IT is 20 years since I watched the Queen sail down the River Thames to the Millennium Dome. As we say in Yorkshire, a lot of water has gone under the bridge since then.
What was the Queen thinking as she headed serenely towards the debacle of the Dome? Crowds of locals lined the banks, cheering and waving her on. Bands struck up and music blasted out of speakers on apartment balconies.
The revellers were typically cynical, seen-it-all Londoners, not usually given to overt Royalist sentiment. And yet they were excited and respectful. It was a pretty momentous night.
As I say to my teenage daughter, an ardent monarchy follower, to be British is to mark out your life in Royal events. Who knew that her grandson Prince William would be marrying his university sweetheart, Kate Middleton, a decade later and I’d be back living in my Yorkshire hometown, hosting a red, white and blue garden party?
What markers will we witness in the next decade? For her part, at the helm, Her Majesty will remain steady, calm and non-partisan presence amidst the clamour and controversy.
As we cautiously greet 2020, the dashed hopes of New Labour seem a million miles away and the world is a far harder place. How should the Queen’s sons, daughter, grandchildren and great-children and all their wives and husbands move forward through this next decade?
With dignity and diligent attention to the line of succession. This was underlined clearly by the photographs of Her Majesty, the Prince of Wales, the Duke of Cambridge and Prince George making Christmas puddings in the music room at Buckingham Palace in aid of the Royal British Legion’s ‘Together at Christmas’ campaign.
You might well ask, ‘who makes Christmas puddings wearing a shirt and tie or with a handbag on their arm?’, but slight sartorial awkwardness aside, the message was clear. Here were four generations of one of the most powerful families in the world, each one destined to become monarch in turn.
The thought that Prince Harry, now a mere sixth in line to the throne, was meanwhile in Canada for ‘the holidays’ with his American-born wife, mother-in-law and baby son, evaporated almost as soon as it registered. I hope that his time away has given him chance to reflect and reconsider his petulance.
I wish Prince Harry peace of mind and confidence in himself as a husband, father and hugely-energetic organiser of charitable events such as the Invictus Games for injured military personnel. I’m sure there is a way that he and his wife, Meghan, can both remain true to themselves and earn their keep.
It would be a shame to mislay key members as ‘the Firm’ quietly reshapes and reforms itself; there has been much talk of ‘slimming down’, but effective change has to come from within. It could never be enforced, unless you count banishing Uncle Andrew for good reason.
Whether it’s as a result of the fates swirling around them, the judicious advice of new private secretaries – Simon Case, former private secretary to David Cameron and Theresa May, has been William’s private secretary for the past year – or a combination of both, but William, Kate and their three children, George, Charlotte and Louis, are being presented as the inheritors of the mantle laid down by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh.
I’m glad to see that the Duchess of Cambridge is developing a pivotal role in this evolution, and I would like to see it strengthen. The 37-year-old has grown in confidence, especially in public, as we saw in that BBC documentary before Christmas.
She is also quietly carving out her own charitable projects, in particular, working with midwives. This is important work, and she carries it out with humour and approachability, without any hint of awkward ‘do-gooding’.
“She is the one, after all, who is going to be guiding the next two generations,” says a Royal source. “There is a sense now that more responsibility is being placed on the Cambridges’ shoulders. That because of Prince Charles’s age, and while he is still a bit of a divisive figure, pressure is being placed on the Cambridges to ensure the future of the monarchy well into the 21st century.”
To this end, the Cambridges are expected to announce a Royal tour in the spring and it’s said that the location will be Europe, flying the flag to secure Britain’s post-Brexit future.
Christmas puddings and charitable causes are all very well, but this is where the Royal Family will really prove its worth this coming decade.