While many Britons used the long weekend to relax — and an estimated 2 million left the country on vacation — writers and religious leaders used the occasion to reflect on how Britain has changed over the queen's reign, from a war-scarred imperial power to a middle-sized power with oversized cultural clout.
Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams, spiritual head of the Anglican Church, expressed a widely held view when he said Britain had been lucky to have Elizabeth as monarch throughout a period of rapid change.
"It seems to me that what her importance has been for most people in this country has been as a sign of stability, a sign of some kind of security," Williams said in a jubilee video message.
"And that wouldn't have happened had she not been so profoundly committed at every point, so intelligently committed to understanding the society she was in, working with the flow of the changes that have taken place. To have someone who has been a symbol, a sign of stability through all that period is really a rather exceptional gift."
Some have speculated that as she ages the queen might abdicate in favor of her 63-year-old son, Prince Charles — or even her wildly popular grandson, Prince William.
Those who know her say that is unlikely.
"I think it's an absolutely absurd notion," former Prime Minister John Major told Sky News. "I have not a shadow of a doubt that given her health she will remain monarch for the rest of her life."
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