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Stone handaxe
THIS small handaxe is one of the most beautiful in the British Museum. It is made from quartz with attractive amethyst banding, a difficult material from which to make tools because it is extremely hard. The toolmaker would have had to hit with considerable force and accuracy to remove flakes. Such a high degree of difficulty makes the thin, symmetrical shape of this piece a masterpiece of the toolmakers’ art.
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Into the future
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Into the futureElizabeth II HAS REIGNED in a world moving swiftly through political shifts, cultural change and technological advances. Traditional institutions of law, religion and politics have suffered loss of esteem, but the Queen has remained steadfast and unwavering, a focus of stability. Her devotion to duty has won respect and admiration not only in Britain but also throughout the Commonwealth and wider world.

The Queen carries out a demanding round of engagements. At heart a countrywoman, 'happiest with dogs and horses', she moves serenely through the great state events - the Opening of Parliament, Trooping the Colour, the Cenotaph Ceremony of Remembrance. The pageantry of these occasions - also enjoyed and admired by visitors to Britain - means that 'putting on a show' is part of the modern monarchy's public relations activities. Unique treasures such as the crown jewels and golden State Coach inspire awe even in an age of special effects and virtual reality.

The Queen's children have pursued their own lives and interests. Charles, Prince of Wales (born 4 November 1948) served in the Royal Navy and has undertaken a wide range of public duties, many reflecting his personal interests. Charles married Lady Diana Spencer on 29 July 1981. Diana blossomed from a shy teenager into an international celebrity, but what had at first seemed a fairy-tale romance ended in breakdown, acrimony and divorce. Diana's death in a Paris car crash (31 August 1997) released a surge of public emotion that threatened to overwhelm the dignity and traditional formality of the monarchy. On 9 April 2005 Charles married Camilla Parker Bowles, now the Duchess of Cornwall.

Princess Anne's marriage to Captain Mark Phillips also ended in divorce; she later became the wife of naval officer Timothy Lawrence. Prince Andrew, Duke of York, served as a helicopter pilot in the Falklands War (1982) during his naval career. His marriage to Sarah Ferguson also ended, though amicably. The Queen's youngest son, Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, worked for a while in media production and is married to Sophie Rhys-Jones.

The modern media is hungry for 'royal stories'. The Prince of Wales suffered a 'bad press' in some quarters during the break-up of his marriage, while Diana, the 'people's princess', was given superstar treatment in the media, being seen by some as young and 'caring' in contrast to an older tradition of royal 'separateness'.
The Queen and Prince Charles showed resilience in surmounting these problems. Charles's concern for giving practical help was shown by setting up the Prince's Trust, while willingness to accept change in a changing nation earned him respect, as did his evident devotion to his two sons, Prince William (born 21 June 1982) and Prince Harry (born 15 September 1984).

And so the royal line runs on, as it has for many generations, and through many triumphs and disasters. The monarchy continues to be a strong thread in the fabric of national life, its powers reduced, its pageantry more symbolic, but its magic at times hardly any the less diminished.

Royal salute
The Queen takes the salute, as ever on show and under the watchful gaze of the media and the people.

Into the future


Royal successors
Prince Charles with his two sons, Prince William and Prince Harry.

Into the future

State occasion
The State Opening of Parliament features a carriage procession, ceremonial robes, and the Queen's Speech - which is written for her by the government of the day. The Queen's role within the constitution is largely symbolic, but pivotal.

Into the future




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