The Queen at 90: She deserves more than patronising fondness

The Queen at 90. There will be a few calls for her abdication and the removal of the monarchy. But I imagine they will be drowned out.

Such is the popularity of the Queen that even republicans will grudgingly admit she has done a good job. And a few will bemoan how awful Charles will be.

Queen Elizabeth IIReuters

The monarchy is the ultimate institution. Nothing screams establishment and old-school more than the red coats and bearskin hats outside Buckingham Palace. This is the age of complete suspicion of the institution. Repeated child abuse scandals have wreaked havoc in the Catholic Church and are in the process of emerging in the Church of England. Politicians misdemeanour's are now so commonplace they sometimes do not even make the news.

It says something about the Queen's popularity that in this age of mistrust in the institution, Elizabeth II is a national treasure.

But I think there is something deeper than just our affection for the Queen.

Born on April 21, 1926 she has seen more change in her lifetime than nearly any other monarch in history. Since she became Queen on the 6 February 1952, she has worked with 12 Prime Ministers and countless secretaries of state.

There is something endurably comforting in that. That despite all the hype and whirlwind of elections, economic boom and bust, the massive cultural shifts, the Queen remains constant. 

Yes, progress is good. But so are tradition and stability. The practice of looking back. The practice of pausing to remember the past before plunging on. History matters. And the monarchy forces that upon us.

You cannot witness the changing of the guard or the Queen's Speech in Parliament without thinking how absurdly archaic it is. It forces us to reflect on how many years this has gone on for. It brings alive the past in a way that does not prevent change but perhaps slows it. It forces change to be methodicial and reflective in a way that is healthy.

And as the Queen reminds us of our past, it reminds us of our identity. Britain would be very different if we did not have the monarchs. The 'British values' agenda is a desperate attempt to rekindle some kind of national identity. We are no longer fighting the French or the Germans so what does it mean now to be British? The monarchy takes us some way to answering that question.

Our love for the Queen should, I hope, extend beyond the gratitude for an extra bank holiday and a Grandmother-esque fondness. The monarchy offers us tradition and the ultimate British institution: two things we should treasure dearly.