DIAMOND GEEZER reports from the banks of the Thames, where he had a prime view of Sunday’s Royal Pageant on the river, and offers his own view after 60 years of the reign of Queen Elizabeth II
The Jubilee weekend’s Royal Pageant, Monday night’s concert outside Buckingham Palace, the crowds on The Mall, the street parties and other celebrations, have all sparked a great feeling around the country, despite these times of austerity. Just like the Festival of Britain in post-war London, there is at least a reason to celebrate.
On a rather grim Sunday afternoon, more than a thousand boats of all shapes, sizes and purposes sailed down the Thames in the first royal flotilla for 10 years.
Someone drew the comparison with the Canaletto picture of a similar regal scene on the Thames from 250 years ago, noting that this time the weather was not so good and there were rather too many kayaks.
There is a history for pageants such as this dating back 550 years to the first Lord Mayor’s show on the Thames. However, an event on this scale is very rare.
More than a million people camped out overnight or queued outside riverside parks for hours in the rain to see the monarch and her ships sail past, despite transport issues (incredibly considering the numbers expected, the rail companies provided only a Sunday service), the forecast poor weather and over-zealous security which meant that by mid-morning in central London, Waterloo was the only bridge open to cross the river [click here for CR7’s experience of this “joyous” occasion].
Undeterred, Queen Elizabeth’s adoring people waited until she passed on the Spirit of Chartwell. It took more than an hour for her to reach the Houses of Parliament, where peers and MPs loyally waved to her from the terrace, and another hour to reach Tower Bridge, her damp and chilly journey’s end.
In some areas there were republican protests, yet these were miniscule compared to the scale of the main attraction. The pageant proved again that Queen Elizabeth II has a place in the nation’s, and indeed most of the world’s, hearts.
The Queen’s links with Croydon are fairly weak. As far as I can recall, her last visit was in 2002 at the Golden Jubilee; this year the borough was bypassed in favour of nearby Bromley and Mitcham.
This has always been the way, as history tells us her family are linked far closer to neighbouring Sutton. Nonsuch Palace and Carew Manor both had far greater appeal to previous monarchs than Croydon, with its Archbishop’s summer residence, ever did, primarily due to the location of the hunting estates.
To the average person from Croydon, this needn’t be an issue. To them the Queen is a role model, a true leader above the smears and sleaze of the modern world. As Clement Attlee once said, it is better to have the monarch than an elected party political king or queen every four years.
Something about this still resonates, even for those holding republican views but who retain some deep down respect for the monarch.
Britain, an instinctively conservative nation, seems happy with our constitutional compromise. Yet it is fair to say that this contentment with the arrangement is entirely due to Queen Elizabeth and the stoic work she has done and respect she has earned these past 60 years, overseeing the transition from Empire to Commonwealth. The largely affectionate relationship between crown and a Commonwealth of former imperial possessions is something that has never before been achieved in history.
And then there is the impact that the Queen has on Britain’s tourism industry – one of the few industries this country has left. It is claimed that the Queen adds £44 billion to the British economy, a substantial return on the state money she receives for carrying out her duties.
Perhaps largely because of the bitter fall-out of his first marriage, many question the succession of Prince Charles, although his speech of tribute to “Your Majesty… Mummy”, and to his father at Monday night’s concert may have won round many of his detractors.
So as well as giving us all something to cheer, this Diamond Jubilee weekend has probably ensured that we are many years away from any constitutional “crisis” over the monarchy just yet.
- For a sense of proportion, read this post by stand-up and Independent columnist, Mark Steel.
- For a different perspective (albeit ripping the shit royally out of Piers Morgan on CNN), watch this clip from Jon Stewart’s American TV show, via the New Statesman.
- Inside Croydon: For comment and analysis about Croydon, from inside Croydon. Not from Redhill. Post your comments on this article below. If you have a news story about life in or around Croydon, email us at email@example.com
- Photos: Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee (abcnews.go.com)