Over the weekend, my family and I have been watching the celebrations for The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. They were very impressive, with incredible organisation. Even the only aspect which could not be controlled – the weather – was incredibly British: cold and wet most of the time. However, this didn’t dampen people’s spirits, although it undoubtedly contributed to the Duke of Edinburgh’s becoming unwell and missing the last 2 days’ festivities.
Even watching from home, the tremendous atmosphere came through – the huge crowds at all the London events were very good natured, letting children through to the front, and waiting for hours, for a peep at The Queen, who gamely stood in the freezing cold so that everyone had a chance to see her and be convinced that she had waved at them. Although at times she looked a little nervous or tense, it was clear that she was having a brilliant time too, although obviously missing her husband.
I don’t usually quote the Archbishop of Canterbury, but I think he summed it up when he said, “We are marking six decades of living proof that public service is possible and that it is a place where happiness can be found.” And “our Queen has shown a quality of joy in the happiness of others.” These are character traits which we can all emulate, and in fact, similar accolades were paid to Lady Jakobovits, a”h, both during her lifetime and afterwards.
The Queen is much more than a figurehead as is evidenced from the amazing response of the crowds to her appearances over the weekend – even factoring in the effect of the party atmosphere, no-one had to go to see her, but millions of people did! People who went were genuinely enthusiastic about The Queen and happy for her to celebrate 60 years on the throne. She also behaves with real malchus – displaying both dignity and respect. Our children observed, as the Royal family processed out of the Thanksgiving service, how tzeniusdig/modest they were. I told them that apart from the fact they had been at a religious event in a church, that’s what we mean when we say that we should behave like bnei melachim – a queen, prince or princess behaves and dresses in an appropriate manner.
We visited our local Jubilee celebration last night, for the fireworks (which were great!). It was also a typically British event. There was a large crowd, fairly representative of our ethnically mixed borough. The fireworks were supposed to be followed by a beacon lighting and a young girl who was celebrating her 12th birthday yesterday was chosen to light the beacon, one of over 4000 lit across the world. Unfortunately, however, the Barnet beacon would not light! The MC tried everything to keep the crowd happy while they fixed it – chatting to the girl, playing some music, getting everyone to sing the National Anthem, but to no avail: it just wouldn’t light. Eventually, they lit a paper lantern, which sailed off into the night to cheers. I felt really bad for the girl, but in a way it epitomized the “Dunkirk spirit”. Everyone was very good natured and patriotic and a respectable alternative was found.
Our son has had chickenpox this weekend and the Jubilee has taken his mind off his 200+ spots a bit. I found a website on which you can send a message to The Queen, so he did. He was delighted to get an email back, almost immediately, thanking him for his good wishes, with a link to an e-card, which we have printed off for him, featuring a picture of The Queen and a thank you message. Buckingham Palace has really got it right with this one – great use of technology and a brilliant way of engaging people.
The celebrations will conclude a bit later, with a thank you broadcast from The Queen, who is unfailingly polite. She’s also doing a very good job these days of modeling family values – the direct line of succession, Prince Charles, Prince William and Prince Harry, were very much kept deliberately in the spotlight over the weekend. I thought Prince Charles’ speech last night, when he referred to The Queen as “Mummy” in front of millions of people and thanked her and his father for being an inspiration, before kissing her hand, was very touching and appropriate.
I hope that when I reach The Queen’s age, I also have her stamina, and that our sons will still be prepared to call me “Mummy” in public.