“I have to be seen to be believed.” — Queen Elizabeth II
The origin of the word jubilee is still contested, but either way it means a loud, joyful noise. One theory links it to the Hebrew y¯obe¯l, originally meaning ram, hence “ram’s horn used as a trumpet” (see Susie Dent, page 18); the other links it to the proto-Indo-European root yu- meaning shout for joy, hence the Latin iubilo from which we get jubilation.
The original Jewish jubilee was part of a crop rotation system. A jubilee fell at the end of the seven-year cycle of sabbatical years. Every seventh year was a sabbatical year or shmita, when the Torah dictated that agricultural land was left to lie fallow and all ploughing, planting, pruning and harvesting was forbidden. A jubilee year was the sabbath’s sabbath, and fell at the end of every seventh cycle. It was marked by forgiveness of sins, the writing-off of debts and a universal pardon: “Consecrate the 50th year and proclaim liberty throughout the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a jubilee for you; each one of you is to return to his family property and each to his own clan.” Leviticus 25:10.
The ancient Egyptian jubilee or Heb Sed fell after a pharaoh had ruled for 30 years, and was repeated every three years thereafter. It was designed to reinvigorate the ruler, giving them a dose of strength and energy. Our own Queen would surely sympathise, although perhaps less so with the system it replaced, whereby the pharaoh was ritually murdered after 30 years if they were deemed to be no longer up to the job.
Queen Elizabeth II, at 86, is the 40th monarch since William the Conqueror, having reigned for longer than all save Victoria, and being only the second (with Victoria) to celebrate a Diamond Jubilee. Despite having use of Crown Estate property assets worth more than £6.2 billion, her own personal wealth is estimated at £310 million, which makes her only the 262nd richest person in Britain. She personally owns Balmoral Castle, several stud farms, a lot of art and jewellery and one of the world’s largest stamp collections, built by her grandfather. She also earns a stipend of £8 million a year.
According to Majesty magazine, it isn’t true that the Queen doesn’t carry money. She does once a week – for the collection in church. It’s “a folded note of unknown denomination”. Otherwise, her handbag contains a comb, a handkerchief, a small gold compact and lipstick.
As well as owning all Britain’s mute swans, she is personally entitled to any “Fishes Royal” (sturgeon, whale, porpoise or dolphin) taken in British waters. The last permission granted for sale of a royal fish was in Swansea in 2004, when Robert Davies landed a sturgeon. He faxed the Palace, who gave him the all clear. He later sold it for £650, but then fell foul of a local wildlife officer, who pointed out that the sturgeon was a protected species.
Her reign in numbers
3,500 Acts of Parliament; 12 prime ministers; 6 archbishops of Canterbury; 6 popes; 261 royal overseas visits; 3.5 million letters sent; 45,000 Christmas cards sent; 175,000 centenarian telegrams sent; 404,500 honours awarded; 58 Queen’s speeches; 129 portraits painted; 30 godchildren; 30 corgis.
The Queen was given her first corgi in 1933 by George VI. It was called The Duke and known as Dookie. Corgis aren’t lapdogs. Chipper, another of the Queen’s dogs, was attacked and killed by the Queen Mother’s corgi, Ranger. Another was put down after being attacked by Princess Anne’s terrier, Florence. The Queen also owns a number of dorgis – a breed that resulted from one of her corgis mating with Princess Margaret’s dachshund.
The Union Flag flies over Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle and Sandringham whenever the Queen is not in residence. At news of a royal death, the Union Flag or Royal Arms of Scotland is flown at half-mast. The Royal Standard is never flown at half-mast, even when a king or queen dies, as the sovereign does not die – a new monarch succeeds his or her predecessor immediately.