2012 ➤ This happy breed of Brits: keeping kings and queens in line and knowing how to throw a party

Morecambe, the Lancashire seaside resort: By the Eric Morecambe statue, rain doesn’t stop people celebrating the Diamond Jubilee. (Photo: Rachel Adams)

➢ A stoical nation parties to the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee
in the rain, says Daily Telegraph

Yesterday, more than 10,000 street parties were held across the UK. Special credit must go to the two villages that celebrated the Jubilee together, thus creating the country’s longest street party, stretching from Goring in Oxfordshire across the bridge to Streatley in Berkshire. Yes, the weather turned rotten, but there’s nothing we British like better than an opportunity to display our “mustn’t grumble” hardiness. As John Bishop, the comedian, put it on Twitter: Anyone can enjoy a carnival in the sun. Only the British can enjoy a carnival in the rain … / Continued online

On the Thames: the Spirit of Chartwell as royal barge for a day (Photo: Getty)

❏ The major event celebrating Queen Elizabeth II’s 60 years on the throne was the seven-mile long flotilla of boats making up the Thames River Pageant through London, where 1.2 million people had gathered to watch. Apart from the heavens opening late in the day to drown a distinguished chorus of floating opera singers, the big wince of the day came early in the BBC’s dumbed-down coverage, when a commentator called the Queen “Her Royal Highness” — a crime for which her predecessor Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth I would have dispatched him to the Tower with the command “Off with his head.”

Much is made of how well the British mount large-scale ceremonials, which always rest heavily on our love of dressing up. This tradition starts and ends with the monarch and centuries of practice, which means that in the modern era the relevance of a monarchy is always subject to review. At such times the nation turns to our oldest daily paper, The Times (est’d 1785) and of all the national newspapers this morning The Thunderer rose best to the occasion. Dedicating a whole page to its editorial, the paper invoked Shakespeare’s “this scepter’d isle” speech to offer an appreciation of our 1,200-year history during which rebel barons forced King John to grant us basic liberties through Magna Carta in the year 1215. Sadly, since the paper began charging for online access, most Brits will not have read this stirring and unsentimental analysis. Here’s an extract…

➢ A Happy Breed: After 60 years on the throne the Queen is more than ever an embodiment of our pride — The Times, June 4, 2012

© The Times, June 4, 2012 — click to read more

➢ In addition to Shakespeare’s Cleopatra, The Guardian invokes Conrad’s Heart of Darkness to note how contemporary London offends as well as dazzles and so can the monarchy:

Elizabeth II owes her unarguably special hold on British life not simply to heredity but also to the fact that she, like the little ships, is a living connection to modern Britain’s founding wartime myth. That connection cannot endure indefinitely. The past may be another country. But so is the future.

And then there is London and its river. What message do they send today, especially to the rest of Britain? Much was made, in the build-up and the coverage, to the sense of continuity which Sunday’s pageant was intended to evoke. It was the biggest flotilla since the time of Charles II. But the complacent continuity of unified Britishness is more myth than fact. A monarch in a barge like a burnished throne, sailing down London’s river from Chelsea, home of oligarchs and plutocrats, to the City, home of the unpunished financial sector for whose misdeeds the rest of us are paying, cannot be a value-free act. Contemporary London offends as well as dazzles. So can the monarchy.

London is a pragmatic city in a nation short of certainties. The Thames tells many stories, not always glorious ones. And this also, says the narrator of Heart of Darkness from aboard a Thames yawl, has been one of the dark places of the earth. It’s a pity about the rain, because the event — and the Queen — deserved better. It was a colourful occasion on a grey day. It was full of spirit. But whether the nation which it affected to embody actually exists is another matter ” … / Full text online

In the Thames flotilla: A Shetland yoal manned by Kingston Grammar School veterans upstages a boat full of Brunels (Photo: Anthony Devlin)

➢ The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Thames Pageant fired the public imagination in remarkable fashion, said The Daily Telegraph and cited Pepys’s diary:

The Thames Pageant, the centrepiece of the Diamond Jubilee festivities, was the most spectacular such event since the Aqua Triumphalis, the arrival along the Thames in 1662 of Charles II’s bride, Catherine of Braganza, accompanied by a flotilla of 10,000 vessels. Samuel Pepys wrote in his diary about “the most magnificent triumph that ever floated on the Thames, considering the innumerable boates and vessells dress’d and adorn’d with all imaginable pomp”, with “musiq and peals of ordnance from both ye vessels and the shore”.

The pageant was an imaginative masterstroke. It celebrated our maritime past on our most famous waterway, what the historian David Starkey has called the “liquid history” that runs through our national story. But it embraced much, much more. For this was also about the warp and weft of life as it is lived in this country by ordinary people. It was about the clubs, the societies, the associations, the guilds who cherish these wonderful vessels and keep them afloat – and yesterday had the chance to show them off. And didn’t they look magnificent? It is this spirit, writ large, that is such an important part of what we are. At our best we pull together to get things done.

Yesterday also showed how we like a party. For there was nothing po-faced about this marvellous spectacle: it was a truly joyous occasion. If anything, the gloomy weather seems to have made people even more determined to go out and enjoy the show … / Continued online

Deepest Somerset: Jubilee party goers get into full swing (Photo: Guy Harrop)


Slave to the Rhythm: Grace Jones at the Diamond Jubilee Concert. (Photo: Ian West)

➢ Update: Monday night’s Diamond Jubilee Concert with Buckingham Palace as the backdrop featured schmaltzy music from all six decades of the Queen’s reign and much limp humour which backfired on almost every comedian linking the acts except Peter Kay whose fooling proved him to be the compleat court jester. Musical standouts included opener Robbie Williams, JLS, Sir Tom Jones, Kylie, Madness performing Our House from the palace roof and Sir Paul McCartney’s closing set. Wackiest performance was Grace Jones, glazed from top to toe as if ready for basting and singing Slave to Rhythm while hula hooping. Priceless. She’s 64, you know. The most lavish son et lumière firework display for years capped the lot.

➢ Tuesday update: two-minute timelapse video — Guardian photographer David Levene captures the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Procession on the final day of celebration

➢ Wednesday update: Daily Telegraph poll on BBC coverage of the Jubilee — Did you agree that it was “lamentable” and “mind-numbingly tedious”?

❏ Former BBC Radio 4 controller Mark Damazer told Radio 4’s Today programme: “All that went wrong was the very conscious attempt to make the whole event informal and to use the modern idiom.”

❏ Gillian Reynolds, the Daily Telegraph’s radio critic, responded by saying viewers would have preferred more informative commentary rather than “fun” coverage: “I could not reconcile the marvellous framing of the shots — beautiful photographs — with the words that were coming out. Nobody explained what Dunkirk was. I know what Dunkirk was — I remember it — but nobody explained it. Nobody explained what the Little Boats did was perfectly extraordinary. I felt a bit let down.”


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s