Pride the overwhelming emotion after weekend of festivities
Following four days of celebrations, the position of the monarchy has been reinforced in Britain, writes MARK HENNESSY
STREAMING HOME in the rain last evening from Buckingham Palace, several hundred thousand people were quietly pleased, both with themselves and with Queen Elizabeth II.
Like all British events, it would not have been complete without muttered complaints about the trains, or about the coffee-stand because it ran out of hot water, or the portable loos, because some of them were blocked.
And the day offered a little drama; not too much, but just enough, as one of the dragoons from the Princess of Wales’ Royal Regiment was thrown to the ground at Whitehall.
Despite his calls of “Steady, steady” to his startled charge, the rider was forced to grab onto street railings as he went down, while the horse careered ahead.
Left limping, the rider, no doubt mortified, was cheered by spectators, who had crammed 20-deep to view the procession as it made its way back to Buckingham Palace from Westminster.
In the midst of the complaints, however, there was a genuine pride that the four days of celebrations to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee had passed off successfully.
In an interesting blog last evening, Conservative MP Steve Baker extolled the virtues of Britishness, even if one was left with a sense that he was talking more about the English.
“, the Great British people celebrated being British, demonstrating that our character is more robust than our socialist intellectuals presume.
“Despite every effort by the new Left, the British people remain proud of a heritage which has made this little island not just the greatest country in the world, but the progenitor of the world’s greatest nations through our gift of the philosophy and practice of liberty under the rule of law,” he said triumphantly.
“No nation’s past is unblemished, but I am proud that when I finished a speech for the first time last night with God Save the Queen, there was a rousing spontaneous cheer for Queen and Country.
“The British people can and should shrug off the ideological nonsense under which they have been placed by an inward-looking, neurotic, cynical, pessimistic and despairing pseudo-intellectual elite and instead sing proudly,” he went on.
For most outsiders, even if they enjoy the pageantry of such occasions, the claims by Baker will be taken as endearingly charming, if rooted in the past.
But, equally, judging by the cluster of foreign TV studios set up within a stone’s throw of Buckingham Palace, no other world monarch could match the attention afforded since Friday.
Like all good institutions, the event was used to copper-fasten the future, with Prince Charles winning plaudits for describing the queen as “Mummy” from the concert stage on Monday night.
Equally, there were several displays to show that his wife, Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, has been brought fully into the royal fold, chosen as she was to sit by the queen in St Paul’s Cathedral yesterday morning due to Prince Philip’s absence because of ill-health.
The fact that the place had become available illustrates the need for succession-building, since it is the second time in six months that the 90-year-old has needed hospital care.
The list of those chosen to appear on the balcony of Buckingham Palace later emphasised the line of descent to come: Charles, Camilla; Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge, and Prince Harry.
There was no place found in the front ranks for Prince Andrew, who has brought unwelcome attention to the royals for mixing his own personal business interests with those of her majesty’s government, or for Prince Edward, little-known, or little-noticed by the public at large.
For now, those of a republican bent in Britain can but fume quietly, forced to accept that the majority are happy with the royalty, or at least do not dislike it enough to do anything to bring about its passing.
Nevertheless, Andrew Child of the anti-monarchist group Republic held the flame defiantly yesterday in the face of an avalanche of royalist sentiment.
Rejecting all of the central arguments in favour of the monarchy: continuity, stability, the projection of Britain’s image abroad and tourism, Child insists “that Britain should be doing so much better”. Instead of trying “to understand the current economic plight of the nation”, the queen serves up “bland, platitudinous nonsense from which it’s hard to discern what century we’re living in”.
For now, the arguments of Republic hold little attraction for the crowds wending their way home, if only because no other creation would have delivered a four-day Bank Holiday weekend.