One may have thought that the Diamond Jubilee weekend ended with the concert outside Buckingham Palace last night but this is a grand celebration stretching over a double holiday in to today. This morning was a ceremony of Thanksgiving at St. Paul’s cathedral followed by a great parade of horses and carriages back to the palace, a fly past, and the Queen’s appearance on the balcony in front of tens of thousands of well wishers.
It’s all very celebratory, and yet…
Last night we were watching the concert with Tom Jones belting out “Why, why, why Delilah?” joined by the vast crowd, including the Archbishop of Canterbury waving his Union Jack as he cried out with everyone else “Why, why why…?!”
At which point Peter said “they aren’t just saying congratulations. And thank you. They are saying farewell. It’s an end of an era.”
And I knew what he meant as I sat there with a vague premonition of something similar. First of all, the Queen’s husband, the Duke of Edinburgh was unable to join her because Sunday evening he was taken to hospital where they are keeping him “under supervision” with a bladder infection for at least 3-4 days. So the Queen is making all her subsequent public appearances without him. She kept smiling and waving. But I could not help but remember the stoic bravery that she and so many others showed during the bombings of World War II. The Queen has been married for 65 years; her husband is 91, and in April he was absent from all the Easter celebrations because he’d been rushed to hospital with a heart condition. I cannot imagine what she must be feeling during these last two days. I know if my husband were in hospital, I would be just want to cancel everything. At best I’d be walking through celebrations like these like a zombie. But the Queen keeps smiling and saving. She is a very strong, committed woman.
And all of this against the backdrop of the euro crisis. The European Union was first formed after WWII to make sure that the nations of Europe would never go to war with each other again. But the monetary union is in grave danger. The United States is aware of the danger. Britain (which is part of the European Union but not part of the euro) is profoundly aware of the danger. China is aware of the danger. But it looks as if the European politicians are fiddling while Rome burns. Germany, which has benefited hugely from the euro, is adamant that the countries in trouble must simply cut their budgets.
But it’s not going to work. Yes, budgets must eventually be brought into line, but not yet. Right now the economies of these countries are shrinking faster than they are cutting costs. And people are going to the wall. By which I mean, they are living without electricity, without basic, medical supplies often needed simply to stay alive, often without sufficient food. And millions are unable to get jobs to replace the ones that have been cut.
I know I don’t know what is going to happen. But I do know this is a seriously dangerous time for the world. And especially for Europe.
Perhaps it really is the end of an era.