a historic record. Physical documents and papers remain as important now as ever.
Each day the papers contained in the Despatch Boxes are prepared for the Sovereign, and her ministers by their private offices. Papers included usually require decisions. Other papers include briefing papers and papers for meetings. Red Boxes follow their holder around the world, ensuring they can execute the responsibilities of their office. Wherever in the world the Sovereign or Minister is, the Red Box is close by...
In our system, The Sovereign as a constitutional monarch, has an integral role in the governance of the UK. Walter Bagehot defined the monarchs’ role as, the right to be consulted, the right to encourage and the right to warn. The Queen continues to sign all legislation, and the Prime Minister and other ministers act in The Queen’s name. This means The Queen receives a constant stream of Despatch Boxes containing documents from the Government, Parliament and The Queen’s Private Secretary. The Queen chose to be photographed with her Red Box to mark the occasion when she became the longest Reigning Monarch in British history.
This is, of course, in addition to the schedule of events, and representation of and at charities, mentioned above! Her Majesty generally manages to keep busy. And so do the rest of the “working Royals”! They're not called that without reason.
My friend added, “her Royal Assent doesn’t mean she necessarily agrees. It simply means she’s read it. However, if she didn’t sign, it would show as being political and that would cause a constitutional crisis. She’s above politics so that’s not gonna happen.” To which I responded, “Yes! It also means that she has the necessary information in order to advise, encourage, and warn. But Her Majesty has been very good in not taking political stances, at least publicly! What she tells her Prime Minister behind closed doors is between them...”
I then continued, regarding the charities: members of the Royal Family have links with hundreds, in fact thousands, of charities, military associations, professional bodies and public service organizations, according to the Royal Family’s webpage, which goes on to note that
Currently, over 3,000 organisations list a member of the Royal Family as their patron or president... These range from well-known charities such as the British Red Cross to new, smaller charities like the Reedham Children's Trust, to regiments in the Armed Forces... Some are well known, while others may be smaller bodies working in a very specialist area or on a local basis only... Having a Royal patron or president provides vital publicity for the work of these organisations, and allows their enormous achievements and contributions to society to be recognised.
Her Majesty herself “is patron of over 500 charities, military associations, professional bodies and public service organisations,” according to an article in the SWLondoner. “She has been patron of 433 organisations since 1952, inheriting the patronage from her father in the year of her accession to the throne. The remaining names were acquired during her 70 year reign and are considered a reflection of the Queen’s personal interests.”
That means that she almost certainly has to do to something related to at least one of them – and often more than one – nearly every single day of the year! Whether it’s sign a polite letter, meet with a representative, or appear at an event... and there are a lot of events, when you’re talking about 500 groups.
Many of us might think attending, say, a ribbon-cutting and reception, or the opening of a library or a hospital wing, or attending a gallery show or tea party, is pretty light duty. And compared to a lot of things, it is... but try doing it on a near-daily basis – and having to remain unfailingly upbeat, positive, encouraging, and winsome the whole time, with people most of whom you may not know, and some who may be rather irritating – for seventy years. I’d imagine it could get a mite tedious…
Most people would admit that public relations professionals can have a challenging job, at times. Well, that’s basically what Her Majesty (and the rest of the working Royals) are doing – on top of dealing with those red despatch boxes! – but on a national and even global stage! And it’s also a good part of the reason why a lot of Britons have soured on “the Ginger and the Whinger,” as some call Prince Harry and Megan: it’s not just the execrable “exposé” interviews, although that’s part of it; it’s that they – well, she, but she’s dragged him down with her – want the perks of royalty, but they don’t want to do the work of royalty.
Meanwhile, Her Majesty just soldiers loyally on… for seven decades. God bless her! Good Lord, I love that woman.
Fortunately, there are some good people in the Royal Family who have stepped in, from HRH Prince Charles and Camilla Duchess of Cornwall and HRH Prince William and Catherine Duchess of Cambridge, to HRH Anne the Princess Royal, HRH Edward and Sophie Countess of Wessex, and others. They’re doing what they can to take some of the pressure off her, in the second half of her 90s.
God bless the working Royals, and God save The Queen!