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Looking back on the Queen's 60 year reign

I was at a conference recently of a big multinational company, and one of their major subjects for discussion was how to retain staff who had cost a fortune to train. And it's true: how many of you watching this have been with the same employer for 10 years?  Or even 20?

Well, here in Britain this coming weekend, we're getting ready to celebrate a woman who's done the same job for 60 years. My Lords, Ladies and Gentlemen, please raise your glasses - the toast is: Her Majesty the Queen.  

On so many levels it is a remarkable achievement.  Going back to my multinational, they worry that with turnover so high, who will be there to carry the collective memory of the organization?

The Queen's first Prime Minister was Winston Churchill.  She has held weekly private sessions with his successors ever since.  Eleven American Presidents have come and gone. The only one she never met was LBJ.

Her counsel has been sought on any number of global and regional crises - the Cold War, Bay of Pigs, Vietnam, Bosnia, Afghanistan, Iraq.  She has seen her Empire change into a Commonwealth.  The Soviet Union crumbled and the Iron Curtain came down.  And the Queen has always found a role to play in the life of our island nation. 

The success of the monarchy has been its ability to adapt, sometimes willingly and ahead of the curve.  The recognition in the 1960s that it had to be seen, and had to use television to show the British people its public face, is one example. But sometimes reluctantly too; notably after potentially its most dangerous moment: the days and weeks after the death of Princess Diana.  Then it was in danger of seeming heartless, and perilously out of touch with the wave of grief that swept Britain.

But change it has.

Britain too has changed massively. It is now a diverse, multicultural country with little of the deference of her early years.   And throughout all this, The Queen has been there. Solid. Unwavering. Discreet. But though she may be undemonstrative with her emotions, she after all epitomizes the English stiff upper lip, there will this weekend be a huge outpouring of support, affection and emotion around this country for a remarkable figure.

So whether it's a thousand boats on the River Thames or a bunch of kids at a local street party, the flags are set to fly as Britons are preparing to celebrate Her Majesty's Diamond Jubilee. 

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