Queen has led us all the way from rationing to a rainbow of races and faiths

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Queen has led us all the way from rationing to a rainbow of races and faiths

Zaki Cooper, who worked at Buckingham Palace from 2009-12, hails achievements of the last 70 years, which has seen the UK transformed by computers – and frozen food.

This year’s Platinum Jubilee celebrations brings back stirring memories of the Diamond Jubilee 10 years ago, on which I had the privilege of working as part of the Buckingham Palace communications team.

One of my favourite memories of the celebrations in 2012 was a multifaith event hosted by the Archbishop of Canterbury at Lambeth Palace, with which I was excited to be involved.

Each of the nine faith communities present was able to show the Queen an object of significance to their faith and its history in Britain.

Through the collection of Jack Lunzer, the Jewish community exhibited a Talmud from before its expulsion in 1290.

I recall Rabbi Jonathan Sacks and then-Board President Vivian Wineman explaining its significance to the monarch, and being within earshot as we
waited with the small media group.

After viewing these objects, as well as some items from her coronation in 1953, the Queen gave a short speech to the diverse gathering.

She highlighted the responsibility of the Church in guaranteeing freedom of religion for all groups and then remarked: “This occasion is thus an opportunity to reflect on the importance of faith in creating and sustaining communities all over the United Kingdom.

“Faith plays a key role in the identity of many millions of people, providing not only a system of belief, but also a sense of belonging.

“It can act as a spur for social action. Indeed, religious groups have a proud track record of helping those in the greatest need, including the sick, the elderly, the lonely and the disadvantaged.”

In the weeks after this event, two other Jubilee visits took place, which emphasised
the Queen’s role in heading a multifaith nation.

The first was a visit to a Hindu faith school, the Krishna Avanti Primary School in Harrow, and the second was the first stop on her regional tour of the country, to Leicester, the most diverse city in the UK.

The nature of these early events in the Diamond Jubilee year were reflective of one of the deep-seated changes to have taken place over the Queen’s reign: the shift from an overwhelmingly Christian society to one with a much wider and more complex tapestry of beliefs and faiths several decades later.

It’s interesting that a relatively narrow group of religious leaders attended her coronation.

Besides Anglican leaders, there were clerics from the Scottish Catholic Church, and the Chief Rabbi at the time, Sir Israel Brodie, also attended.

Nowadays, whenever a “state occasion” is held, a kaleidoscope of religious
and community leaders are invited.

It’s not only in the evolution to a multifaith society that the Queen’s reign has seen bewildering and widespread change.

One former senior courtier, Lord Luce, reflected that when she became Queen in 1952 there was still wartime rationing on tea, sugar, butter, cooking fat and sweets, but there were not, at that point, motorways, computers, supermarkets or frozen foods.

Through the 70 years, it is estimated that she has carried out more than 21,000 engagements. She has visited more than 100 countries and carried out more than 650 investitures, the ceremonies where people receive honours.

Her dedication and sense of duty, combined with a recognition of the role of faith communities, will encourage religious communities all over the UK to throw themselves into the celebrations.

The British Jewish community, as well as those in her realms such as Australia and Canada, will celebrate with relish.

We are living through historic times. The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee is a one-off event that will be remembered for many years to come.

So make the most of this truly unique occasion for a majestic monarch.

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