Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Diamond Jubilee displacement and the other Elizabeth



When you are young you believe in the tooth fairy. When you are a bit less young but still impressionable you are moved by "God Save the Queen."

In 1977 when the Queen celebrated her Silver Jubilee I was 10. There were parties in the street, bunting and those curious plastic red, white and blue hats. We ate jelly and crisps and it was bright and breezy with a tinge of low cost flimsy naivety that was unique to the Seventies.

The crown was cheap too; a cardboard replica of the heavy headpiece that the Queen wore during the 1953 Coronation. It was enough to win me the class crown competition even though the velvet was derived from old curtains whereas the real thing, the St. Edward's Crown, made in 1661,  weighs 4 pounds and 12 ounces and is made of solid gold.

It was first used by Charles II as it had to be redesigned after the Restoration, the time the monarchy was brought back after Charles' father parted company with his head . There is speculation the lower part of the crown might be from Edward the Confessor's crown predating the Norman conquest in 1066. The Queen has not been known to wear it to ribbon cuttings and flower shows.



"Does one really have to do this dreadful north of England thing with all these commoners with bad teeth and acne?"


By the time of the Queen's Golden Jubilee in 2002 the monarch had endured a number of deaths not to mention scandals such as the divorce of Charles and Diana, Fergie toesuckingate etc.

In the ragged East End of London I tracked down some of the people who had held street parties in 1977 for a newspaper article but found most of them staring out through net curtains at the empty streets strewn with trash. The spirit of 1977 had gone, they told me, community had been broken down bit by bit. Most of the homes were occupied by people from Pakistan and India who had little time for the Monarchy and - this bit you can't print - they would say before telling me something borderline racist that I would never dream of printing anyhow.

Still I recall a concert and a big screen in Hyde Park and wandering through the crowds feeling indefinably lost.

And in 2012 I'm simply not there for the Diamond Jubilee, neither geographically nor spiritually. I haven't even seen any TV footage. It's not that I feel ripped from Britain or her monarchy - it's been a long departure.

It's also been a while since I saw the point of Elizabeth and, to be honest, she always paled into insignificance compared to the previous monarch to bear her name.



While Elizabeth II's biggest crisis may have been whether or not to return to London after the death of Diana, as depicted in the movie, Elizabeth I was rallying the troops at Tilbury in 1588 as a massive fleet gathered off the waters of England in the form of the Spanish Armada.

"I know I have the body but of a weak and feeble woman; but I have the heart and stomach of a king, and of a king of England too, and think foul scorn that Parma or Spain, or any prince of Europe, should dare to invade the borders of my realm."

Of course Elizabeth I was scheming and ruthless. She had to be to remain as a woman on the throne for more than 40 years in the 16th century. And while the current Queen's biggest dilemma may be what to wear at a garden party, Elizabeth 1 faced quandries such as whether to execute her cousin Mary Queen of Scots and how to bridge a religious schism created by her father.

She was also iconic with her striking appearance and shock of red hair, notwithstanding the stories that she really had black teeth and was considerably less attractive than the painters - who valued their heads - would lead us to believe.

At least she wasn't dull, although it's sometimes hard to lose Miranda Richardson's comedic portrayal of her in Blackadder.








19 comments:

  1. I remember the celebrations in 77 here in Canada. I was in Grade 2 and we got special coins for the event. It was a really big event. I can only imagine what the celebrations would have been like in England.

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    1. It was quite big in the UK - Mind you I think Canada likes the Queen more than Britain does.

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  2. I was in England in 1977 too! I was 4 but I do remember the celebrations to a point. I just don't really get the monarchy, to be honest. Britain seems willing to spend a lot of money to keep up the massive class divide.

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    1. I know Emm - it's a real load of money. I would be fine if they paid for a tower block in Dagenham or something like that.

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  3. You're frankly been a little bit hard on HM! At least she was not directly involved in any of those scandals, unlike the king of Spain (last thing he did: kicking out his mistress back to Germany, the week before that he was caught in a safari killing elephants. Good God, there is a crisis!). And you can't really compare her with her namesake, she gave her name to the English renaissance; you can't possibly top that up. I don't know why I'm so defensive, I guess I'm kinda envious. I mean, if you have a royal family sucking the tit of the state, at least they could try and not end up in court accused of corruption (that'd be the king's son-in-law)!

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    1. really Starla - wow I wasn't aware of this. The King of Spain sounds like a right cad. At least HRH appears too straight laced to be involved in scandal - just her kids etc.

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    2. Sorry, I' d been reading a political-satirical comic magazine (I don't know what other thing El Jueves could be), and was rightly pissed off at everything; the president, the church, the politicians, etc. The crisis is, if not other thing, an excellent time for comedians. Sight.

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  4. I didn't see any coverage of the Diamond Jubilee at all in the States....I think they still hold that pesky Revolutionary War thing against England. lol But thanks to my immersion in the world of British punk rock a couple years after the 1977 jubilee, I am well versed in another 'God Save the Queen' song. lol I do love John Lydon.

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    1. I know Jo Jo - it was a cool moment. I wonder if he still has green teeth.

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  5. Oh I think the spirit was still alive. Maybe not in the East End, but I went to a street party and we all turned out in the rain too.

    The Queen is a game old bird. She gets out of cars and climbs into carriages with no assistance - not bad for 86!

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    1. wow - she's that old. I get a feeling the diamond jubilee was bigger than the golden one

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  6. I don't remember anything about the celebration in 1977, but then I was a senior in high school and probably had other things on my mind. I managed to miss all the TV coverage of the Jubilee this time around too. I guess I'm just not much into the Royal family. I enjoyed reading your view of things in this post, though.

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    1. thanx Daisy - it's easy to miss in the US

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  7. This is a great post David, really interesting. I went to a street party in 1977 but don't remember much about it. In 2002 I got out of London, there certainly wasn't much that I missed I'm reliably informed. However, perhaps because of the royal wedding last year, there was a massive turn out for the Jubilee over here. I went to a street party with an expected 2000 guests but 4000 turned out, it was quite something to see.

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    1. wow Abi - it sounds like Britain has really revived the spirit again. Glad you had fun.

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  8. I don't get the whole royalty thing, but the Queen is certainly an interesting woman. I agree that the first Elizabeth was much more interesting though. Of course, most of what I know about both women I learned from movies, so what the hell do I know?

    You know what? Sometimes you just need a good party to bring people together. A 2 billion dollar party (number I heard on TV-can it possibly be right?) may be pushing it, but hey, we Americans are in no position to judge anyone else's overspending.

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    1. yes Tim - a bit over the top re the price but it does seem to have fostered community spirit again

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  9. I'm super curious to know what Liz the First looked like in the real life. There is also major speculation that Cleopatra was shockingly unattractive as well.

    I didn't even realize it was the Diamond celebration in England until I saw it on the fashion blogs. Apparently Kate made quite a splash with her boring red ensemble.

    I wonder when the world won't have royalty anymore. It can't be too soon. The whole concept of royalty is very charming and sweet, but nowadays it seems royals do nothing except be a "face" of their country. And it's usually not a very flattering face.

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  10. Oh I'm sure if will hang on for ever in Britain Jen - too much tradition. You are right re famous beauties. The bar was probably lower in those days. If they had a couple of teeth they were a knockout.

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