As the world waits anxiously for the Diamond Jubilee celebrations in June to commemorate Queen Elizabeth II’s 60 years on the throne, our budding blogger reveals a crack in the psyche of the so-called United Kingdom. It’s called
THE BRITISH MONARCHY SCHIZOID SYNDROME
We Brits are an odd bunch when it comes to our views on the Royal Family. On the one hand, it’s not unusual to hear us ranting in pubs or at parties about the preposterous privileges that they enjoy, or how they should know what it’s like to do a hard day’s work or to do their shopping at Sainsbury’s. On the other hand, when a Royal Wedding or Jubilee comes around, we go all gooey and gaga, saying silly stuff like “Isn’t she sweet? Doesn’t she look lovely?” No doubt the occasion of Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee, from 2-5 June 2012, will be another such occasion, when we all bury the hatchet for a few days, smile at our neighbours and act like life’s one big party.
In fact, if the Jubilee organizers have anything to do with it, it will be one big party. On Saturday 2 June, they want everyone in the UK to pull out their Union Jacks from the cupboard, dust them off and hang them across the window, then sit down to the Big Lunch with their neighbours in the street, tell a few jokes, do some bonding and stuff their faces with food as if it was Christmas. Then at high water on Sunday 3 June, whatever time that is, the plan is that everyone gets around the telly to watch the Diamond Jubilee Pageant (falling asleep on the sofa is permitted).
For the pageant, up to 1000 boats will muster on the River Thames west of Battersea, then proceed downstream from Battersea to the Tower of London, after which they will disperse. All the boats will toot their horns and their occupants will wave at the Queen, who will wave back as she heads the procession on the royal barge ‘The Spirit of Chartwell’. On the banks of the Thames throughout Central London, millions of onlookers will wave flags and eat too much ice cream (if it’s not raining).
I don’t know the stats, but it’s clear that the British monarchy has been steadily declining in popularity during Elizabeth’s reign, as more and more people see it as an outmoded institution in our modern world. Who needs all that pomp and pageantry, you might well argue, when there are down-and-outs starving under bridges in the nation’s capital? That’s exactly the kind of line I used to maintain myself as an anarchic student eager to tear down all repressive organizations, though these days I find myself feeling sorry for the royals, beleaguered and ridiculed as they are by the British media. After all, what kind of life is it when you are not free to act according to your own free will, and have to do only what is expected of you?
While we Brits grumble into our beer about the royals, plenty of other nationalities that lack a long history, such as Americans, are captivated by the ancient and mystical rituals of British culture. Another Diamond Jubilee event that will remind everyone of the British sense of tradition is the lighting of beacons or bonfires across the country on 4 June. Once used as a way of communicating imminent danger like the arrival of an invading army, these days beacons are lit more for celebratory purposes, and no doubt vast quantities of baked potatoes and burnt sausages will be dragged from the glowing embers of these beacons. Finally, at the end of the 4-day weekend, on the night of 5 June everyone will go to bed having eaten and drunk too much, but relieved that the next day they’ll be facing just a three-day week. Then we can forget about the British monarchy schizoid syndrome until the next Royal Wedding or the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee in 2022.
is a British writer and photographer based in Chiang Mai, Thailand.