We’ve heard the fun facts about Queen Elizabeth who just celebrated her Platinum Jubilee — 70 years on the throne. Now 96, she is the longest-reigning monarch ever in Great Britain.
She’s outlasted 14 British prime ministers, 13 U.S. presidents, six popes and one Dave Ward on ABC13.
She has two birthdays: She was born on April 21, 1926, but her “official” birthday is celebrated in June when the snow finally melts in Great Britain.
She is the only person who’s allowed to drive in Great Britain without a license. She’s also travels the world without a passport. She’s hosted more than 1.5 million guests at receptions, banquets, dinners and garden parties at Buckingham Palace.
But last week, Her Majesty’s Consul General Richard Hyde shared with me what has to be the most amazing fact of all about (deep breath, ready?): Elizabeth II, by the Grace of God, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and of Her other Realms and Territories Queen, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith.
Yes, that’s her official title.
A silent monarch
During her unprecedented seven decades on the throne, Queen Elizabeth has not given a single interview — not for Britain’s notorious tabloid press, online media, a book, documentary, university study, or whatever else. The answer has always been no.
Not even David Frost could get the queen to sit for an interview on the telly. Maybe that’s why Paul McCartney sang, “Her Majesty’s a pretty nice girl but she doesn’t have a lot to say.”
Actually the queen does have a lot to say. She doesn’t consider the public on a need-to-know basis, that’s all.
“The only way to know what she’s thinking is from her speeches. She doesn’t give her opinions publicly. She’s not political. The political direction of Great Britain is set by the party that’s in power. The queen is above that,” Hyde noted to me.
The queen’s speech
And when she gives a speech, reporters aren’t allowed to scream questions as she leaves, like the White House press does.
“She does have conversations with the prime minister but they are not reported. But the prime ministers say she is very knowledgeable and has a depth of understanding that is quite surprising,” Hyde added.
Houston’s regal garden party for the queen
Last week, the British Consulate General Houston threw an invitation-only party for 400 guests at Lott Hall in Hermann Park to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee.
Guests played croquet on the lawn, watched a television feed of the celebration in London, posed with cardboard cutouts of the Queen and Winston Churchill, had fun with a Punch and Judy puppet show, enjoyed adult beverages and dined on chips and dip, a cheese table, and prime rib carving stations.
Entertainment was provided by bagpipe players and the Fab 5 Beatles tribute band (not at the same time). There were Corgis to pet and a baking contest to nosh on. Women wore hats that made Kentucky Derby headwear look like beanies.
Hyde, born in Liverpool, in Ringo Starr’s old neighborhood, is a 30-year veteran of Great Britain’s foreign service. He manages the British Consulate on Fannin Street near downtown Houston. The consulate represents Britain in five states: Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas, and New Mexico.
There are seven other British Consulates in the U.S. This is Hyde’s ninth assignment on behalf of Great Britain. Previously, he’s served in France, Saudi Arabia, India (twice), Armenia, Venezuela, Costa Rica, and Bermuda. Typically a Consul General’s assignment lasts four years, but Hyde will stay an extra year in Houston to cover for the COVID pandemic.
Hyde met the Queen in 1993 when he served as the British Consul in Bermuda and the Queen and Prince Philip made an official royal visit.
“I was involved in the organization of the visit. It was incredible to see the huge amount of preparation that goes into a visit by the Queen. She takes it all in stride. She handles all the pomp effortlessly. It was quite a demonstration of her excellent work ethic,” Hyde said.
The party at Lott Hall was full-on traditional. Guests were encouraged to “wear garden party attire, elegant yet seasonal. It includes styles such as Royal Ascot and Derby attire.”
Ken suits up
I don’t have garden party attire. I ran to K&G Fashion Superstore on 610 and bought a $79 suit from the Steve Harvey Celebrity Fashion Collection.
I got in. I didn’t ask the security guards to play Royal Family Feud. (Editor’s note: A crowning achievement indeed, Ken.)
I asked Hyde: “Queen Elizabeth is beloved and respected in Great Britain. In America, we have little respect for our leaders and can’t wait to throw them out of office. Half the country thinks the former president should be tossed in jail, and the other half thinks our current president shouldn’t even be the president because the election was fixed. Meanwhile the Queen has a 90-percent approval rating in Great Britain and 75-percent approval rating in the U.S. How does she do it?”
Hyde summed it up. “She has a sense of duty, purpose and dignity,” he said. “She doesn’t complain, she just gets on with the job. She gives people a sense of direction. She sets the moral code. She is about honor and duty. She is all the things we expect from our leaders. We criticize politicians when they fail in those areas. The Queen has never failed.”