Operation London Bridge: For the term of ‘her’ natural life

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Though she's just turned 92, the Queen is still doggedly doing her duty (Image via @RepublicAus)

Today, the 21st of April, was Queen Elizabeth II’s actual 91st birthday. Well, congratulations to her. However, it's not the day we celebrate it in Australia, for some strange reason.

I’ve written before that it has always seemed absurd that Australians acknowledge the birthday of Queen Elizabeth II at a completely different time to her actual birthday. In Britain, the Queen’s Birthday is celebrated on the first Saturday in June. In New Zealand, it’s the first Monday in June and in Canada, it’s in the middle of May. The Canadian celebration is called Victoria Day because it was created to honour Queen Victoria. However, over the years the Canadian holiday has changed to include the reigning sovereign’s birthday as well. As I wrote last year, Queensland became a little less "Queenie" with the move by the State Government of the Queen’s Birthday holiday from the second Monday in June to the first Monday in October in 2016.

The idea of two birthday celebrations was introduced 250 years ago. Like the Queen, Paddington Bear also has two birthdays a year. The marmalade-loving bear from deepest, darkest Peru has birthdays on 25 June and 25 December. For Queen Elizabeth II, she also has a weekend of celebrations in Britain over the weekend of 9-11 June.

It appears that royalty is a life sentence. At 92, you’d think it would be time to retire. I can’t think of any other profession or role where a 92 year-old is still required (or allowed) to be working full-time. My grandmother will be 92 later this year. She's a hardy soul, but there's no way she would be up to the frantic pace needed to be a world leader! But poor Queen Elizabeth II just keeps working. So when will she be allowed to retire? Most people these days retire by 60, judges are forced to retire at 70, but Queen Elizabeth II, at nearly 91, keeps on working.

We certainly seemed obsessed with celebrating the birthdays of monarchs. But, if royal service is something that you must perform for the term of your "natural" life, then shouldn’t the end of a reign and the passing of a monarch also be as equally commemorated?

There have reportedly been plans put in place for when the Queen dies. According to a recent report in The Guardian UK, there are comprehensive and detailed plans in place for how the world will learn of the Queen’s passing. When the time does come, the Queen’s private secretary will inform the British Prime Minister. Queen Elizabeth’s secret code is "London Bridge is down". This statement will kick off Operation London Bridge — the plan to alert the world the Queen Elizabeth II has died.

But, can the world cope with King Charles III and Queen Camilla?

This picture was photoshopped, but still... (Image via @charlestonm)

Australian Republic Movement (ARM) chairman Peter FitzSimons has stated:

For many of a conservative persuasion, the last barrier to a republic will be lifted. Australia will look at the monarchy with fresh eyes and decide they prefer a homegrown hero as head of state rather than a foreign monarch.… Every step towards the coronation of Prince Charles will spark increased republican support as Australians say in unison ‘we can do better’.”

The ARM would prefer for Australia to become a republic before the Queen dies. This is not the position taken by Malcom Turnbull – a staunch republican, who was once head of the movement – who has said there should be no push for a republic until support increases. He said he believes that will happen only after Queen Elizabeth’s reign ends. However, FitzSimons does not want to wait for a new king.

The ARM chair continued:

Australians can instead make the change to a republic at a time of our choosing. We can then respectfully thank the Queen for her service and have her pass the baton to us to carry for ourselves. But we know that whatever happens, when King Charles inherits his mum’s job, it’s on”.

In 2014, I asked on the public holiday given for her birthday in Queensland if it isn’t “time to break free?” At the time, there had been a number of abdications by European monarchs. Queen Elizabeth II is unlikely to abdicate. It is most likely the queen will stand by her promise to serve as monarch for the rest of her life. The only time she has suggested she may agree to abdicate is at the end of Sue Townsend’s brilliantly satirical novel Queen Camilla, in which the UK has elected a republican government and the Royal Family has been exiled. Prince Charles will have to keep waiting.

In December 2016, the ARM received a significant boost with confirmation that a majority of Federal parliamentarians – in both houses – support Australia becoming a republic.

This bolsters the bipartisan support for a republic that already exists between the PM and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten. It also follows on from the revelation earlier in 2016 that all Australian premiers and territory chief ministers back the move, as does a majority of the public.

Recently, 40 senators and MPs from both the Australian Labor Party and Liberal Party, including Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and Opposition Leader Bill Shorten, signed up to a parliamentary friendship group for an Australian head of state. Labor Co-convenor Senator Katy Gallagher said that the creation of the Group represented a strong step forward towards the realisation of an Australian republic.

"The establishment of this group signals that there is a strong bipartisan push from the Federal Parliament to see this important national reform happen."

Liberal Co-convenor Jason Falinski MP said that as a long-term supporter of an Australian republic, he’s proud to see the push for an Australian as head of state reach the next level.

There's no doubt Queen Elizabeth II is a sturdy trooper, but the image on the new $5 banknote most certainly does not accurately reflect her age. But when will she be given a retirement watch from "The Firm" and be allowed to sleep in, watch Oprah or potter around in the garden.

To make her keep working after 91 seems cruel and unusual punishment to be undertaken for the term of her natural life.

History editor Dr Glenn Davies is the Australian Republican Movement's Queensland branch convenor. You can follow Dr Davies on Twitter @DrGlennDavies.

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