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Ramblings - Thoughts On A Diamond Jubilee

POSTED June 13, 2012 2:37 a.m.

Why just because I was born and raised in England I should be considered an expert on English life and customs and especially its monarchy I have never been able to understand.

It’s true I was 27 before I came to the United States and therefore thoroughly instructed in English manners and morals.

But I have become confused and conditioned over years of living in the States and through events like President Kennedy’s assassination, the landing on the moon and the 9/11 terrorist attack on New York.

I have become more American than English, although my passport still marks me as a British citizen. As a resident alien (which my sons say is only slightly more acceptable than an extra-terrestrial alien) I still carry a green card.

So I should have kept my mouth shut when talk at a staff meeting turned to news coverage of Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee in England and I was assigned to write a column.

I almost missed the whole affair. Didn’t see much about it in local newspapers. Then while sitting in a Modesto hospital lounge waiting to pick up one of my sons after routine surgery, I caught television pictures of the final day of the London celebrations. Why do these revelations happen in doctor’s offices and other waiting rooms? Because the enforced moment of leisure gives us a chance to stop and think of other than routine matters?

There was the Queen wearing one of her huge hats and acknowledging the crowd from the balcony of Buckingham Palace. There were the unruly Brits packing the Mall and waving flags as furiously as any American crowd. Although the flag insignia looked unfamiliar. There was the flyover with piston-engined World War II aircraft like the Lancaster bomber and Hurricane fighters rumbling ahead of modern jets.

And quite suddenly, I came over funny, almost emotional, which is unusual for me. The stiff, upper lip actually quivered. Were my eyes turning moist too? I was reminded of the televised scenes from that same well known spot many years ago when Princess Diana died in a car crash in Paris and the British crowd piled banks and banks of flowers against the Palace railings for her funeral procession.

That was in mourning. This was a joyous occasion. But the places were the same and the emotions ran as high. Maybe the British still have a warm place in their hearts for the monarchy. As a form of government it’s an antiquated institution which tends toward oppression of the common people and inbreeding leading to lunacy among the titled. Led by France and America, most countries threw it off many years ago in favor of founding a republic. But monarchies stretch back into the time of fables. And they can put on a show of pomp and pageantry that surpasses Hollywood.

Aside from this rambling – it’s permitted by the column heading – those television scenes got me into researching Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee and its history.

This was a very rare event. This was only the second time an English monarch has celebrated a Diamond Jubilee marking 60 years upon the throne. Elizabeth became queen as a young woman after the death of her father King George VI in 1952. George VI came to the throne in 1936 after his brother Edward VIII abdicated to marry that wicked (in many English eyes) American divorcee Mrs. Simpson.

The only Diamond Jubilee before Elizabeth’s was that of Queen Victoria which officials decided to hold in 1897 after she virtually withdrew from public life following the death of her husband. Victoria reigned for 63 years.

For Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee, officials arranged a national celebration that included rescheduling a bank (i.e. national) holiday to make a five-day weekend for all, an open-air  concert, a picnic in the palace gardens with 10,000 ticket holders, street parties across the country and a Service of Thanksgiving at St Paul’s Cathedral. English weather lived up to its reputation. At the concert it rained heavily, but the soaked children’s choir sang on … what’s a little rain when it’s a Diamond Jubilee?

John Branch is editor of The Riverbank News and a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader and The Escalon Times. He may be reached at jbranch@oakdaleleader.com or 847-3021.

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