It is tempting to start the summer term with a some sort
of tub-thumping speech about exams, but in truth, I think you all know what you
need to do and, in conjunction with your teachers, you’ve just got to get on
and do it.  I wish you luck.  So this morning for five minutes or so, before
notices, I am going to revert to one of the other themes of my talk at the
start of the year, the relationship between privilege and responsibility and
today is the perfect day to do so, for today is our Queen’s 89th
birthday.  Not everyone is a monarchist –
if you believe the papers a few years ago (which I do not, incidentally) only a
minority are.  In the early 2000s, scandals
abounded from the Palace and, whipped up by press fervour, took their toll on the
popularity of the monarchy.  More
recently, a royal marriage and the popularity of William, Catherine and Harry
have helped to renew the family’s link with the public; but perhaps the single
most unifying spectacle was the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee 2 years ago.  Everyone will remember, I suspect, the
pageant on the River Thames, with the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh in the
Royal Barge, great pomp and ceremony and a pride in being British.  Few will know the schedule, punishing for
anyone let alone an 87 year old lady, of the days around that pageant, and the gruelling
UK tour she undertook during the course of those months.

No matter what you think of the monarchy, whether you are
a supporter or not, the Queen herself provides the most extraordinary example
of that phrase “with privilege comes responsibility”.  I have often wondered what it must have been
like for her to have been acclaimed Queen of England.  Her father, King George VI died on February 6th
1952; Elizabeth was then in Kenya, with the world’s light upon her.  She returned immediately to England to attend,
on February 8th, two days after her father’s death, an accession
ceremony which included an oath that “she would always work to uphold
constitutional government and to advance the happiness and prosperity of her
peoples all the world over”.  She was only
26 years old, her own father had just died, she had not had any time to grieve
for him; and just to make things even more unbearable, she had never had any
choice, and nor would she, over her role in life nor (at that time) in the
people around her; she simply had to get on with her duty.    63
years on, and rightly so, this extreme sense of duty has endeared her to
millions.  I don’t know if you know, but
the Queen has a website, “The Official Website of the British Monarchy”!  On it, there is a generic example of a day in
the life of the Queen.  Let me give you a

She starts each day at her desk with the papers and her
correspondence – she replies personally to a selection of the two or three
hundred letters she gets every morning. 
She then sees her private secretaries for an hour to deal with the day’s
official papers and documents; she receives all sorts of official policy
documents all 365 days of the year; all these papers must be read, approved and
signed and this duty is often returned to later in the day and lasts late into
the night.  Official audiences also
happen in the morning, each private meeting lasting between 10 and 20
minutes.  If the Queen is away from her
desk, she will visit up to three venues before lunch every day.  The afternoons are reserved for engagements –
she has about 430 engagements every year, to meet people, attend events, open
buildings, make speeches; 430!  Often she
ends the afternoon by meeting government ministers – and famously she meets the
Prime Minister every Wednesday evening at 6.30pm.   She receives a report on the parliamentary
proceedings of the day at 7.30pm, which she reads every night; and she hosts
many dinners throughout the year.

What I have described is largely her standard workload, but
there are also the big occasions, the royal tours and so on which she simply
gets on with.  She cannot get up one
morning and just decide she does not fancy it that day – she just has to get on
with it.   There is a huge weight of
expectation and she is dutiful enough not to want to let anybody down.  She must maintain dignity and interest in
others no matter how she is feeling.  She
must have little time for herself.

So I guess this is a thought for the term ahead.  The Queen is probably the most privileged
person in Britain, yet the post comes with the weightiest of responsibilities.  She sets a wonderful example for how we might
behave under similar circumstances; we, too, are privileged.  It is also a truism that by thinking of
others, we alleviate some of the strains on ourselves.  So in the coming weeks, do your duty
responsibly and think of others; and I wish you the very best of luck with the

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