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Celebrating constancy of the Queen and her choice to serve us all; Columnist.

Byline: Ron Beadle

ANOTABLE feature of the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebrations has been the absence of criticism by republicans.

Even the most ardent republicans recognise that Queen Elizabeth II is not an easy target for criticism and that even if there are grounds for opposing the principle of monarchy, there are few grounds for criticising the Queen.

But republicans remain and their arguments are largely familiar - that in a democracy everyone should have the right to aspire to be head of state, that no one would invest authority in any other important position on the basis of hereditary (imagine if the only qualification for being a surgeon was that one of your parents was a surgeon) and that the monarchy is at the centre of Britain's pernicious class system.

There are more subtle arguments, however, and one of my republican friends argues against monarchy on the same grounds as opposition to conscription - that no one should be forced into doing a job they haven't chosen. His argument against monarchy is based on sympathy for the royal family.

I think there is an answer to this argument which points to the answer to a big question in all of our lives. It is also one of the main reasons why the celebrations of the Jubilee have been so heartfelt and why the Queen is apparently above criticism.

It is this - the Queen's 60 years on the throne exemplify the virtue of constancy and this is a virtue that is essential to anything and everything that is of value to us.

Constancy is not just about consistency; we can after all consistently fail in some important task, we might consistently overindulge our pleasures, our fears and our fantasises and no one would regard such weaknesses as virtuous.

Constancy instead is the virtue of being consistently directed towards something of value, about being a person on whom others who pursue that value can rely.

Hence we celebrate anniversaries in a slightly different way to celebrating birthdays because anniversaries are an achievement, not just an event. This is so only because constancy is a pre-requisite to the success of our relationships, our work, our communities and our national life.

How then does this answer my friends' argument against conscription? The argument goes like this. To achieve anything of value requires us to pay attention to particular things - this person, this job, this set of instructions, this tactic, this ceremony and so on.

Such attention always requires us to suspend or forsake the pursuit of other things.

If I am to be loyal to my partner I forsake pursuing the attractive stranger; if I am to pursue a career in midwifery I forsake my ambition to be a pop star; if I am to be a soldier then there are circumstances in which I forsake my desire to save my own life.

While freedom is a condition for the exercise of our reason and self-determination is an undoubted human good, it is not the only good and here is the nub of the argument - it is only if I am able to forsake my freedom that my choices become real.

If I am not the kind of person who would forsake all others once married, or forsake the auditions for the X Factor in order to deliver a baby, or who would not risk their life for their comrades, then I simply do not have the freedom to choose to be a husband, a midwife or a soldier.

The Queen exemplifies the virtue of constancy because of our complete reliance on her to do what she regards as her duty, to do it for the right reasons and to put these duties first in her life.

And we are moved to celebrate this particular constancy both because it is central to our national identity but also because it is tells us something about the constancies on which we all depend.

My friend's criticism is also wrong because whoever we are, we do all get to choose whether to maintain that tradition.

As her uncle demonstrated, abdication is always a possibility. But our Queen, like her father, chose not to abdicate, chose to wear the crown, to maintain the tradition and with that choice to direct the rest of her life.

We are right to acknowledge and celebrate that.

Ron Beadle represents Low Fell on Gateshead Council
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Date:Jun 6, 2012
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