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Pomp and parties for Jubilee year

2012 was the year of the party in Britain, with celebrations across the country to commemorate the 60th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth’s reign.

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This is a transcript from a World News Australia Radio story:

The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee year saw parades, concerts and tours around the Commonwealth by members of the Royal family.

It was also the year Scotland said it would hold a referendum on declaring independence from the United Kingdom.

But as Kate Stowell reports, it wasn’t enough to spoil the Royal celebrations.

On February the 6th, 1952, King George the Sixth died in his sleep at his country home in the English village of Sandringham.

His daughter Elizabeth, away at the Royal hunting lodge in Kenya, made immediate plans to return home.

And, with that, the British Crown was transferred to the new, 25-year-old Queen Elizabeth.

“But the end is also a beginning, and proclamation is made, God save the Queen. Here she is, Queen Elizabeth the Second, radiant with all the charm of youth and beauty.”

Sixty years later, Britain marked the now 86-year-old monarch’s Diamond Jubilee, with four days of celebration in June.

Despite dreary weather, a flotilla of a thousand boats sailed the River Thames, with the London celebrations capped off in with a concert outside the front gates of Buckingham Palace.

The many stars who performed included Kylie Minogue, Stevie Wonder and Sir Paul McCartney.

Prince Charles paid tribute to his mother.

“As a nation, this is our opportunity to thank you and my father for always being there for us, for inspiring us with your selfless duty and service, and for making us proud to be British (crowd cheers to fade under).”

In the second half of the year, other members of the Royal families joined the celebrations, conducting Royal tours of the Commonwealth.

In September, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge toured the Pacific and parts of Asia.

Prince William addressed dignitaries in Singapore.

“We’re excited and delighted to be here. This wonderful occasion is all the more memorable because this visit is undertaken on behalf of her Majesty the Queens in celebration of her Diamond Jubilee. Before we left London, my grandmother told me how much she enjoyed her three state visits to this remarkable country. And she told me how much we enjoy seeing Singapore”.

The Royal couple finished their tour with a traditional ceremony on the Pacific Island of Tuvalu.

In November, The Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall toured Australia and Papua New Guinea.

In PNG Prince Charles and his wife Camilla visited a youth development centre in Port Moresby before Charles held an official meeting with Prime Minister Peter O’Neill.

In Australia, they watched Green Moon win the Melbourne Cup.

Royal biographer Robert Lacey told the BBC the return to popularity of the monarchy could hardly have been imagined back just before the turn of the century.

“I think this jubilee marks a real comeback for the monarchy. I mean, think how it was 15 years ago — the Annus Horribilis, the death of (Princess) Diana, toe-sucking, all sorts of things. Who would have dreamt 15 years ago that you would have had a Royal wedding like we had last year, with young Prince William being taken down the aisle, effectively given away, by Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles, his mother’s bitterest enemy?”

A 2012 poll showed four in five Britons now want the country to remain a monarchy, a level comparable to 1953, just after Queen Elizabeth began her reign.

The national convenor of Australians for Constitutional Monarchy, Professor David Flint, says, through all the years, she has been exemplary.

“This is an example of service and dedication, an extraordinary example, where she has just given, just fulfilled her duty, without any personal advantage for the Commonwealth. And I think she sets the example in an age when such things might be going out of fashion. You know, keeping oaths and doing your duty may not be as fashionable as it once was, and she sets that example.”

Republicans, or anti-monarchists, in Britain set up a series of demonstrations to coincide with the official celebrations.

The group Republic, which wants a democratic alternative to the monarchy, says 60 years of one head of state is nothing for Britain to be celebrating.

But Robert Lacey, the Royal biographer, argues the modern monarchy is misunderstood.

“The modern monarchy is not about political power or about getting things done. It’s about something psychic. It’s about embodying values. In a way, it is about staying out of trouble. You know, we essentially, in this country, live in a republic. I mean, everything in Britain is done democratically, with all the faults and hang-ups of democracy. But we could get rid of the monarchy tomorrow, in a sense. I mean, the monarchy is a glorious bauble screwed on top, and, should we choose to unscrew it, then we will.”

In a year that saw the fervent displays of British pride, it was also the year that saw the beginning of an independence movement that may break up the United Kingdom.

In October, the terms of a referendum on whether Scotland should declare independence were agreed.

Signed in Edinburgh, it marks the formal beginning of a race to either convince the Scottish public of the benefits of independence, or of ‘sticking together’ with the United Kingdom.

Leading the push for an indepedence Scotland is the leader of the pro-independence Scottish National Party, Scotland’s First Minister, Alex Salmond.

“It paves the way of course for the most important decision that our country of Scotland has made in several hundred years. It is in that sense an historic day for Scotland and it is a major step forward in Scotland’s home rule journey.”

Mr Salmond, who has spent his political career backing the idea of an independent Scotland, faces an uphill battle to bring a majority of Scots around to his view.

At the centre of the campaign is the idea that Scotland can stand on it’s ‘own two feet’ and steer its domestic and foreign policy away from Westminster dominance.

The poll will be held in 2014, giving the ‘yes’ campaign just on two years to win over voters and coinciding with the anniversary of the 1314 Battle of Bannockburn, a famous Scots victory over the English.

Mr Salmond is confident of victory.

“Do I believe that independence will win this campaign? Yes I do. I believe we will win it by setting out a positive vision for a better future for our country both economically but crucially also socially. It’s that vision of a prosperous and compassionate society, a confident society moving forward in Scotland that will carry the day.”

British Prime Minister David Cameron has called for fierce national debate, telling the Telegraph newspaper he passionately hopes the people of Scotland will choose to stay with the United Kingdom.

“Now we’ve dealt with the process, now we should get on with the real arguments. I passionately believe that Scotland will be better off in the United Kingdom but also crucially that the United Kingdom will be better off with Scotland. We are better together, we are stronger together, we’re safer together, we’re better off together. Let the arguments now be put and I hope people will vote to keep this United Kingdom together.”