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Monday, 16 December, 2002, 18:43 GMT
A Golden Jubilee tinged with sadness
The Queen Mother's coffin
Royal deaths rekindled emotions towards the monarchy

It will be remembered as the year of two funerals and a jubilee and for the strange saga of the Crown v Burrell the butler.

It was a year when the critics of monarchy were confounded by the public's commitment to the institution, and the supporters of monarchy confused by a court case and the ripples which flowed from it.

In the early weeks of 2002 there were widespread predictions that the Golden Jubilee was going to be a wholesale flop.

Golden Jubilee street party
The Golden Jubilee proved a great success
Those who offered such an analysis either ignored or were ignorant of the fact that precisely the same sort of predictions had been made in the early months of the Silver Jubilee year of 1977.

On that occasion Britain was in the grip of a major financial crisis and, it was suggested, no-one would have the time, money or inclination for something as frivolous as a jubilee.

But as spring gave way to summer the crowds came out. It happened in 2002 in much the same way as it did in 1977.

Of course there were differences. Britain is different. Our attitude to the monarchy is different.

It would be strange if that wasn't the case and, frankly, inconceivable after the turbulent times the royal family has put itself through in recent years.

But what we witnessed in the early part of 2002 seemed to be the response of a country which remains essentially monarchist by instinct or, at the very least, which remains respectful of and grateful to this particular monarch for the qualities which she has embodied for the past 50 years.

The Queen Mother and Princess Margaret
Gone but not forgotten: Princess Margaret and the Queen Mother
Without question the death of the Queen's younger sister, Princess Margaret, in February and - most especially - the death just seven weeks later of her mother helped to crystallise Britain's feelings about its monarchy.

Emotions which had, to an extent, lain dormant in recent years were re-kindled.

The Queen Mother was in her 102nd year when she passed away on the Saturday of the Easter weekend.

It was not unexpected, but for many it was still a shock.

And despite her "eccentricities" (she was extravagant with cash and champagne, suspicious of change and had a view of the world rooted in the days of the British Empire) she represented those facets of the monarchy which a great many Britons still cherish.

The most important of these is the ability to connect a country with its past history.

And so it was perhaps not so surprising that so many people made the journey to Westminster Hall and waited for so many hours in the cold to pay their respects at her coffin.

It was - as many noted at the time - her final, perfectly timed gesture of support to the family she had joined nearly 80 years earlier.

Paul Burrell celebrates his court victory
Princess Diana's former butler was acquitted of stealing
Suddenly, it seemed, Britain had re-discovered its affinity with the royals, and there - a few weeks later - was another elderly, silver haired lady beginning her Golden Jubilee tour of Britain and symbolising precisely the same qualities of continuity and dutifulness.

The crowds came out in the fishing communities of the south west; the former pit villages of the north east and in many of the big towns and cities across the United Kingdom (though it must be said that Glasgow and Edinburgh seemed a little half-hearted).

There were parties, pageants, concerts and services of thanksgiving. And to cap it all a million people gathered on the Mall to wave their flags and cheer as the Queen and her family made one of the most triumphant balcony appearances of her reign.

Family 'beset with problems'

It seemed that the monarchy had finally put the bad times behind it. It was even being suggested that the Queen was coming round to the idea of Mrs Camilla Parker Bowles as a possible future daughter-in-law.

But then came the case of Regina v Burrell and one of the most bizarre trials to have been played out in the Number One court of the Old Bailey.

It ended with a spectacular example of Queen's evidence and a welter of questions and suspicions.

Mr Burrell, the former butler to Diana Princess of Wales, was cleared of theft and exonerated. The royal family wasn't so fortunate.

The trial has re-kindled an impression of an institution which is beset with problems (most of which, it must be said, are focused on St James' Palace) and which, once again, is being buffeted by hostile waters.

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