2022 – Contrasting with the Queen sounds modern – but it’s actually a Victorian feel | Jean Jack

WWhen the machine begins to fail, no one is spared: even in the most majestic of the body, bone ache, muscle weakness, tendon ache, joint creak. Walking, once a mindless activity, now requires thought and strategy. Longer lifespan and longer reigns only delay the process. Aged 96 and with “occasional mobility issues”, the Queen used a motorized carriage to get around the Chelsea Flower Show this week; Her arthritic great-grandmother, Queen Victoria, was 78 at the time of her diamond jubilee in 1897, touring her garden party in a horse-drawn carriage and talking to literally everyone she met. “I walked around my guests, with whom I talked a lot, but could not see much of what I wanted,” she wrote in her diary.

A more daring innovation was planned for them. The center of the Diamond Jubilee was a splendid procession of 50,000 Imperial soldiers, walking or marching two separate paths from Buckingham Palace, which met at St Paul for Thanksgiving where the Lord was praised and the Queen blessed. The procession was amazing. Britain had never seen anything so impressive in its splendor and diversity and never again on such a scale. That was the height of the empire. Knights of Canada, policemen of Hong Kong in conical hats, Indians, Dicks, Maoris, and knights of New South Wales: said to have been the largest force ever assembled in London, and behind in her chariot a little old woman, kneeling and modestly dressed, rode in her chariot Gray and black, smiling. Mark Twain, writing about it, thought it “was the same procession” and everything else, spurs, men, guns, flashy helmets and trotting horses, “just embroidery.”

However, there was a problem. The Queen was suffering from arthritis, and too limp, to be able to climb the cathedral steps. The solution initially proposed was to build a wooden ramp that would allow the carriage and its contents to be dragged up the ramp into the cathedral and parked centrally under the dome. But the queen refused. Instead, the service moved abroad. The carriage remained at the bottom of the stairs and the Queen remained inside, surrounded by the country’s political and spiritual establishment, to hear the prayers and music of 500 instrumentalists and two military bands.

“A Day to Remember”, Victoria I entered her diary. “I believe no one has received as much applause as I have as I have walked along six miles of streets…The crowd was indescribable and their enthusiasm is truly wonderful and deeply moving.” Daily Mail I thought the same. The newspaper wrote that the sun had been in the sky for millions of years, but that it had never before looked “with a look of contempt at the embodiment of so much energy and strength” such a wonderful procession. Every line of the Mail’s Jubilee edition was printed in gold ink, and many celebrated what the Mail called the greatness of the British dynasty.

Some good work has been done that could usefully be repeated today. The Princess of Wales (later Queen Alexandra) started a charity to provide a series of Diamond Jubilee celebrations for the poor of London. Glasgow food magnate Thomas Lipton started the fund with a donation of £25,000 and by the end of the scheme some 400,000 people, served by 10,000 waiters, had eaten 700 tons of food, including plenty of roast beef, veal, pork pie, pickles, dates and oranges. , all washed down with English ale or ginger ale.

But behind the general mood lies dissatisfaction and unease. (Like the Daily Mail and Arthritis, the urban elite is always with us.) Painter Edward Burne-Jones thought the horrific ostentation in the newspapers—”all the enthusiasm of a frivolous little old lady”—would lead to a quick reprimanded fall in London. Hubris was easy to spot. Kipling’s poem, published weeks after the festivities ended, captioned the remembrance with a sad appendix: “If, all our yesterday’s pomp / He is one with Nineveh and Tyre.” “Imperialism is in the air,” Beatrice Webb noted, and that “all classes were intoxicated by sightseeing and hysterical loyalty.” Fellow Socialist Keir Hardy saw the festivities as mere theatrical performances. The cheers of millions would rejoice the President of a British Republic in equal measure; The soldiers were there because they were paid to do so and may have found their duties boring. Hardy decided “to be successful, kings must be kept off the streets”. “As long as the scam can be kept secret and carefully protected from public view, it can continue.”

Hardy’s view was a more explicit version of Walter Bagehot’s argument about the dangers of letting the light of day fall on the “magic” of the monarchy – a concern that grew with the more powerful the newspapers became and the more the monarchy relied on them for positive publicity. London teacher, Molly Hughes, was a more nuanced witness to public attitudes – and perhaps a better advisor to the future of the monarchy – as her two ostensibly radical friends (what Victoria was to them but mere mortals?) due to her troubles and expenses to rent a room in Shipside to watch the show. Hughes was amazed at their inconsistency and discovery that they “were as conservative at heart as everyone else and fanatically loyal to the Queen, with whom they always seemed to share their joys and sorrows”.

This kind of ambiguity has carried the monarchy into my life, and I’m exposed to it like most people I know. This week I went to Fortnum and Mason in Piccadilly to see beautifully presented and surprisingly expensive Platinum Jubilee souvenirs: £100 for a plate of pudding, £12.95 for a tea towel, and £200 for a 1,2kg box of chocolate. They had nothing to do with the ornaments brought back to Scotland since the coronation of 1953 by an elderly cousin who had traveled south to see them: a little golden chariot drawn by horses and two or three toy soldiers with busses or shields, unfortunately great for the coach. The variations on this set must be making their way across the countless living room floors that summer.

In the village school we were given small quantities of the New Testament and belts with snake clasps in red, white, and blue. On the same day, June 2, games were held in the football field of the local army barracks. I wasn’t very good at games, and a photo of the event pictured me looking out of the frame from my schoolmates. Buck’s teeth are sticking out and I’ve never looked at this photo without pain of retrospective pity. “buck teeth, buck teeth” was a taunt that haunted me for several years until it was fixed.

Last week one of those teeth broke: a simple symptom of a machine failure. As I sat in the dentist’s chair preparing my root canal for replacement, I thought, “I’ve had this tooth for longer than the Queen has been on the throne.” strange account. The fact that I did is a testament to her mysterious and indestructible, and perhaps unfortunate, but certainly undeniable, role in the self-portrait of the British. It should not be underestimated. Four years after her Diamond Jubilee, Victoria was dying and, in the words of Lytton Strachey, “it seemed that a tremendous reversal of the course of nature was about to take place. The great majority of their subjects had never known a time when Queen Victoria was not ruling them.”

Be ready when it’s the Queen’s turn.