‘Grandmother of nation’ Queen seen as part of Britain’s story of stability

·2-min read
The Queen arrives at King’s Lynn railway station in Norfolk (Joe Giddens/PA) (PA Archive)
The Queen arrives at King’s Lynn railway station in Norfolk (Joe Giddens/PA) (PA Archive)

The Queen’s style as monarch was as “grandmother of the nation” with her handbag in tow, rather than the power associated with past kings and queens, a sociologist has said.

Dr Laura Clancy said the head of state had created the image of a “national family” rooted in a maternal vibe.

Elizabeth II was also a major part of the story Britain told itself about its own strength and stability, particularly after Brexit and amid the pandemic, Dr Clancy suggested.

She said the monarch had been a living link to the post-war era of Sir Winston Churchill and the heroism associated with that period.

Dr Clancy, author of Running The Family Firm which explores how the monarchy manages its image and finances, told the PA news agency: “What people will remember about the Queen is the later image, that kind of elderly, old woman with the handbag, the grandmother of the nation.

“That is a very specific version of monarchy that’s rooted in an almost maternal vibe so it’s not necessarily like old monarchs past where it’s all about power and strength.”

“It was very different version of monarchy she created in that image of a national family.”

She described the death of the Queen as a “massive shift” for the country, which would trigger a lot of emotion as people grieve, but said it would also spark fascination in the ceremonial proceedings.

“We’ve seen millions of royal weddings and royal babies but a funeral of this level we haven’t see for a really long time so there will be a fascination around it as well,” she said.

The Queen came to the throne in 1952, just seven years after the end of the Second World War.

Dr Clancy, a lecturer in media at Lancaster University, said: “The Queen was caught up with associations of stability and she was a key part of the story we tell about ourselves, particularly in this Brexit, post-pandemic moment when Britain’s place in the world is up for debate again.”

She added: “There is this story around this post-war, Churchill-as-the-hero, strength version of Britain.

“She was certainly part of that story and she was one of the only living connections to that history.”

Dr Clancy said the Queen had managed to reproduce the monarchy as a brand in the 21st century.

“She was certainly successful in steering a monarchy that has been going for centuries into a very new world,” she said.

“The monarchy is not popular with everybody but they’re overwhelmingly popular still and to have that in a world where people are questioning inequalities and talking about democracy, I think is pretty astonishing.”