Leading article: A right royal excuse for a good party

A Diamond Jubilee is a rare occasion indeed, both for the near-unprecedented length of the reign that it marks and – as is clear from the riot of celebrations, large and small, around the country – for the nationwide conviviality it has provoked. There is, it seems, nothing that brings our individualistic society together like a royal parade.

In fairness, even the most ardent republican struggles not to admire the Queen herself. She has shown precisely the dedication, the dignity and the appetite for hard work that befit her extraordinary office, and she has undeniably acted as a fixed cultural point over a span of decades that has seen powerful changes in British life.

But to recognise the worth of the person is not necessarily to embrace that for which she stands. For all the progress in modernising the monarchy in recent years, the fact remains that it is an institution, founded on patronage, privilege and arbitrary heredity, that squares neither with Britain's feisty democratic heritage nor with the egalitarian mores of the modern era.

Even so, it would be churlish to puncture the holiday mood this long weekend, or to shout down an excuse for a party made even more welcome by the background of relentless economic gloom against which it takes place.

Whatever else, the monarchy does pomp, pageant and the past with unparalleled mastery. Tomorrow's 1,000-boat flotilla will be quite something, as will Tuesday's carriage procession, as will the street parties, record-breaking bunting and specially planted woodlands. If nothing else, then, enjoy the show.