Is preserving the monarchy the Queen's greatest achievement?

Tim Ewart

Former Royal Editor

The Queen has overseen turbulent times during her reign but the future of the monarchy appears to be bright. Credit: Chris Jackson/PA Archive

The Queen does not give interviews. Her officials will occasionally offer guidance on her views, but it is invariably pretty superficial stuff. "Her Majesty was delighted with the public response," and so forth.

We are not privy to the monarch's innermost thoughts. But it's a safe bet that when she reflects on the sixty years of her reign she will derive particular pleasure from the thought that the future appears to be in safe hands.

Her cousin, Lady Elizabeth Anson, told me recently that in the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge the Queen could "see the end of the rainbow."

The wedding of the William and Kate was not part of this jubilee year, but it set the stage for the mood that now surrounds the celebrations.

It gave the public the love story so many wanted after Charles and Diana's "fairytale wedding" went wrong.

Prince Charles and Princess Diana stand on the balcony of Buckingham Palace in 1981. Credit: Reuters

And William and Kate quickly demonstrated how confidently they could take the monarchy forward. They deserve much of the credit for the royal family's high approval ratings in recent opinion polls.

But it's not just William and Kate who have so pleased the Queen as she casts an eye over the Windsors.

Earlier this year Prince Harry represented her for the first time on an overseas tour and cheerfully admitted that some senior royal fingers were firmly crossed as he set off for the Caribbean and Brazil. His grandmother, we are told, was more than happy at the way things went.

Prince Harry in Jamaica with sprinter Usain Bolt. Credit: REUTERS/Suzanne Plunkett

And then there is Charles and Camilla.

Following the Queen on tours to Canada and Australia it's been hard to ignore the fact that in the post-Diana era there remains considerable resentment towards the Prince of Wales and his second wife. In both countries people asked repeatedly if the crown could "skip a generation" on the Queen's death.

After Diana's death there was resentment towards Camilla and Prince Charles. Credit: REUTERS/Ben Stansall/Pool

But sentiments like that are now little in evidence here. The Duchess of Cornwall has clearly won the Queen's approval and has been increasingly comfortable in public.

Prince Charles has been noticeably more relaxed too, gaining admirers for his rapid response to communities affected by last summer's riots and providing one of the Jubilee year's memorable moments with his television weather forecast.

The Queen will have these closest members of the family with her as she walks up the aisle of St.Paul's Cathedral for Tuesday's service of Thanksgiving, the culmination of the long Jubilee weekend.

They, and only they, will be at her side later on the balcony of Buckingham Palace.

For a Queen who has seen so many changes in her reign, who has witnessed such social and political upheaval over six decades, the greatest achievement may prove to be preserving the popularity of the monarchy.

After some turbulent times and some painful criticism, the royal family is finally at peace with itself.