“Better days will return,we will be with our friends again,we will be with our families again.We will meet again!”
The Queen in an address to the nation during the pandemic
She was right. During the 4 day Platinum Jubilee weekend, the full magnificence of the monarchy was on display to celebrate the Queen’s 70 years on the throne. In short, the longest reigning female monarch in recorded history invited the country to her party and the country accepted with gleeful joy.
Sure, there were some party poopers, but after two years of restrictions and isolation, millions were ready for colour, celebration and sharing good times. Buildings, shops, restaurants, offices, homes were adorned with Union Jack flags, bunting and photos of the Queen. Tens of thousands turned up in London to catch a glimpse of her from the Mall leading to Buckingham Palace and thousands more streamed into nearby parks and landmark venues just to be part of the carnival atmosphere. Those who couldn’t get to London celebrated across the country, either at home with family and friends or at street parties where they contributed food, drink and their company to community get togethers.
The celebrations were not just national. In France, the USA, Australia, New Zealand and many Commonwealth countries iconic national landmarks lit up in Royal colours and people partied. Others made the trip from thousands of miles away to come to London or Windsor to be part of the historic occasion. I met people who had travelled from New Zealand, the USA, India and many European countries to be in London specifically for the jubilee.
The pictures below give a flavour of the numbers that attended Jubilee events in London but alongside the numbers it was the exuberance and goodwill of the crowds that also stood out. People were happy. They waved flags, wore union jack clothing and masks of the Queen and just had a good time, even if they couldn’t get into the hallowed spaces of the Mall. It was a genuine coming together with a happy purpose. What was also striking was the mix of ethnicities and ages. Children, particularly, were excited as they waved their little flags and talked about going to ‘see the Queen.’ No politician or celebrity can command such crowds and joy, simply for existing. The television ratings were also the highest of the year, so far.
Despite her absence from some events, due to mobility issues and simple old age, the Queen’s presence was felt strongly throughout the weekend. There were the ubiquitous photographs, of course and the anthem but there were also the exquisite moments; two balcony appearances, at which, behind the regal reserve, the emotion was evident. The huge crowds sang God save the Queen with extra vigour and it cannot have failed to pass everyone’s mind, including her own, that this may be the last time she would see such crowds from Buckingham Palace. Then, there was the unexpected delight of a playful skit with Paddington bear when we finally discovered what the Queen keeps in her handbag! Ed Sheeran’s final song tribute ‘Perfect’ concluded the bill with tear jerking aplomb.
In short, the jubilee was a triumph for the monarchy and Britain. It brought London back to life after 2 grim pandemic years. The world’s media covered the celebration. Businesses were busy once again. Even the British press had to contain its shark.
A journalist friend asked me why I thought the monarchy has such a hold on the public. I suggested that it’s an emotional investment many make, both in the individuals in the Royal family but also, less tangibly, in the institution of monarchy as a symbol of heritage, tradition, durability, history, continuity and just something bigger than ourselves.
The rise of Prince Louis!
He’s an internet meme, he’s a front page spread, he’s an entire mood board, he’s inspiration for a Peppa Pig tweet, he’s an adorable story for late night US tv show hosts, he’s the Royal family’s newest star. He’s four-year-old Prince Louis!
The youngest son of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, Louis almost eclipsed his great grandmother, the Queen, in being the darling of the jubilee.
After the festivities, even those who have little time for royalty, were asking me about Prince Louis with an affectionate chuckle. It’s a public response that no amount of PR money can buy. It’s organic. It comes out of nowhere and is a collective hug for someone in the public eye.
Louis’ grandmother, Diana Princess of Wales, won it the moment she shyly glanced sideways at the barrage of cameras that faced her when she was first identified as a possible bride for Prince Charles. Louis captured hearts when he stood next to the Queen on the balcony of Buckingham Palace, covered his ears and screamed as the red arrows flew over their heads. The moment was captured on camera and landed on the front pages of newspapers around the world.
Despite solemnly bowing his head at the trooping of the colour and singing the words of the national anthem with commendable maturity, by the fourth day of celebrations, he also behaved like a 4 year old who had sat patiently through a 3 hour pageant and for a few seconds played up with his mother. Most understood. Some of the party poopers tried to pretend they were shocked but only succeeded in revealing, that they had obviously never been children.
Not to be outdone, Louis’ older brother Prince George became a Twitter sensation with a hands on hips stance that mimicked a football manager deciding which of his players should take part in the deciding penalty shoot out.
Their sister, Princess Charlotte, had her own star making moment when she was seen correcting her brothers’ behaviour at solemn moments during formal ceremonies.
If ever there was a new Harry Potter, Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley team, then this Royal trio were it.
Their parents, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (aka Prince William and Kate) were no slouches either.
A friend of mine was invited to the thanksgiving service at St Paul’s. He called that evening to tell me all about it. The full account is his to recount but suffice to say, he was left awed by the meticulous organisation that had gone into the service. At the Guildhall lunch afterwards he was impressed anew by how the royals, William and Kate in particular, mingled easily with the guests with none of the velvet rope standoffishness of many celebrity events. Incidentally, he described Kate as being ‘so beautiful in the flesh as to make you fall off your chair!’
Harry and Meghan
I wasn’t going to write about them. But then a friend, who has no interest in the royal family, asked ‘Why did they put Harry in the second row? He’s still a royal, even if she isn’t.’ And it struck me how tiresomely everything about this pair grows, like fungus, into accusations, victim hood and negative half truths.
Harry was seated in a place commensurate with the new position he has chosen for himself ie a non working royal, living abroad, on the fringe of the monarchy. He sat next to other grandchildren of the Queen. He is no more special than any of them. And since he and his actress partner love to hector others about egalitarianism, why did it matter where they were seated?
If anything, many were surprised the pair were even invited. It’s only a year since they sat opposite Oprah and made serious allegations against Harry’s family, while his grandfather (Prince Philip) was on his deathbed. Allegations they have never substantiated. Allegations that even strangers on the internet were able to debunk with photographic and video evidence. Ultimately, the Oprah gossipfest irreparably damaged Harry and Meghan’s own brand but it remains a stink bomb that hurt others too.
That they then came back so readily to celebrate the institution and family they attacked (surely further putting paid to the truth of the allegations) was also surprising. But the American dream hasn’t quite worked out for them. They haven’t become the billionaires and superstars their relentless PR insisted they would. And they won’t.
Meanwhile, the Royal family has gone from strength to strength. So they made the long, expensive trip. Fairy dust association always helps. But it didn’t quite pan out. They came, they saw the lay of the land, heard the boos and left abruptly midway through historic celebrations. The party happily continued without them.