London (CNN) – Why does Britain have a monarchy? It’s a question as old as the institution itself. But bigger is why countries outside of the UK have the same monarchy.
The Queen is head of state in 15 other countries that were formerly under British rule and stretch as far as Australia and New Zealand – literally on the other side of the planet.
Because of her age, Her Majesty has not traveled to these countries in years, which makes it even more remarkable that she has retained her positions there. More recently, high-ranking kings such as their son Prince Edward and grandchildren the Sussexes and Cambridges have visited them.
How does she keep relationships strong? Well, she demonstrated that this week with a fleeting but symbolic visit down the street from Windsor Castle.
The 94-year-old visited the Air Forces Memorial in Runnymede on Wednesday to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Royal Australian Air Force. The monarch’s surprising appearance was her first personal public engagement this year.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Elizabeth has rarely left the boundaries of Windsor Castle and instead turned to daily video calls to continue her duties. This is partly due to her increasing age (she will turn 95 in a few weeks on April 21), but also to protect the public from crowding to see her, and therefore an increased chance for to offer the transmission of Covid. The UK took its first cautious steps out of lockdown this week, and the Queen has received her first dose of vaccine (and is set to receive a second soon). However, her desire to reduce the risk amid the pandemic remains a priority as she resumes more public events. The fact that she chose her first physical engagement in 2021 to involve a Commonwealth country where the thorny issue of her relevance has re-emerged is telling. Maintaining their position is not a matter of course for them. In September last year, Barbados announced that it would leave its “colonial past” behind and remove Elizabeth as head of state. It becomes a republic in November when it celebrates its 55th anniversary of independence from the British Empire.
“It’s been a long time since I’ve been here,” commented the Queen when she arrived at the Air Forces Memorial. Australian and British media cameras were invited to capture the moment.
And their choice of excursion was not missed by Australian outlets. “Queen nods to Australia on the first public appearance since the interview with Meghan and Harry,” reads the headline on the News.com.au website.
The Queen may not have set foot in Australia in a decade, but the message here was that even in the recent family turmoil, she hadn’t forgotten.
In a ruling for the event, the Queen wrote: “During my reign, the Royal Australian Air Force has shown immense commitment to duty and defended our freedom in many conflicts around the world.”
These words are cherished by Australians and she reminds them of their place in their history by referring to her record-breaking reign in which she has consistently represented and promoted Australian interests on the world stage.
Is it still as relevant as it was? Well, that will be tested later this year when the Australian Republican Movement (ARM) hopes to capitalize on the aftermath of that interview with Meghan and Harry. “The royal family has always been portrayed as the Rock of Gibraltar to all constitutional monarchies,” ARM chairman Peter FitzSimons told The Sydney Morning Herald, where he is a columnist. “What we are actually seeing is extreme dysfunction and possible racism.” FitzSimons said the group plans to announce their preferred constitutional amendments to sever ties with the royal family by the end of the year.
Many countries deposed Elizabeth as head of state after her independence. But when it comes to Australia, the Queen survived the last referendum on her replacement as head of state in 1999, and that was shortly after the Diana Crisis. Did the interview with Meghan and Harry do her more harm? It is up to the Australians to decide, but if history teaches us anything, it is never to underestimate the power of Elizabeth.
NEWS OF THE WEEK
Diana’s legacy is honored in London
The late Princess of Wales will receive one of London’s famous blue plaques later that year. The sign will be posted outside Coleherne Court, her old home in Earl’s Court in West London, where she lived with friends before she married Prince Charles. Diana’s brother Charles Spencer thanked English Heritage – the charity that oversees historic buildings and the plaque project – and said it was “a very happy place” for his sister. The tribute will no doubt be special for her family as Diana will be recognized the year she would have celebrated her 60th birthday.
Archbishop gives more insight into Meghan and Harry’s wedding
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex were legally married at their wedding on television, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby confirmed this week. His remarks shed more light on a comment from Meghan in the recent Oprah interview where she mentioned a backyard wedding in the days leading up to the big event on May 19, 2018. “The legal wedding was on Saturday. I signed the wedding certificate. This is a legal document and I would have committed a serious crime if I had signed it because I knew it was wrong,” Welby said in remarks to the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, which has been confirmed to CNN by Lambeth Palace. “So you can do whatever you want with it. But the legal wedding was on Saturday, but I won’t say what happened at previous meetings,” added the archbishop.
The Royals also had a lockdown projects
Whether it’s baking, renovating, or learning a new skill, many have found new projects to take advantage of the endless hours indoors – including the Duchess of Cambridge. Catherine has spent the last year working on her own passion project – combining her love of photography with public relations. Last year she invited people across the UK to submit portraits they had taken during the first national lockdown as part of her “Hold Still” initiative. With the help of the National Portrait Gallery, 31,000 submissions have been reduced to 100, which will be published in a new book in May. This was announced this week. The Duchess wrote in the introduction to the book that she “wanted to use the power of photography to create a permanent record of what we all experienced – to capture the stories of individuals and to document important moments for families and communities as we lived through the pandemic. “”
FROM THE ROYAL VAULT
The Queen has revealed her sadness that she has had to cancel the traditional Royal Maundy service for the second year in a row because of the pandemic. As “Defender of the Faith and Supreme Governor of the Church of England” the Queen usually marks Holy Week with a service on the Thursday before Easter Sunday.
This year’s event was to take place at Westminster Abbey in London. Instead, the monarch sent gifts to the 190 people who would have been invited that week.
“I am sure you will be as sad as I am that current circumstances make it impossible for this service to take place. However, I hope that this Thorough Gift will remind you for years to come that your efforts have truly been appreciated” said the queen wrote in a letter to each recipient.
The Royal Maundy Service is an ancient ceremony dating back to AD 600 and, for Christians, remembers how Jesus washed the disciples’ feet at the Last Supper. The Queen watches Maundy offer seniors gifts given by local clergymen of all denominations in recognition of their service to the Church and the local community.
During the Queen’s reign, she expanded the Maundy Money ritual beyond London and traveled to various cathedrals and abbeys in the United Kingdom to distribute the symbolic gifts. During the service, Elizabeth handed out two blessed leather purses: one red and one white.
This year’s red pouch contains two newly minted coins: a 5 pound coin in honor of the Queen’s upcoming 95th birthday and a 50 pence piece to mark the 50th anniversary of the currency’s decimalization. Historically, the amount of £ 5.50 is equivalent to the sovereign’s gift of food and clothing.
The white wallet contains bespoke Maundy money minted for the occasion in denominations of one, two, three and four silver penny pieces that add up to their age.
Typically, the Queen celebrates Easter weekend privately with her family at Windsor Castle – where she has teamed up with her husband Philip and a blister from her staff since the virus outbreak last year.
We usually get a glimpse of the monarch when accompanying her to church on Sunday mornings at St. George’s Chapel – the beautiful chapel built in the late 15th century and still the site of many royal baptisms, weddings, and burials by some members of the clan. However, the traditional family reunion is unlikely to happen this year as Covid-19 restrictions prevent more than six people or two households from meeting.
The Queen can choose to worship privately – which she does at All Saints’ Day Chapel near Prince Andrews Royal Lodge in Windsor Great Park – but she will certainly skip the usual trip to St. George’s so as not to attract crowds .
Instead of public appearances, it is possible that we will still hear from a member of the royal family. Prince Charles has often recorded special Easter messages to mark the holiday, including participating in the Abbeycast podcast last year and sending a supportive video message to people persecuted for their beliefs in 2018.
A word from the kings
“How much have we missed it and how much are we looking forward to having this collective experience again.”
Prince Edward celebrates World Theater Day on March 27th
The pandemic has forced the arts to explore the digital realm like never before. And while the online landscape has allowed global theater to showcase some virtual offerings, many fans – including the 57-year-old Earl of Wessex – are looking forward to the day they can return to playhouses.