My republican and other left-leaning friends will be
aghast to learn that I went to London
yesterday to watch the Jubilee river pageant.
Am I embarrassed? Not in the
slightest, because I’m certain that they themselves spent most of the afternoon
watching it on television, and enjoying the spectacle every bit as much as I
did. The only difference would be that
they stayed dry.
Some people don’t go in for pomp and pageantry, but
that’s another matter entirely, one of personal taste. I happen to enjoy such occasions as
yesterday’s aquatic procession, and readily admit to having insufficient
intellectual vigour to examine why.
I’ve been known to attend such ceremonies as Trooping
the Colour, the Queen’s annual birthday parade, and if I’m in the vicinity I
might pause to watch the daily rigmarole of the Changing of the Guard at Buckingham Palace.
The sight of a troop of the Household Cavalry trotting along
Constitution Hill still somehow contrives to quicken the pulse. While I’m in confessional mode, here’s another
admission: I would happily accept an invitation to one of Her Majesty’s garden
Hah! I hear you demand, but would I accept a Knighthood,
or even some lesser gong of the kind designed to preserve the fiction of a
reward for services to the crown? Well,
I’d have to think hard about that, perhaps before bowing to the inevitability
of bashful acceptance.
I’m not in the business of noble gestures in a cause
to which only one of my organs subscribes.
For if I am a republican it is an impulse of the head, a political calculation,
not of the heart, where royalist sentiments still lazily hold sway.
Watching the great armada proceed down the Thames yesterday was a splendid, stirring sight. That it had no other purpose than to
celebrate a landmark of a monarchy which I, like many if not most of my
contemporaries, intellectually dismiss as superfluous to the needs of a modern
democracy, not to mention a needless strain on the public purse, was frankly neither
here nor there.
Anyway, as much as it was a royal occasion it was a
London occasion, and the fact is that most of London’s great occasions tend to
focus on the city’s, or the country’s, royal associations, going back through
Every other great city celebrates history in its own
way. In Paris the French rejoice on Bastille Day for the
fall, as opposed to the survival, of a monarchy. Well, good for them, I say.
And a month from now, on the Fourth of July, New York and other American cities will hold parties to
gloat about the nation’s hard-won independence from the monarchial oppressor
now represented by the lady whose jubilee we celebrated this weekend in London. Quite right, too.
London, it seems to me, has merely observed a perfectly
decent maxim – perhaps especially relevant in a troubled world – that any
excuse will do for a party.
I’m afraid the storming of Buckingham Palace
in the name of ‘Liberte, Egalite,
Fraternite’ or ‘We the People’ will just have to wait a bit longer.
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