Over the next few days the
whole country, the whole Commonwealth, and an awful lot of people in other countries
round the world will all be celebrating the diamond jubilee of Her Majesty Queen
Elizabeth the Second, by the Grace of God Queen of this Realm and of Her other
Realms and Territories, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith.
Across her sixty year reign she has been served by thirteen Prime Ministers,
and seen eleven American presidents. Her length of reign is exceeded only by
Queen Victoria, who reigned for 63 years and 216 days.
But having established
those hugely impressive statistics, you can't help wondering how many monarchs
Combermere Abbey has seen come and go. Want to guess? Well, the Abbey was first
established in 1133, 879 years ago, in the reign of Henry I - the third son of
William the Conqueror - was was on the throne for thirty five years. His reign
was followed by the disastrous rule of King Stephen, during which the country
was in a state of perpetual civil war. The house of Angevin followed, which
brought stability to the kingdom, and they in turn were followed by the
(mostly) great Plantagenets.
There have been seven dynasties since then, all
linked in some way of other and creating Britain's great sense of continuity
and political stability. Some of these monarchs were greater than others, and
are better known nowadays, while one or two others (mentioning no names, but
thinking of William III and William IV) made less of a mark. The House Of
Windsor came into being under Edward VII, who agreed to a wise recommendation
to change his surname from the overly-German Saxe-Coburg-Gotha.
So, back to the question; how many
monarchs have in fact sat on the throne while Combermere Abbey has watched on
silently from a far corner of the realm? Thirty nine; that's the astonishing answer.
And it's that long passage of time which has given the Abbey and its
surroundings the uniquely English maturity which can be felt and enjoyed today.
It's a national treasure of great worth, just like our monarchy.