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Are we failing to pass on pride in the Queen to our newest citizens?

The Chief Rabbi says Jews are ‘intensely loyal’ to the Queen. Is that true for our immigrants today?

By on Wednesday, 6 June 2012

The Queen, Prince Charles and Prince William on the balcony of Buckingham Palace (PA photo)

The Queen, Prince Charles and Prince William on the balcony of Buckingham Palace (PA photo)

Lord Sacks, the Chief Rabbi, gave a highly personal and moving tribute to the Queen on Radio 4′s Thought for the Day last week. Among other things, he said “Jews are intensely loyal to the Queen”, adding that they pray for her weekly in the synagogue and say a special blessing whenever they see her in person.

It seems his father was a refugee from Poland and his mother from Lithuania. Were it not for our country’s welcome they would have died in the Holocaust. Lord Sacks reminded his listeners that “For us, Britain’s tolerance and traditions of fairness aren’t something we take for granted. They are the very things that allow us to live without fear. And they are embodied… in Her Majesty the Queen.”

He went on to say that the Queen “is the unifying presence at the heart of British life, to whom we feel loyalty whichever way we vote and regardless of class, colour, culture or creed”. He also spoke of her “quiet heroism of service” and “the dignity of [her] dedication to the common good.”

All this was heartfelt and coming as it did at the start of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations, it was heartwarming to hear. But it did provoke some questions in my mind. Lord Sacks began his short reflection by saying that when he was aged four his father bought a television set so the family could watch the Coronation; and when he first went to primary school he was taught the national anthem; amusingly, he thought “reign” meant “rain” and that as it rained rather a lot it was obvious Her Majesty was doing an effective job.

It made me wonder if primary school children today, particularly in schools where there are a large number of immigrants, are still taught the national anthem. Young children are very impressionable; learning this stately hymn to the concept of monarchy would leave an indelible mark on the mind and the memory. It would help to inculcate an indefinable sense of British identity more subtle and many-layered than Lord Tebbit’s famous “cricket test” (and I don’t mean to disparage our passion for team games in saying this).

Again, is the Queen prayed for in mosques (especially the more radical ones) with the same patriotic fervour as in synagogues? Will our immigrant communities be watching the Jubilee on TV with the same sense of national pride and loyalty as the Sacks family, and their Jewish community, watched the Coronation in 1953?

I don’t raise these questions in a spirit of cynicism but I do raise them with some curiosity. Of course it can be argued that the Jews of Europe were subject to intolerable pressures before and during the last War and so were glad to fit in; that there is a particular bond for those of the Judaeo-Christian religions, not shared by other faiths; also, that as a peoples they are uniquely disciplined, law abiding and, because of their tragic history, keen to be assimilated as far as possible in whatever country offers them refuge. This combination of features does not hold for later waves of immigrants.

Yet if it is the case that we no longer know how to sell our island story to those who want to come and live here, we have lost something vital. Our “tolerance and traditions of fairness”, singled out as words of praise by Sacks, should not, as the notion of multiculturalism has tried to do, mean we surrender our sense of national identity and pride. On Monday night at the Palace pop concert, the Prince of Wales spoke of “pride in being British” in just the same way as Lord Sacks. Why has this phrase fallen out of fashion in recent decades?

God Save the Queen.

  • Cestius

    I don’t think it can or should be taught.  I grew up when you were told to respect the royal family and all the rest and woe betide you if you didn’t. It didn’t work.  It just bred resentfulness. I think most of the outpouring of goodwill for the Queen over the weekend was spontaneous and natural, not taught or dragooned, and that’s the way it should be.

  • davidaslindsay

    Every Parish Mass should conclude as Sunday’s did, with the National Anthem, Jerusalem, and then Land of Hope and Glory on the organ. Domine salvam fac and Zadok the Priest
    would also have gone down a treat, and are both definitely well within
    the range of our outstanding organist. Bring on Christ the King.

    The Catholic primary school next door was still festooned with Union
    Jack bunting from its party on Friday, as was the C of E one across the
    road, where Lanchester had its street party. Mostly organised through
    the Methodist chapel, so dry. But never mind: if the Queen lives like
    her mother, then the Catholics can organise the one in 2022, and we all
    know what that would mean.

    Free commemorative New Testaments were distributed, with the Union Jack
    on the cover and no mention of Michael Gove. “One for each family.” Of
    course. The NIV, but, again, never mind. It says a very great deal, both
    that it was the NIV, and that a copy of that translation came with the
    official logo of the Church of England on the back cover. And, again, no
    mention of Michael Gove.

  • GFFM

    As I watched the Queen yesterday, I wondered what was going through her mind. There has to be major sorrow in her heart. The society and culture she has dedicated her life to has so lost its way. The majority of England’s honorable values seen in Britain’s valiant courage during both world wars have been lost. She has fought and acted quietly and courageously–that cannot be said of most of the prime ministers and ideologues she has had commerce with during her years as queen. 

  • Cu Sasana

    I would imagine many Irish Catholics (both by birth and ancestry) would be overjoyed by that suggestion. It was through gritted teeth that most parish priests read that awful paean to the Protestant head.

  • maideqi

  • davidaslindsay

    It is a good 20 years since I met a Northern Catholic who thought of
    himself as remotely Irish, and they were a good age even then. Not only my lot,
    born in the 1970s, but even most of their parents, born in the 1950s, had
    literally no concept of such a thing, not even in the legendary Consett area.
    It was and is certainly no part of the persistence of 1950s levels of Sunday
    Mass attendance up there. It was no such part as long ago as 1989, practically
    a generation.

    At my
    Catholic secondary school serving that citadel, among other places, I
    people with Irish surnames who assumed that their names were Scottish,
    and who
    were quite put out if a teacher or whoever casually remarked that they
    Irish. I remember one called … well, no, I shouldn’t say it on here,
    but it
    was very Irish indeed. Yet she, a practising Catholic, had just assumed
    that it
    was English because she and her family were English and no one of any
    age had
    any concept of being anything else. They had never even thought about
    it. She was horrified when a teacher suggested that her ancestors would
    have been on the Irish side in battles with English workers in the
    nineteenth century.

    She might very well have children of her own by now; she is 33 or 34, like me.
    Anyone under 50 would be bemused or positively offended at the
    suggestion, even if his name were O’Hagan or something. The makers of Coronation
    might still think of Catholic priests as Irishmen, but no one else
    does. I am told that below a certain, quite high, age, they are all Polish or
    African even in Ireland these days.

    Saint George’s Day, I heard one of the priests of Saint Patick’s,
    Consett, no
    less, give a church full of Scouts one of the most
    uncompromisingly English sermons that I have ever heard, far beyond
    that I ever heard in the Church of England. He dismissed “Celtic
    propaganda”, the term used, about the historical status or otherwise of
    Saint George. And he was younger than I am. In his thirties, but only
    just. Do
    not be too surprised in future years to see churches called Saint
    renamed Saint George’s.

    A far higher proportion of the Catholic population of
    England than of Ireland is practising, or even occasionally observant. The
    Church can now realistically claim a greater influence on public policy here
    than there. No wonder that Irish-descended Northern Catholics no longer feel
    even the tiniest “Irish identity”. You do get the odd parish bully who
    tries to keep it up, but they are very old now and it is fair to say that most
    parishes do not even have so much as one of them anymore.

  • Cu Sasana

    If our people are ignorant (or indeed apathetic) to the fact that we are still very much “second-class citizens” within this country, then surely that is the major problem, not a quibble over the Irishness/Englishness of our Catholics. We’re still (effectively) barred from the PM-ship and the monarchy.