Platinum Jubilee, Royalty and Romance

Confluence of strings of union Jack bunting against a bright blue skyFor me, this week has mostly been about the impact on my diary of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. I don’t mean just the parties, though I admit I prepared food for two, and attended three (so far).

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.A Mini painted like the Union Jack parked on the pavement between the end of Royal Avenue and the King's Road.

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.


Cardboard cut out of the Queen wearing a cream brocade dress with white gloves , diamond bracelet, necklace and earrings and an order on her left shoulder.Pretty much everyone who spoke to me had something warm to say about the Queen. “She’s steadfast,” said one conviction anti-monarchist of my acquaintance. “You’ve got to admire that.”

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?

The Queen in sky blue with a turquoise wide brimmed hat and white gloves, talking to the 3 Canadian mounties in scarlet uniform jackets.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?

Well, possibly yes, military and social historian Andrew Roberts told Justin Webb when he was asked that question on the Today programme on BBC Radio 4.

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

Cover of the Penguin edition of Walter Bagehote's "The English Constitution, showing victorian protestorsBagehot, 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.

Royal Romance

pink cover of volume One of the Princess Diaries, showing a small tiara and a heart-shaped lock on the mid right hand side.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.


Royal Duty

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.

Sophie Weston Author


14 thoughts on “Platinum Jubilee, Royalty and Romance

  1. Joanna

    Lovely blog, Sophie. And I too feel sorry for the Queen. If the RAF hadn’t gone on so long, she might have made it to the Derby!!! (As ex-RAF m’self, I feel entitled to say that.)
    And for anyone who hasn’t read the Quartet with Sophie Liz and others, I do recommend it. A real fun read.

  2. Sophie Post author

    Well, I sympathise with the RAF too. There was a long reign to celebrate and they wanted to give it their best.
    But, as we writers know so well, giving your best usually involves cutting out some damn good stuff. The maximum is seldom optimal.

    1. Sophie Post author

      Oh, and thank you for your kind words on the Royal Invitation Quartet. It was a lot of fun write.

  3. Liz Fielding

    Thank you for a glimpse of what’s happening in the King’s Road, Sophie. Considering her age, I wouldn’t have thought it beyond the wit of the palace flunkies to provide a raised chair for HM to sit on for these long balcony jobs. Considering all the endless, boring events she’s had to endure throughout her reign, a bit of comfort wouldn’t come amiss.

  4. Sophie Post author

    Or the famous (notorious?) Lord Snowden Orange Box, used in the first portraits of Prince Charles and the very tall Lady DI, as she then was. HM is surprisingly short. She doesn’t look it in so many photographs because she is so perfectly proportioned. Not that I’m jealous, you understand.

    And anyway, maybe she felt that standing to honour the RAF, who put their lives on the line for her and all of us, after all, behoved her. That would be in character, I think.

    1. Joanna

      I don’t think the Queen would have agreed to sit on the balcony, for the same reason that she probably refuses to appear in a wheelchair. She’d rather not appear at all than do that, I think, possibly because she thinks it would demean the monarchy. Using a stick is probably as far as she’s prepared to go in public. And yes, she may also have felt that standing to honour the RAF was the right thing to do.

  5. Elizabeth Bailey

    It’s all very exciting, isn’t it? I loved the return of Trooping the Colour and the Fly Past was terrific. Me and friend forewent the concert but have caught up with the highlight of Her Maj and Paddington, plus the two prince speeches. We are definitely up for watching the Pageant today (Sunday). We had an indoor street party last Wednesday for our flats with the obligatory cardboard Queen. I had me photo took chatting to Her Maj. I love the sense of joy and celebration among the crowds as well as individuals. I think, like you, it owes a great deal to the euphoria of freedom after Covid as much as loyalty to our Queen.
    I find myself all the time looking forward to things to come, what with Charles taking so much of the presence now. I was seven when the Queen was crowned. It feels very much like that kindly aunt you mention, looking out for us all for so many years. Love it.
    And what a treat to see those wonderful royalty books on the RNA list.

    1. Sophie Post author

      There’s certainly a buzz in the air at the moment, Liz.

      And I agree, it was wonderful to see that list from the RNA. There are a couple of my go to comfort reads on there, including the lovely Magic Flutes by Eva Ibbotson. The Princess is saved from utter (and horribly recognisable) despair at the very last moment. Ah, be still my beating heart.

    1. Sophie Post author

      So glad you enjoyed it Meg.You’re very welcome. It’s a lovely list, with a lot of good memories for me in it.

  6. Liz Fielding

    I take your point about the Queen wanting to stand, Joanna. I can imagine the royal stare for any courtier who dared suggest otherwise. And my thanks, too, for the comment on the royal quartet. Sophie and I had a fabulous day out in Castle Coombe with Jessica Hart and Anne McAllister (over from the US) researching that one. And I’m overcome with an urgent desire to re-read Magic Flutes.

    1. Sophie Post author

      Me too, on the Magic Flutes front, Liz. Just one or two things I need to finish first…

    2. Joanna

      I noticed that her appearance on the balcony last night (with stick, but standing) was very short. She looked keen to leave earlier than she actually did. And judging by her expression, she may have been in pain. I think the poor woman may be more ill than anyone is admitting.

  7. Elizabeth+Hawksley

    I enjoyed this blog – I was particularly interested in Professor Roberts’ comment about the merits of living under a monarchy. The Queen, as Head of State, rules over the Armed Forces, the Judiciary, the Police, Parliament and so on – all of which are of vital importance – and, crucially, that means that NO ONE ELSE CAN take over. Personally, I’d far rather have the Queen as Head of State than, say, an over-ambitious politician/ Field Marshal/ Lord Chancellor etc. with a dubious personal agenda.

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