Saturday, August 27, 2022

the number

An article in The New Yorker said that Queen Elizabeth II has had ten prime ministers. "That must be wrong: it's got to be more than that," I thought, having not noticed that the article was a 20-year-old reprint. Once the glacial - that's no longer a very good metaphor, is it? - process of choosing Boris's replacement is finished, that person will be no. 15.

QE2 has been monarch for over 70 years now. Victoria had 63 1/2 years, with ten p.m.s, but much of her reign was occupied with Gladstone alternating with Disraeli and then Salisbury; there were 20 administrations in total. Hanging around waiting for another term is quite obsolete these days: QE2 has had only one recidivist (two if you count Churchill, whose first term was before her time), and that was nearly half a century past.

The other long-reigning monarch of the modern era was George III with over 59 years, including the Regency. He had 14 p.m.s of whom 3 also had repeats. He also had two father-son pairs, of whom the fathers were brothers-in-law and the sons first cousins. British politics is still pretty closely-knit, but not quite that close.

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