In our Royal Celebration blog series, we have been revisiting the milestones that Her Majesty The Queen has marked throughout her reign, from her accession to the throne in 1952 to her Diamond Jubilee in 2012. The series has been a royal trip down memory lane, recalling key anniversaries and how these momentous occasions have been celebrated across the world. Now, after 65 years of being our queen, we celebrate another milestone in The Queen’s reign, The Sapphire Jubilee.
Jennie Bond was the BBC’s Royal Correspondent for fourteen years. Throughout these years, Jennie has both reported on and been present at numerous Royal occasions. From ceremonies and celebrations, to the parades and parties – not to mention traveling the world accompanying royal visits. Most recently, Jennie visited us here at The Royal Mint to see the Sapphire Jubilee coin being struck. In the latest blog in our Royal Celebration Series, Jennie has also taken a trip down memory lane to tell us more about the milestone moments she has shared with The Queen.
There can be few women – or indeed men – who take their job as seriously as Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. For 65 years, she has put her duty as monarch and, as she would see it, as servant of the people, before every other consideration. And, although she is by nature, a very modest woman, I firmly believe that she will approach this record-breaking milestone of her Sapphire Jubilee with a justified measure of satisfaction. From the age of 25, The Queen has sought to protect, preserve and enhance the institution of monarchy. And she has done so with remarkable success: almost every opinion poll has shown that she has retained in the region of 70 per cent support throughout her reign….the sort of popularity of which politicians can only dream.
As the BBC’s Royal Correspondent, I’ve witnessed and reported on many of The Queen’s important landmarks. Each Jubilee has been preceded by a media storm of predictions about how the event would be greeted with public apathy. And, on each occasion the press has been proved royally wrong.
I remember standing at Canada Gate, just across the road from the Palace, during the June celebrations of Her Majesty’s Golden Jubilee. I was in what we dubbed “the media village” amongst a mass of huge TV trucks, satellite dishes, miles of cable and dozens of reporters and technicians from around the world. None of us could quite believe our eyes: from the Palace gates to the very end of the Mall, there stretched an ocean of smiling faces, flags and banners congratulating The Queen on fifty glorious years.
The Jubilee had turned out to be the biggest news story in town, and something like a million people had converged on the Palace to show their support and affection for their monarch. After some difficult years for The Queen and her family, she was truly touched by the warmth of the welcome she was given throughout the UK and the Commonwealth. And she summed up her feelings for the people in three words:” Gratitude, respect and pride.”
As the most recognisable and effective ambassador for this country over more than six decades, The Queen is rightly proud of her achievements overseas. She has made more than 260 tours, all of which have helped cement bi-lateral relations. Several have been milestones of historical significance.
In 1994, I accompanied The Queen on her first state visit to Russia. It was regarded by both the Kremlin and the British Government as a landmark in the post-Cold War world. With The Duke of Edinburgh at her side, she was welcomed by a very animated President Yeltsin. In Red Square, however, the Russian security sweep had been so thorough that, on their walkabout, neither The Queen nor the Duke were able to find a single Russian.”Is everyone here British?” quipped Prince Philip, as he met yet another Mancunian in the sparse crowd who’d been allowed through the security barriers. The visit was, however, a triumph.
The following year, The Queen returned to a country she’d visited only once before: in 1947 with her parents and her sister… South Africa. This was a visit of personal as well as international meaning. On board the Royal Yacht, Britannia, The Queen was in sparkling form as she told us how excited she was to be heading back to Cape Town. But nothing could match President Mandela’s uninhibited joy as he welcomed her to his new, free South Africa.
Perhaps the most important visit of The Queen’s reign was one much closer to home. In 2011 she became the first British monarch to travel to the Republic of Ireland. Her carefully worded keynote speech, with its mention of “things we wish had been done differently or not at all”, was greeted across the Irish political spectrum with near universal praise.
The Prime Minister, David Cameron, called it a game-changer. The Queen had once again walked the most delicate of diplomatic tightropes. And she had excelled.
After 65 years on the throne, Queen Elizabeth II is by far our most experienced ambassador and I have been lucky enough to witness at first hand the respect she commands around the world. We are indeed fortunate to have her as our monarch.
The Sapphire Jubilee collection comprises a series of £5 coins with reverses designed by Royal Mint Coin Designer, Glyn Davies, in finishes ranging from the collectable Brilliant Uncirculated £5, through Silver Proof and Gold Proof, whilst Bishop Gregory Cameron has designed reverses for Five-Ounce and Kilo coins in both Silver Proof and Gold Proof editions.