Warning: opinions of a contradictory nature ahead!
As a (soft) republican and historian I had conflicted feelings over the Platinum Jubilee Celebration Weekend just gone.
I couldn’t deny the importance of seeing history in the making, but wondered at the same time whether it was all a bit over the top. The monarch is in place, in a position of unimaginable wealth and influence, simply by being born into the ‘right’ family. Not very democratic and not earned.
On the other hand, while uneasy with the institution she represents, I’ve a fondness and respect for the queen herself. She’s battled though prime minister after prime minister, personal and public disaster and she’s the only monarch I’ve ever known. Plus, she’s roughly the same age as my mum (my mum even looks a bit like her) and people of that generation are as tough as old boots. There’s no choice but to admire them.
I watched some of the celebrations on television, fast-forwarding the less tuneful artistes on the bill for the evening party. Thought Sam Ryder was great – he has a golden retriever-like likeable quality and his positivity shone out – wish it could be bottled. I began to watch the pageant to see what it was all about and, once the busses with ‘celebrities’ had gone past, stayed glued to the rest of it. Good to see the south west’s love of carnival being represented. Carnival is huge in the West Country and Bridgewater’s float, with its giant Beefeaters, was astonishing.
I even caught a little of the Trooping of the Colour. My goodness some of those horses were frisky. Did anyone else spot the outrider having a funny five minutes and, in turn, setting off one of the horses pulling the carriage with the three Cambridge children in? Their riders got them under control, thank goodness and averted a possible disaster. Amazing skill and horsemanship. Speaking of which, I loved seeing the heavy horses stoically carrying the drums, their riders guiding them by the stirrups.
There’s no doubting the UK can do pomp and pageantry like no other country. The sun shone on gleaming horses and brass, the soldiers marched with … ahem … military precision and there was a fantastically skilled fly past.
But I have to ask was it all necessary? A display of military ‘might’ from a denuded army and RAF, an impressive police presence from a similarly understaffed force and who surely had better things to do. It all seemed, to me, to be an impressive but empty spectacle. Surely the money – our money – could have been spent on something more vital?
I know I’m in the minority here and the events over the weekend brought much joy to lots of people, my mum included as she’s a staunch royalist. It also brought communities together. So, to avoid coming across as a complete curmudgeon, I’ll list my personal highlights:
That we were able to mark a moment in history.
That we can celebrate our (mostly) wonderful pop and popular culture.
That magical moment when Paddington went to tea at the palace.
That we were able to embrace our unique eccentricity – who else now craves a corgi puppet?!
PS No Morris dancers in the pageant though! Shocking omission.