Patrick Freyne: The queen’s 90th birthday party was every bit as bizarre as you would expect
2016 Revisited: Behold the queen’s televised birthday bash, held in an enclosed section of her favourite garden, Britain, and featuring all of her favourite subjects
Anthony McPartlin (left) and Declan Donnelly present the final night of the British queen’s 90th birthday celebrations at Windsor Castle. Photograph: Leon Neal/AFP/Getty
As we don’t have a monarchy in Ireland I did a little research on how this system of government works. Wikipedia explains it like this: “Queens are developed from larvae selected by worker bees and specially fed in order to become sexually mature. There is normally only one adult, mated queen in a hive, in which case the bees will usually follow and fiercely protect her.”
This seems about right. So tonight the queen takes a break from guzzling royal jelly and tending her bloated egg sacs to watch all of her horses and all of her men caper in an enclosed section of her garden, Britain.
The workers are, of course, thrilled to have this break from their joyless toil and they cheer when Alan Titchmarsh emerges to talk lovingly about the upper classes. A humble, self-abasing vassal for his royal betters, Titchmarsh models himself on the talking teapot from a Disney princess movie.
He is also a font of knowledge about minor royals and dignitaries and oil despots. We see these entities in the VIP enclosure, which is essentially a shelf of sentient Toby Jugs. Titchmarsh explains who’s who.
There’s Prince William, Kate Middleton (always referred to by both names for she is but a simple peasant girl), the King of Bahrain, Prince Donatus, Landgrave of Hesse, Lady Malfeth of Foon, Gozbeth the Slayer, the Unpronounceable Xtyssaghetjt, Tiny Tycoon from Whizzer and Chips and Enya.
Everyone looks slightly ill-at-ease. This is because no one knows where Prince George is. Prince George is the eerie 1930s toddler who lives in the palace. He dresses in clothes from the early 20th century but nobody knows where he got them (“I keep buying him normal clothes,” shrieks Kate Middleton. “Where did he get those clothes?”)
Child’s Play 2
He’s tricky. He appears when you least expect it on the cover of Hello! or frolicking across the screen on Sky News or screaming silently from your mirror when you’re alone in your house. “How long can we keep covering up the missing servants and the extensive network of burrows?” weeps Prince William.
Of course, this happens off screen. Out front the pageant is all levity. Ant and Dec emerge to gently rib the monarchy. The duo seems relatively happy with their lot. Occasionally one of them drops to their knees and screams “I can’t feel my soul!” or “Am I real?” but it’s easy to ignore.
The queen has, we are repeatedly told, a wonderful sense of humour. Royal watchers are always saying this without offering any evidence. I think it’s based purely on the fact she has never put anyone to death for telling a joke, which is an improvement on previous monarchs.
Ant and Dec rattle through a long list of random royal factoids and biographical data about the queen. As a child she and Margaret had a dolls’ house (a whole thatched cottage built on their grounds). As an adult she likes a flutter on the gee-gees (900 horses appear today in tribute to her).
It gets weirder. There’s a re-enactment of her childhood pony-riding lessons with Princess Margaret, played out by actors. Why show a 90-year-old woman scenes from her own past? Is it to fool her into believing that her life is flashing before her eyes? Is this all a plot by Prince Charles to make her think that she’s dead?
Wham bam, thank you ma’am
Then the queen’s wartime activities are praised and field ambulances and air raid sirens fill the field. I zone out here so I’m not sure what the nature of her service was.
They hold a Shetland pony race to distract her (good distraction technique – the words “Shetland pony race” instantly clear my whole brain). People appear in animal outfits (seriously) and run about. These include two people in a pantomime corgi outfit. “Pantomime corgi,” thinks Prince Philip. “The most dangerous prey of all.” Later, he will hunt them through the estate.
The queen’s commonwealth subject peoples emerge to offer tributes – Fijian warriors, Canadian mounties, Azerbaijani horse-folk, haka-dancing New Zealand policemen – all happily celebrating the abusive relationship their nations once had with the British monarchy.
Various celebrities appear. Jim Carter, aka the butler from Downton Abbey, is there to remind us of our place in the social hierarchy. Gary Barlow sings a song, then jumps into a Union Jack-covered jaguar and drives off at speed (like Patrick McGoohan in The Prisoner, he will be apprehended by a rolling sphere before he reaches safety).
Helen Mirren, who once played the queen in a film, emerges to lecture us about how great the monarch is. The real queen glares down at Mirren. “I will consume the false queen,” her face seems to say. “I will suckle on her marrow and take her power for my own.”
Eventually the Britons present the queen with a giant cake, apparently baked by the child labourers in chef costumes that are flanking it. There’s also a bit of a display of military prowess when King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery march out and appear to fire into the crowd. The royals look thrilled until they realise that the shells are blank.
As the celebration ends, there’s a bit of waffle about how marvellous the queen is, defeating the odds to become queen and reaching the age of 90 despite her great wealth and privilege.
Then she and Prince Philip get into a people carrier and rush back to their castle to hide from Prince George before night falls. Vicious corgis are released and the people start to run for their lives.
“When Brexit happens every day will be like this,” weeps a happy Titchmarsh, vaulting over an electric fence with a salivating corgi at his heels. “God save the Queen.”