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To be honest, I'm not a royalist. If somebody was to tell me that one family was able to live in multiple palaces, whilst I, a lowly student, struggle to pay rent on a single room, the notion would usually make me nauseous, and it still does. But, my love of history and symbolic tradition gets in the way; unfortunately, I'm stuck being able to see what the royal family has to offer us, and it has endeared me to them in such a way that they are impossible to dislike. Even as people were stuck sleeping in a sports hall because of the devastating Grenfell Tower fire, the Queen's presence to survivors brought a calming and supporting effect, especially when compared to the ambivalence of our own dear Prime Minister. But that is not what I want to talk about, as instead, I want to turn our attention to a more celebratory affair; the Queen's birthday.
It isn't her actual birthday of course, as this was on 21st April. Instead, it was her 'official' birthday. Usually this is held on the second Saturday in June, however this year it is the third Saturday, the 17th June. This has been tradition, especially when the Sovereigns' birthday is not during the summer, in order to make the 'Trooping the Colour' more likely to occur during good weather, rather than the usual British rain. More can be found out about its historical context here.
But what about the Queen's birthday message? At such a difficult time for so many people, after the London attacks, the Manchester bombing, and now the Grenfell Tower fire, is this really the best time for celebration? I believe so. In fact, I think it's necessary. Yes, it may be a bit too soon, as many people are still homeless, which is more tragic than words can ever describe, but the ideas within her birthday message are so clear and direct that I believe that now is the perfect time for it.
Queen Elizabeth II begins by recognising that there is "a very sombre national mood," which is indeed inescapable, and arguably an understatement. I personally live nowhere near London and yet still feel myself being dragged into its melancholic grasp, not necessarily kicking and screaming, as I've always considered myself to be both politically and socially conscious, but certainly in a way which has made it difficult to appreciate all that is beautiful about this wonderful country we live in. Because, despite everything, it is wonderful. Yes, there are so many problems with it that I wouldn't want to even attempt to approach them here, let alone consider a way to fix them, but there are also so many positives. And, I believe that throughout out little planet the majority of people are lovely, even if it is deep down.
This too is reflected in our Queen's message, as she talks about "the immediate inclination of people throughout the country to offer comfort and support to those in desperate need." And, this is what make me incredibly proud. I would, out of personal choice, never choose to describe myself as being proud of being British, not because I have a problem with my country in any way, but instead because I personally believe that it is not our nationality that makes us great, but instead our actions. And right now, I am so proud of these actions.
The third and final paragraph of birthday message begins with a reference to how people have "been resolute in the face of adversity," and this is what I agree with most of all. Over the past few days, I have seen some absolutely deplorable behaviour, predominantly on social media, but also within the mainstream media. This included but is not limited to racism, xenophobia, and the belief that somehow those that died in the terrible tower fire deserved it because they were poorer than the rest of their borough. But, I have also seen collective disgust aimed towards those individuals who continue to spread this hate at such a challenging time. Yes, this does mean that there are truly horrible people in the world, but it also means that for the most part the public is not willing to let their voices represent them, and this is what gives me hope.
Ultimately, that is what I believe the Queen's birthday message was, a message of hope. A message of optimism that yes life will beat us down and terrible things will happen, things that will make us believe that we can never recover from, but we will, and we will survive, not only stronger and more resilient but hopefully more compassionate, which we certainly need.
The Queen's birthday message can be read here.