Queen Elizabeth II celebrated her 86th birthday on April 21, and the entire Commonwealth is preparing to honor her on the occasion of her Diamond Jubilee on June 5.
So a look at the future of the British monarchy is timely, and one take on this rich topic was offered at Bonham’s New York auction house on April 30 by a very privileged observer: former Royal Naval Officer Patrick Jephson, who served for eight years as private secretary and chief of staff to the late Princess of Wales.
Jephson said that his family’s history of service to the crown goes back to the 13th century, and his talk managed to combine respect and affection with a shrewd assessment of the Windsor “brand,” and what those who will succeed the Queen need to do to succeed in the coming years as a relevant part of British life and a resonant symbol of a vital monarchy in an increasingly diverse and globalized society.
The glimpse Jephson gives us of the royal family, particularly those two very private-in-public women, HRH Queen Elizabeth, and Diana, Princess of Wales, reveals a perhaps surprising earthiness, and in the case of the Princess of Wales — that bird in a gilded cage — enormous humility. For example, her response to being named “International Humanitarian of the Year” in 1994 was to say that, “she didn’t deserve the award, but she was working on it.”
By contrast, Jephson deplores the rise of royal spin doctors and cautions that what the monarchy needs to survive and thrive for another 60 years and beyond is to gain and keep the belief of the people in their authenticity and sense of duty. Trust, he says, is Queen Elizabeth II’s greatest legacy.
Photo of and by former Royal Naval Officer Patrick Jephson. He served for eight years as private secretary and chief of staff to the late Princess of Wales.
Listen to Jephson’s talk at Bonham’s by clicking the link above. He is introduced by the historian and journalist, Sir Harold Evans, former editor of The Times of London.
Former Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin on monarchy: “The throne is bigger than the man.”
Patrick Jephson on the family business: “If you’re in the dynasty business, your job is to survive, and to keep the business in the family.”
Patrick Jephon on core values: “Because the British monarchy is a very human institution, it’s always going to have flaws, but the flaws will always be forgiven if the virtues of modesty, integrity, and duty are always associated with it in the public mind.”