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I figured this would be the hardest post to write, and probably also to read. To write, because I may have to explain why I get so teeny-bopper excited over the British royal family, and I have no justification. To read, because most of you aren’t going to care one whit. So, I’ll give you an out — there is lots of mooning and fawning over royals to come, so I’m not offended if you need to cut out. I know it’s not everyone’s cup of tea. (Har, har, har.)
As Day 4 dawned, I woke early and tubed over St. Paul’s Cathedral, site of the morning Diamond Jubilee Thanksgiving service, which was to begin at 10:30 a.m. Most of the streets were blocked, so I had a heck of a time actually getting to the cathedral, and I passed groups of men and women in full church attire making their way to the service. How’d they get to be so special?
I came in from behind the cathedral, and crowds lined the route for as far as I could see, all the way from Buckingham Palace, I suppose. Police on foot and horseback lined the barricades, looking convincingly bored, though I’m sure each had an eye professionally tuned on the excitable throngs.
Ten years ago, my mom and I stood in the crowds at St. Paul’s, watching the Golden Jubilee motorcades and the gilded coach procession, waving flags, singing English hymns and anthems. Well, eerily enough, this time I ended up in nearly the same spot:
(Terrible quality on these old photos, I know — but, just think, that was the dawn of digital cameras! How far we’ve come.)
So we waited. There was some slight crowd pushing, especially from the 4′ 8″ woman behind me, but the mood was joyous — with spontaneous cheering and a frisson of excitement.
All sorts of people continued to stream into the church — though they entered on the other side, so that part of the crowd cheered and whistled when someone important went by. After a couple of hours, the soldiers in full regimental regalia marched into position, so we knew something important was about to happen. These things are immaculately scheduled, as one of the morning papers published the exact times that certain dignitaries and family members were supposed to arrive, and they did.
Men in beefeater uniforms and religious robes went by. Huge coaches pulled up to let off important people — including a delegation in full African dress. The Lord Mayor of London and government officials in old-school powdered wigs arrived. Pretty soon it was time for the lesser members of the royal family, like the Queen’s cousins and Princess Anne’s children, Peter and Zara Phillips, with their spouses.
Just before 10 a.m., the church bells at St. Paul’s began to peal. Precisely at 10:10, cars carrying Prince Edward and his wife Sophie, Prince Andrew and his daughters and Princess Anne and her husband arrived. I am a terrible photographer in general, and despite the use of three cameras, I can’t say I got great shots of anyone.
Then the “senior” members of the family arrived — Prince Charles, wife Camilla and Prince Harry in one car, followed by Prince William and wife Kate. The drivers must have been a wee bit distracted, since both of them missed the turn, ran up on the curb and had to correct before moving forward into position. With all the people lining the steps, I could see some glimpses of these royals, but I completely missed Kate and William, who entered on the other side of a guy in full, red robes (maybe the Archbishop?).
Finally, the lone Rolls Royce carrying the Queen came into view. Because Prince Philip had entered the hospital the day before, she was escorted by one of her ladies in waiting. She was greeted by all the officials and escorted into the church, but not before stopping to wave at us before disappearing inside.
Perhaps the Diamond Jubilee (60 years) isn’t as important a milestone as the Golden Jubilee (50 years), or maybe it’s a concerted effort to be understated, but there was noticeably less fanfare. Ten years ago, the Queen arrived and departed in her gilded coach surrounded by fully-outfitted regiments.
Case in point:
This time, only the Rolls Royce.
As soon as the service began, it was broadcast to us outside. One of the women near me had the service program from the morning paper, so I was able to read over her shoulder and follow along. We sang and prayed along with the congregation, listened to the Archbishop’s sermon and prayers of the people, all ending with a rousing version of “God Save the Queen.” (To which I hummed “My Country ‘Tis of Thee,” because I just can’t help it.)
After the service, the Queen was first to leave.
And her motorcade came right by us. The British people, bless them, have the charming, yet annoying, habit of waving to the Queen as she waves to them. It particularly interferes with picture taking.
The rest of the senior royals followed, on their way to a reception nearby.
Other royals and dignitaries loaded onto the buses that had brought them.
Once the important folks had cleared, the crowd started to break up and guests continued to filter out of the church.
So I wandered, in the opposite direction I’d come, in search of a Tube station. But there was a bit of excitement to come before I got there…