But there were also the logistics. The “holiday” encompassed the spring Bank Holiday, now transferred to Thursday 2nd June, through Friday to Monday or even Tuesday. Parking charges were waived on Friday and Monday but not Saturday by my local authority.
Some shops closed but, in my area of Central London, most didn’t, though some of them adjusted their hours. There were queues round the block for my local Italian ice cream purveyor every time the sun came out.
And then there was the chat. Everyone I met had something to say about the celebrations, the Queen, the royal Family, the decorations and, of course, the weather.
There was a positive rash of Union Jacks in shop windows, They were on cars and even bicycles. Strings of them cross the King’s Road. And, at the end of Royal Avenue, there was a Mini dressed as a Union Jack. My photograph shows the display in the course of construction.
There was a lot of sympathy for her situation, during and after Covid 19, especially since the death of Prince Phillip. Everyone felt for her, not being able to go to the Platinum Jubilee Thanksgiving Service at St Paul’s. Or the Derby. But that FlyPast on Thursday was a long time for anyone to stand. It went over my house and I sat down half way through. So, no wonder the Queen felt some discomfort.
Many people spoke of her with almost personal affection, as if she were an aunt who had been kind to them in their youth. There was a pop-up cardboard figure of her in my local grocer’s, smiling benignly.
Another turned up at one of the street parties I went to. Her likeness swayed slightly in the wind and the after-shock of people dancing to – inevitably – Dancing Queen.
Platinum Jubilee Celebrates Ourselves?
Is the Platinum Jubilee as much about ourselves as the Queen? There was a good deal of post-covid relief evident in the street parties I went to. We’d got through it, was the general feeling, and Her Maj had, too. Maybe battered about a bit, but weren’t we all? So fellow-feeling and good will for the Queen then. But were we actually rejoicing in our system of monarchy?
Monarchy, he said, was stronger and its popularity higher than ever before. He quoted Walter Bagehot’s “monarchy is the visible expression of national unity”.
Bulwark of Democracy
Bagehot, of course, writing when there was another queen on the throne, also understood the value of the right individual inhabiting that role. In The English Constitution, Bagehote wrote, “They say that the Americans were more pleased at the Queen’s letter to Mrs. Lincoln, than at any act of the English Government. It was a spontaneous act of intelligible feeling in the midst of confused and tiresome business.” Just so did Queen Elizabeth II write to President George Bush after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Professor Roberts also contended that monarchy is a bulwark of democracy. He reported that, according to the Freedom House organisation, of the top 21 most free countries in the world, only 6 are republics; the rest are monarchies. A monarchy keeps the politicians in their place, he suggested. Most of my fellow street-party-goers would drink to that, I think.
Platinum Jubilee Pageant
The Platinum Jubilee Pageant takes place on Sunday 5th June. It is basically a procession, structured in four “acts”, starting with a traditional military spectacle. There follow elements of street arts, theatre, music, circus, carnival and costume, to illustrate ordinary life over the course of her reign. It will end by parading up the Mall to Buckingham Palace. We are promised a Big Finale. (Think 2012 Olympics, I suspect.) There will be corgis, I hear. Large corgis.
It has been funded by corporate, institutional and individual donors. Professor Roberts pointed out that 8,500 people were taking part, many of them volunteers. They are doing it for the sheer joy of showing what pageant master Adrian Evans calls “their best, whatever it is.”
Would that, Professor Roberts wondered, happen for an elected president? Hmm. Needs thinking about, that.
Monarchy has long held a fascination for the romantic imagination. From Anthony Hope’s Prisoner of Zenda to The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot (2000), readers have delighted in the conflict between an individual’s tastes and talents and the obligations of royalty.
In the first half of the twentieth century, duty was depressingly relentless in forcing lovers to part in Zenda and similar royal stories on page, stage and screen. Most notable perhaps, is the positively tragic operetta The Student Prince (1924), where the royal hero gives in to an arranged marriage (for duty), after his one true love has lied to him (for duty) and he ends singing a reprise of their love song, Deep in My Heart, Dear. Not a dry eye in the house.
Fortunately successor generations have got more optimistic than that. Though some people might say we’ve got less realistic. To celebrate the Royal Jubilee, the Romantic Novelists’ Association have created a short selection of royal romances by some of their award winning author members.
It contains 2 historical novels about real people; 2 historical novels about imaginary people; 2 novels about fantasy/folklore; 4 alternative history – contemporary British princes but not in this universe; and one near contemporary novel about a real person – it’s called Before The Crown.
That is not to say that the prince of an imaginary European country has fallen out of favour. Libertà Hive’s own Liz Fielding (If the Shoe Fits) and I both contributed to a Royal Wedding quartet set in a principality on the Adriatic coast. Constructing it was huge fun. (So are the books, though I may be prejudiced.)
Duty still hovers over most of these stories, even in the land of Euphoria, but these days it never trumps true love, at least in my experience. Royal Duty is no longer about the importance of making a dynastic marriage – though, in some cases they may happen, but only when the two parties want it to.
These days the royal hero is more likely to be concerned with international and even sometimes domestic diplomacy. He or she struggles with obligations that we can all relate to – family relationships, saving the planet, behaving decently. And, of course, they will have that mystic problem of Royal Celebrity, where everyone thinks they know the real person under the gold braid/black tie/regal robes/tiara.
Although Janet Gover has a royal bad boy in the delightful Marrying the Rebel Prince who isn’t that worried about behaving decently, and doesn’t give a stuff what the papers say about him. Gotta love him.