As I watch the Queen arrive at the Palace of Westminster for the pompfest that marks the State Opening of Parliament, I just wanted to put on record my feelings about our 80 year old Head of State who has sacrificed much in her own life to carry out the duty that was thrust upon her.
I'm as republican as they come. I think that our Head of State should be elected and that a system whereby such an important role is filled by the next in line in a family whether they like it or not is outdated and should change. I'd like to think that in my daughter's lifetime, the institution of the monarchy would be abandoned as an anachronism and that we'd move on to having a more modern and accountable constitution.
Having said that, I was as appalled as Andrew to see that a Labour candidate had dismissed her as a "parasite" and "vermin". On a personal level, I have nothing but respect for the Queen.
When she was the same age as my daughter is now, her uncle, King Edward VIII abdicated and she was propelled into the spotlight as Heir Presumptive when her father became King. Until then, she could have expected to have a relatively carefree childhood, be sent off to boarding school and then be married off to some member of the aristocracy and live out her family life in some country pile. Instead, her education had to be geared towards the duties she'd be expected to fulfil as Queen. That must have been quite a burden for such a young girl to carry.
During the war, she joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service, and got stuck in doing such jobs as driving vans and ambulances round London. She could have taken herself off to some quieter and safer billet in the country, but she chose to stay in London and get involved.
Even then, her father was still in his 30s and she could have expected to have quite a while before she would actually have to take that role. As it happened, after the stresses of the war took their toll on her father's fragile health, she succeeded to the throne when she was 25 years old with 2 toddlers to bring up.
Because of what the family saw as her uncle's abandonment of the role, the need for her to do her duty was drilled into her and she has never let anything interfere with what she felt was her calling. When duty demanded that she disappear off to the far flung parts of the Commonwealth, leaving her children at home for months on end, she made that sacrifice. On a personal level, it must have been awful for her. Even today, with the internet and instant communications, it would be hard for any parent to do but it was much more difficult then.
There's absolutely no way I would have made that sort of sacrifice of my family life and I don't think that the Queen should have been put in the position where she had to. I guess we have to look at the realities of her life and not the life we think we should have had. A young woman alone amongst a plethora of much older, male advisers from both the Palace and Government, would have been put firmly in her place if she had even suggested doing things differently. It wasn't for another 30 years that Princess Diana was able to put her foot down and dispense with some of the more ridiculous aspects of stifling royal protocol.
She's seen huge social, industrial and technological change in her lifetime. When she became Queen, few ordinary people had things we take for granted today - inside toilets, cars, televisions and things like video recorders and microwaves hadn't been invented. While she hasn't always reacted as quickly as we would have liked to change things, she has been prepared to listen on issues like the Royal Family paying tax and in that emotionally charged week after Diana died.
As she approaches her mid 80s, she is still carrying out hundreds of royal visits and duties every year. Last year she and her 88 year old husband carried out 771 between them. She also spends significant amounts of time working on Red Boxes from the Government doing such things as giving her assent to Liberal Democrat MP Willie Rennie's Driving Instruction (Suspension and Exemption Powers) ACT 2009 last week.
The Queen deserves respect and admiration for the stable and committed way she's fulfilled her role. In 2012, I'll be there paying tribute to her when she celebrates her Diamond Jubilee.