Elizabeth II’s platinum jubilee: The diplomat queen helped the UK overcome the pain of history

Elizabeth II’s platinum jubilee: The diplomat queen helped the UK overcome the pain of history

Camilla, Charles, Queen Elizabeth II, Louis, Kate, Charlotte, George and William, Buckingham Palace, June 2, 2022. (AP Photo)

The UK is celebrating the unprecedented achievement of Queen Elizabeth II’s Platinum Jubilee this weekend with heartfelt affection and warmth. Regardless of the questions surrounding other elements of the British constitution at present – ​​and indeed the prospects for the monarchy itself, as Andrew Hammond laid out in his May 28 Arab News article – the Queen can rest assured that, this weekend, such questions will not be at the forefront of the minds of millions of people as they attend street parties and other gatherings across the country.

While attention will rightly be on what the Queen has done for her people back home – from the child who grew up in the shadow of war to the young woman who took on lifelong duty 70 years ago – many tributes will be paid to her overseas connections. The many friendships she has with the monarchies of the Arab world, for example, were built on personal interests and shared hobbies, as well as genuine affection.

Only history will reveal the extent to which Elizabeth helped shape politics and walk the path of a constitutional monarch serving her country’s parliament and government. But his life as a diplomat, thanks to his unparalleled personal knowledge of world actors, suggests much more than being a passive transmitter of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. His ideas that “we share the same world but not the same opportunities” and that the real importance of state-to-state engagement is “people-to-people contact” obviously come from the heart and his lifelong experience, rather than simply the pen of a mandarin.

It is difficult for a modern generation to understand how Germany was seen by the world 70 years ago. The mistakes of Versailles were not to be repeated, but macro politics is a far cry from personal rehabilitation. When Elizabeth married Prince Philip in 1947, her German parents were unable to attend the ceremony in London. His own first post-war visit to Germany in 1965 was easily remembered by its citizens who had suffered grievously from the horrors of Adolf Hitler’s ambition and the prospect of the visit attracted media and political critics. While she was also instrumental in her government’s growing acceptance of the policy of a changing Europe, the Queen’s determined continuation of the visit, her recognition of her moment in history and her personal commitment to the theme of reconciliation were a success repeated again and again in speeches and visits.

There was more controversy, and therefore more personal courage, in Emperor Hirohito of Japan’s acceptance of a state visit to the United Kingdom in 1971. It had even more personal connotations, as Philip had saw active service in the war in the Far East. Japan’s brutal treatment of POWs ensured public protests against the visit. But the queen was able to take the opportunity to say, in a memorable way: “We cannot claim that the relations between our two peoples have always been peaceful and friendly. However, it is precisely this experience that should make us all the more determined never to let this happen again. Such a phrase is never lost and there are many more today that could echo and act on his sentiments.

This feeling of “never again” is pervasive in his speeches and his visits to areas of controversy, where only time can heal. His participation in Commonwealth summits dealing with the oppression of apartheid South Africa helped to prevent any political divide between states from becoming so wide that the Commonwealth itself was ruined. She had visited South Africa before apartheid and was there again when it ended, developing a relationship with Nelson Mandela that matched her own determination for reconciliation.

A sense of “never again” pervades his speeches and his visits to areas of controversy, where only time can heal.

Alistair Burt

Nowhere was this determination more personally or perhaps painfully expressed than in Elizabeth’s relationship with Ireland. She made a state visit to the Republic of Ireland in 2011 – the first by a reigning British monarch in 100 years – and a major trip to Northern Ireland in 2012. In the first she carried feelings of regret of the United Kingdom for past tragedy visiting the scene of a notorious murder of civilians in 1920 by people under British command. In the second, she shook hands with a politician who had renounced a violent past, in which he had been closely associated with those who murdered Philip’s uncle, Lord Louis Mountbatten, in one of the most most shocking and brutal of the Troubles. The two encounters closed painful chapters.

The queen could have retired long ago with grace and goodwill. What she doesn’t have is due to a unique sense of duty. Using his time, decade after decade, to help overcome the pain of history, both ancient and contemporary, has been a marvel worth emulating by other world leaders, as well as celebrating.

  • Alistair Burt is a former British MP who held two cabinet posts in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office — as Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State from 2010 to 2013 and as Minister of State for the Middle East from 2017 to 2019. Twitter: @AlistairBurtUK

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed by the authors in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Arab News

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