Long live the Queen, and break the reigning record

London: This might seem like tempting fate but Buckingham Palace has come up with an intriguing piece of statistic — if Queen Elizabeth II is still alive this time next year, she will become the longest reigning monarch in British history.

 


 

 

On September 15, 2015, she will overtake the record set by her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria, Empress of India, who ruled for 23,226 days, 16 hours and 23 minutes.

 

This takes into account 63 years, 15 leap days, additional months and days and the precise timings of Victoria’s accession and death.

 

Elizabeth, who was born on April 21, 1926, is 88 and in reasonably good health. Although she has cut back a little on her long-haul travel, there is every expectation that she will cross the milestone.

 

At that point, she will have reigned for 63 years plus 16 leap days, additional months and days after the moment of George VI’s death.

 

It is likely to be business as usual for the Queen when she reaches the landmark date at the age of 89.

 

“The Queen traditionally spends the month of September at Balmoral — next year is unlikely to be any different,” a Buckingham Palace spokesman said.

 

The historian Kate Williams described the length of the Queen’s reign as “a very significant milestone. The Queen will become the longest reigning British monarch in history.”

 

Kate Williams, the historian, added: She came to the throne when she was older than Victoria. Victoria was only 18.”

 

“It shows that our female monarchs last the longest,” added Williams. “The Queen’s longevity is a great source of her strength and popularity. She has lived through World War II and throughout the 20th century. Many people will not have known a different monarch. We saw her huge popularity in the Golden Jubilee and even more so in the Diamond Jubilee. We’re very used to her.”

 

In a way, both monarchs have been very pro-Indian. Victoria never visited India but became Empress of India in 1877. She took an affectionate interest in the young Maharajah Duleep Singh who gifted her the Koh-i-Noor diamond in 1851. The British are unlikely to let go of the main attraction in the Crown Jewels.

 

Although the word “Victorian” is used to denote values that are strait-laced and old-fashioned, Victoria was, in many ways, a radical woman years ahead of her time on the question of race. Her Indian servant, Abdul Karim, became her “Munshi”, her closest confidant. She protected him from racist barbs in court but after her death on 22 January 1901, at the age of 81, Karim was sent packing back to India.

 

In a Royal Shakespeare Company play last year, The Empress, Bengali playwright Tanika Gupta even imagined Victoria and Karim dancing together. There has always been a suggestion that Victoria felt a twinge of something for her Indian aide, who taught her Urdu and had tasty curries served for her. There is no doubt she missed the affinity she had enjoyed with her husband, Prince Albert, who died early in their marriage in 1861.

 

Princess Elizabeth became Queen Elizabeth II when she was 25 on the death of her father King George VI, who died in the early hours of February 6. 1952. As a monarch, she, too, has been pretty pro-Indian.

 

When Rajiv Gandhi fell out with Margaret Thatcher over imposing sanctions against apartheid South Africa in 1985, it is thought the Queen’s sympathies were with the Indian Prime Minister at the Commonwealth summit. When Kuldip Nayar complained to the Queen that he was in danger of being turfed out of the Indian high commissioner’s residence at 9 Kensington Palace Gardens in 1990, it seems she helped sort out the problem behind the scenes.

 

Prince Charles, who is 65, may have to wait a while before he becomes king. The Queen’s mother, Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, who was born on August 4, 1900, died on March 30, 2002, at the age of 101. At this rate, both Charles and William (now 32) will probably be bald by the time they take over. Prince George, born on July 22, 2013, is also likely to serve a long period as crown prince because the British monarchy, unlike its European counterparts, generally does not believe in abdication.

 

Queen Elizabeth is the second longest-serving current head of state in the world after King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand, who took to the throne in 1946 and is now rarely seen in public.

 

The Telegraph, Calcutta

         
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