A fascinating tidbit from the U.K., where former member of Parliament and BBC journalist John Freeman died this week at the age of 99: Elected to the House of Commons in 1945 and serving until 1955, Freeman was the last living member or former member of Parliament to have served before Queen Elizabeth II.
According to a tweet by the Labour Party History Group, eight peers – members of the House of Lords – who took their seats under the queen’s father, King George VI, still survive, and three of them remain in the upper house. America’s longest-serving congressman, John Dingell (D., Mich.) retired this December, but even he took office, in 1955, after the queen.
The queen has been on the throne since 1952, and next September, the 88-year-old is set to become Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, a record currently held by her great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria. There will be increasing commentary in the coming months about why the queen has been so successful in her 63 years on the throne, but a short piece by the historian Philip Ziegler on her father, King George VI, nicely encapsulates what these most two recent British monarchs embodied: an ethic of service.
Even detractors of the monarchy would have a hard time finding much fault with the personal attributes and commitment of the queen and her father. And those of a conservative disposition naturally are drawn to what seems to be an increasingly old-fashioned approach to duties and responsibilities. The queen’s coming anniversary offers a good excuse to celebrate, and maybe even teach, such traditional virtues.