Two of my previous posts have addressed the issue of British Patriotism. The British do not self-promote, the British do not rejoice in their sovereign, the British carry with them a sense of shame. These have been my words…or at least a summary of their sentiment. These days I am not so confident this is true. British Patriotism seems to be on the rampage lately.
Next week-end we will be celebrating Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee: sixty years on the throne. If she survives three more she will equal Queen Victoria. If she carries on four more she will be the longest reigning English monarch and the longest reigning Queen in history (if Wikipedia can be believed). In honour of this blessed event us working stiffs get any extra day off. (Although I am rather bitter that these two days have been cleverly woven into the week-long half-term holiday that, as a teacher, I always get so it’s actually more like only having three days off instead of five but I digress.) Everywhere I look there is evidence of enthusiasm for the Jubilee.
Public art decorating a Harrogate roundabout near The Crown Hotel (fittingly enough).
Harrogate’s world famous Betty’s Tea Shop has created special Diamond Jubilee Cookies in the shape of HRH’s beloved Corgis and chocolate Queen’s Horse Guard Bears. By the way, you are reading those prices right: five bucks for a cookie, around sixty for the cake and forty for the chocolate bear. This in itself might betray a rather tongue in cheek sense of respect for the occasion. Surely crowns or sceptres or Her Majesty’s profile might be more appropriate. But no. Posh As Betty’s is giving us dogs and bears.
Elsewhere, the major grocery chains are practically shoving Jubilee products in our faces, forcing us to get excited about it. I’m honestly not sure whether this is in response to consumer demand or a case of product placement trying to convince us that, bloody hell, we really are jolly thrilled for the old girl. Everywhere are displays of Union Jack picnic accessories, clothing, bunting, commemorative magazine editions and event-specific packaging on everything from tea bags (which I understand) to Cocoa Pops (which makes no sense). Tellingly these displays do not seem to run out of supplies, implying that no one is actually buying any of it in any sense of the word. I admit I bought a box of Jubilee Cocoa Pops. How could I not?
My daughter’s primary school, much to my husband’s disgust, is hosting a Jubilee Party. Students may dress up as Queens or Princesses (which makes me really wish for the first time that I had a son) and sit down for a nice little tea party. My own high school is, of course, far too adult and working class for that sort of thing. In fact, no one seems remotely aware of the Jubilee. Then again, some might not be aware we have a Queen.
On the other hand I was truly moved by BBC2’s virgin airing of the Jubilee Song entitled Sing. It was created by the unlikely duo of Andrew Lloyd Webber and Gary Barlow (of Take That fame for the Yankees…look him up). The song features a choir of Army Wives and…wait for it: Prince Harry on the tambourine. While that sounds like a particularly ridiculous joke, I thought the song was beautiful.
So I am left with a sense of confusion: is Britain generally and genuinely enthused about Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee or, like last year’s Royal Wedding, are we just bloody grateful for a four-day weekend which has some chance of providing good weather?