British queen poised for record after rallying troubled monarchy

Sun Aug 16, 2015 3:05am EDT
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By Michael Holden

LONDON (Reuters) - Queen Elizabeth, who rallied support for the monarchy despite presiding over what was once known as the world's most famous dysfunctional family, next month becomes Britain's longest-reigning monarch.

She never expected to take the throne and only did so because her uncle abdicated, but on Sept. 9 she will beat the record held by her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria, who reigned for more than 63 years.

"It is a job for life," the 89-year-old Elizabeth once said, and unlike some European monarchs recently, and even a pope, she is not expected to abdicate.

While the world and British society have changed dramatically during her reign, the queen has always appeared dependable and reassuring. Despite traumas in the 1990s, such as the death of Princess Diana, that seemed to threaten the monarchy's very existence, the queen has been able to lead the thousand-year-old institution into a new era of popularity.

"The key to the change has been anticipating what's coming next," Simon Lewis, her former communications secretary, told Reuters. "The lesson of these last 20, 30 years has been for the institution always to be slightly ahead perhaps of where the British people are."


Britain itself has become a more egalitarian society as old class divides were broken down and deference based on background ebbed away, something reflected in the monarchy itself.   Continued...

Britain's Queen Elizabeth leaves St Martin's in the Fields church after attending a service to commemorate the 70th anniversary of VJ Day in London, Britain August 15, 2015. REUTERS/Neil Hall