SNIPPET - One mans point of view

There is a saying, an agreement amongst gentlefolk, that if you comment upon an event, any event, you must have witnessed it first hand, and my comment here is about the Queen's Diamond Jubilee Celebrations in London, UK.

Beryl, my wife, and I, did the grand tour [at least it cost us a "grand" in GBP] to be in London for the celebrations of the Queens Diamond Jubilee during the period Friday 1st June to Tuesday 5th June 2012: that's four nights accommodation, food, travel costs and pocket-money, not to mention the occasional round of drinks! We are now back home absolutely exhausted with a suitcase full of damp mildew clothes, reluctantly accepting that the household budget will provide ample food as long as it is baked beans for the next month!

In such an environment and atmosphere, chiefly supported by the middle to younger aged patriots {although with a goodly amount of us oldies} and the awe-inspired tourists especially those from the very country who got rid of George III and now adulate, quite literally, our current Royal Family, it is easy to go along with the euphoria, enjoy the day/event/venue without taking into account a comparison with other previous Royal events, which might judge whether this 2012 event was as good as previous Royal events or otherwise! Of course, many of you will ask why a comparison: surely the event was excellent as it was. Yes it was but equally, surely it could have been better in many areas, as for the large part it was totally devoid of any pomp and circumstance, one of the constituent parts of British Pageantry.

Did Her Majesty get value for money or did the Government sell her short by providing only the very basics, enough only to give the Crown and the Public a Royal Pageant, of sorts? The occasion was unique which we lucky folks were able to observe, knowing that at the same time [though hours removed] Venus would cross between the sun and Earth, not to be repeated for another one hundred years or so, warning us to collect en-masse with protected eyepieces and look towards the heavens, just as we might gather on terra-firma and look towards to the streets of London for a unique Royal event. I have used the word unique, because Queen Victoria, although passing the 60th Centenary Year of monarchical reign, did not celebrate her Diamond Jubilee in any house of God, let alone The "London Church" viz., St Paul's Cathedral, and as such, our beloved Queen, is indeed, unique.

Building upon my first paragraph, I vividly remember the death and funeral of King George VI in 1952, the Coronation of Her Majesty in 1953 the year in which I joined the Royal Navy, the death of Queen Mary in 1953, the State Funeral of Sir Winston Churchill in 1965, the Queen's Silver Jubilee in 1977, the Queen's Golden Jubilee in 2002, the death of the Duke of Windsor, the death of the Duchess of Windsor, the death of HRH Princess Margaret, the death of HM The Queen Mother Queen Elizabeth and her 100th birthday London celebrations, the death of Diana The Princess of Wales, the IFOS of 2005 at which The Queen with the Duke of Edinburgh were able to Review the Fleet at Spithead [an event which might have coincided with the Golden Jubilee but which was delayed two years in order to celebrate Lord Nelson's bicentenary] and had a leading part in the Royal funeral of Lord Mountbatten, murdered by the Irish Republican Army in September 1979, a clip of which was shown on a television programme broadcast on Friday 1st June 2012 when pictures were shown of Prince Charles' private photographs and recollections of the Queen's reign in the last sixty years. I therefore consider that I have enough experience [and knowledge] to make a balanced judgement as to whether the Queen's Diamond Jubilee was a success, measured in terms of the best of Royal Pageants/spectaculars [note, not Pageants/spectaculars of sorts, but the very best] as mentioned above, and if not, by what criteria should it be measured and recorded for posterity?

Well, there is a very simple answer, and it is manifestly obvious that we have two leagues here, the Premier League is for Military organised pageants/spectaculars and the Non-Premier League is for Civilian/Media organised pageants/spectaculars, with overspills in either direction when assistance is needed!  The Diamond Jubilee belongs firmly in the Non-Premier League. I am afraid to say that more and more of our pageants are organised by the Media, with, as on this 2012 occasion, much private money being given to the organiser to 'oil the wheels' of the spectacular, with less and less Government money being spent. I can see a time coming when the royals themselves are asked to help fund the Royal Pageants, or that the pageants are spelt with a very small letter 'p'.

Looking first to the Premier League, many of those listed events above were great and grand events simply because we had the large Armed Forces. During the Kings funeral in 1952 {Number two in the league} and the Coronation of 1953 {Number 1 in the league}, we had more soldiers, sailors and airmen lining the various routes and thoroughfares than we have today in the whole of our Navy, and this at a time when we had huge commitments in Malaya, the Suez Canal Zone and Korea, hundreds of times larger than the forces we commit to Afghanistan and latterly to Iraq, Libya etc, and still we were able to 'flood' the streets of London with marching troops, troops on horseback and with almost countless musicians playing in many tens of bands. This remember, when we also had Armed Forces stationed all over the world in Malta, Gibraltar, Bermuda, Ceylon, Singapore, Hong Kong, Cyprus, Aden, not to mention smaller foreign postings and of course the whole of the UK. The Coronation event in London was impossible to better and never has been, but the navy, at Spithead, put on a show which also still holds the cup as it were, and at least the Spithead Reviews of 1977 and 2005 were not that far behind in size and panache, giving to Her Majesty, a real Premier League Celebration and Honour. Churchill's funeral in 1965 takes third place in this league both in terms of troops committed and the ultimate State Funeral of Honour which I doubt will ever be repeated for anyone, including The Queen's own funeral when that sad day comes. Remember, a Sovereigns State funeral involves two major events in his or her Funeral, the one being in London and the other in the town of Windsor, where ever since the State funeral of King Edward VII, our Sovereigns are taken to their final resting places on two different naval gun carriages, each requiring a large naval party to man. It would be difficult to get two naval guns today, never mind the crews! Next in order for sheer size and splendour was Lord Mountbatten's Royal Funeral in which I had a leading role. Apart from the traditional street-liners made up of all Armed Forces, we had a huge phalanx of marching troops taken from France, the USA, and many other countries all marching at the slow march and over a long tiring distance from The Queen's Chapel in Marlborough Road to Westminster Abbey. The Silver Jubilee just pips the Golden Jubilee into fifth position, with the sixth placed Golden having more of a civilian input especially in the Mall Parade in which The Queen took part as did a large open top vehicle carrying many of the VC's of the day. For the Diamond there was no Mall Parade of any sort, just a small Carriage Procession. However, the Golden fly past has never, and will never be equalled for it was formed by many more aircraft than of late led by a low flying Concorde escorted by the Red Arrows, followed by current military aircraft, the RAF Memorial Flight, and other air units. It was breathtaking for everybody and especially for The Queen who got so excited. Next comes as Number 7, The Queen Mother Funeral, a relatively low key and dignified event but very special. She was brought to Westminster Hall for her lying-in-state ceremony, and when concluded, taken across the road of Parliament Square to Westminster Abbey for her funeral service and afterwards, by car direct to Windsor. I know that many of you will rate the funeral of Diana Princess of Wales much higher up the League than Number 8 [and some will say, in a League of her own]. In fairness, that is not the case. Her funeral was relatively small although taken from Kensington Palace to Westminster Abbey, a goodly distance, again on a horse drawn gun carriage by the RHA. Afterwards, it was taken by car all the way up to Althorp House in Northamptonshire, a distance of 74 miles normally taking 1 hour 45 mins. However, the journey took much longer. This funeral will go down in history as being a one-off simply because it was surrounded from beginning to end by total crowd hysteria, where the word dignity was totally swallowed up by a huge huge crowd of half well wishers, the other half getting in on an act of mass sympathy for a hugely well loved English Princess who died in a foreign country in the company of foreigners. The whole country was numbed by this killing and it took a long time for people to settle down and to get over it. Had the funeral been dignified which I am sure her family wanted for her, it might have been remembered for other reasons than for the mass hysteria. Number 9 has to be the celebration of HM The Queen Mother Queen Elizabeth's 100th birthday parade and spectacular on Horse Guards Parade. And finally for the ratings [other events mentioned were generally too small to place in order], my Number 10 has to be the IFOS [International Festival of the Sea] although I appreciate that it didn't affect London but Portsmouth only. All these events were basically military events, enacted at a time of relative plenty and many available soldiers sailors and airman. The Government were outwardly generous in their funding and picked up the tab with grace. Fly pasts were large in number and I remember sitting on Horse Guards Parade at the time of the Queen Mum's birthday parade wondering just how many more aircraft were to pass overhead.

This brings me to a point to mention a watershed which could be considered suspicious in the years ahead and needs to be watched. In reality, what should have been the traditional London spectacular Jubilee Parade of marching bands and members of the Armed Services, which many people missed on the street of London and commented about it, took place privately at Windsor Castle and thereafter through the streets of Windsor to a Stadium in Home Park Windsor some week prior to the London ceremonies. I remember a senior Guards Officer being interviewed on television, when he said that this is the Armed Forces Private Diamond Jubilee Celebration for Her Majesty. I don't recall this 'private business' happening before, and surely, the Armed Forces [who have the wherewithal and who are owned and answerable to the Nation, the general public], should do this in public as it has always been done.  Having been to the Trooping the Colour ceremony several times, for the first rehearsal of the 2012 parade, my wife and I chose to stand in the Mall to see that section of the parade which we had never seen before. The movement of troops to Horse Guards from Wellington Barracks in Birdcage Walk is quite spectacular when each Regiment of Guards marches with its band to Horse Guards followed by the Reviewing Officer for the 1st rehearsal and his officers: next Saturday, the 9th May, it will be a senior person, usually a lesser Royal, and the Saturday afterwards, the Queen's official birthday, Saturday 16th June, it will be The Queen herself of course. The return to the Palace is a very different thing however. First off, out of sight to us in the Mall, the guns and horses of the RHA have joined Horse Guards via Birdcage Walk. When the parade leaves Horse Guards it is led by the RHA now pulling their guns in pairs and splendid are they as they pass in mass numbers at the trot filling the whole width of the Mall. Next comes the mass bands of the mounted cavalry the Blues and Royals, followed by the troopers of the Blues and Royals. If that wasn't enough to now have goose pimples four inches tall, what follows in truly breath taking. The massed bands of the Guards Divisions without a piece of the Mall to be seen, marches down and you can hear them coming for miles and see them well before they arrive at your viewing position.  They are followed by the Reviewing Officer [The Queen on the 16th] riding in a carriage at the head of her marching troops.  What a sight, for those troops are near perfect in everything they do.  This year, it is the Coldstream's turn to Troop Their Colour. During the seventy five minute or so wait, between outward and inward journeys from/to The Palace, I talked to many people, some of them tourists, and they were all so pleased to be there, many by chance not aware of the rehearsal, especially when I told them that the much advertised Carriage Procession due on the Tuesday [5th] would not have any marching troops at all, just a few bands in specific positions and those nothing to do with the Carriage Procession: they did know about the Blues and Royals Escort from the Houses of Parliament to the Palace. They might have been lucky to be in Windsor at the time of the Private Ceremony, but press reports talk of an audience of 20,000 so not many by London standards. However, it is more likely than not that that they missed that event, and had they not seen the rehearsal in London, they would have spent all their days in London and not seen anything of the swank, style, resplendence during the whole of the Diamond Jubilee published programme save for the Cavalry Escort.

Although the next part comes after the Non-Premier League final events, I will mention them here as an integral part of the Premier League. These were the Fly Past, then, in English "Fire of Joy" or the "Bonfire" or the Feu-de-Joie [a French expression pronounced as Fud es Waar] performed by the Irish Guards under the Palace Balcony. The fly past was made up of just a few aircraft [historic didn't seem to matter] and was over in the blink of an eye, but the Red Arrows as always an exciting spectacular: well done the RAF. It didn't do anything? Compare that to the Windsor private Parade when the RAF first spelled out the number 60 flying in formation and then a brilliant ER II in a second formation. I wonder why they didn't repeat that for the Palace fly past? Then the Fud es Waar.  I have in front of me as I write the Royal Naval Handbook on Ceremonial and Drill BR 1834 the May 1972 Edition and I am looking at page 8-13, Article 818 "Firing a Feu-de-Joie".  It bears little resemblance to the drill carried out by the Irish Guards. The idea is that the squad is in open order march with three ranks. When ordered, the first man in the front row fires his weapon [blanks of course] followed by the second man and the third etc, then down the middle rank and then down the rear rank so that it gives the effect of a rapid fire throughout the ranks of the squad, one after the other and quickly. It came across as though they all fired at once which was misleading. In the 19th century, in Malta which in those days was a Garrison having many more soldiers on the Island than sailors, a Fud es Waar was fired by soldiers lining the whole curtain wall of Grand Harbour from St Elmo's Point to Floriana sounding as though a machine-gun was being fired. The laying down of arms, the off caps, and the three cheers, are all part of the ceremony of the Fud es Waar. My web page here  Malta Last years of Queen Victoria First years of King Edward.html the block starting with 818 Firing a FEU-DE-JOIE. In that block you will see two sets of photographs, both photographs in each set being the same. The left hand one is a small JPEG and the right hand one is a large GIF. Click on either of the GIF'S [pictures 2 and 4 as you see them] and then use the scroll bars to navigate through the picture.

Now for the Non-Premier League. Events in this League were the River Pageant, the Jubilee Concert, and the ceremonies around the St Paul's blessing and subsequent visits to the Mansion House, and Westminster Hall luncheon.

The River Pageant was an excellent idea and for the most part was well executed and went off well, this despite the weather but only really towards the end when the Spirit of Chartwell [the vessel acting as the Royal Yacht or Barge carrying the senior Royals] arrived in the Pool of London making its way through and out of it to berth seaward side of Tower Bridge. For those who do not know, Chartwell was the home of Sir Winston Churchill and is well worth a visit.  If you have the Churchill spirit you have mastered life! The Royal Barge carried all the correct flags flying the white ensign aft, the Royal Standard forward and the Flag of the Lord High Admiral on cabin top aft. It was a beautiful vessel and the final berthing of it shows that the skipper was also a beautiful vessel handler - his manoeuvre was magnificent. The Barge was truly the star of the show. However, in truth, one can only take so many little boats, and after five hundred of them, with a further five hundred to come it can get boring; very boring! London and its massive river with viewing area both side allows many hundreds of thousands to view the river scene, whereas at Portsmouth, the sea front from the Round Tower to Eastney Beach is just not the same, and only a very few near to the harbour mouth get a good view of the ships entering and leaving the harbour. Still, thinking about the Leagues, I couldn't help wondering about the difference of the Managers [Organisers] of each League [Premier and Non-Premier] and how much better a Fleet Review at Spithead would have been. But, without a decent sized navy and the large commitments for such a small navy at that, it was wishful thinking. The River Pageant was an undoubted success, and with better weather it would have finished as well as it was when it all started upriver. Sadly the Helicopter fly past was cancelled, and I doubt whether Her Majesty heard properly the very special 41 gun salute made for her in the vicinity of Tower Bridge. Here again, why didn't they add the cancelled Sunday helicopter fly past to the Palace fly past on the Tuesday?  I also wondered why the sailors lining the deck of HMS Belfast saluting Her Majesty were not from from the Royal Navy, but were largely Sea Cadets and the like, but I accepted that this made sense given that it was a civilian show and civilians rightly took centre stage and performed well for all my jealousy and unnecessary misgivings.  We understood that there was a problem with the fireworks on Tower Bridge and did witness the start of what appeared to be fireworks but they very soon petered out.

I wonder how many of you asked yourself why the Duchess of Cambridge was wearing a submariners badge on her dress?  I am a submariner so I was very proud that she would agree to wear our 'Dolphins', and the reason she did is that her husband Prince William is the Patron of the Royal Naval Submarine Museum at Gosport, a top high profile person there in that position to encourage all of us to give a little to the Museum to help preserve the second world war submarine Alliance which is the centre attraction at the Museum. Why don't you go to their website http://www.submarine-museum.co.uk/ tell them that you have seen my web site and the Duchess wearing her Dolphins and perhaps leave a quid or two to help remember the submariners who lost their lives in WW2. In naval terms, Prince William is also the Commodore-in-Chief of Scotland and of Submarines - look here http://www.godfreydykes.info/THE_ROYAL_FAMILY_WHOS_WHO_IN_NAVAL_TERMS.htm

 

Incidentally, our group had a wonderful viewing position of the River Pageant, viewing from the top concourse of the Royal Festival Hall on the South Bank with toilets, seats, drinks and food all a short walk away - idyllic! Just above us was a team ready to send a semaphore signal to the Royal Barge - we were told that it would say "God save The Queen" but of course we couldn't see it being sent.  As for the Concert, all but a few [taking into account the sheer numbers clogging all routes within a mile of the Palace] got anywhere near, with St James Park and Green Park full to the brim, and Hyde Park also throbbing. TV at home, or the big screen in the parks and Mall were the answer. Some of the stars I liked, some I had never heard of, and some I dislike for what they are, but hey, who cares, it was good fun and the old 'uns [that's old songs of course] are often the best especially Dame Shirley with her most fitting 'Diamonds are Forever' famous song - lovely woman she is! See below for a comment on Stevie Wonder who added unscripted material into his time on stage!  I have already touched upon the 'Carriage Ride' on the Tuesday and the use of the cars, and was a little disappointed. Take it from me that something passing your position at 15 to 20 mph passes in a flash and both the cars and the horse drawn carriages are moving within this speed range. As many said at the time, we saw three carriages available at Westminster Hall, one for the Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh and two up for grabs for the other senior Royals. Why on earth, for that short journey to the Palace, didn't the Queen ride preeminent in the first carriage, leaving the other two for the Prince of Wales with the Duchess of Cornwall and then for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge with Prince Harry: simple, job stopped, but no, a further disappointment for the crowd especially those around me. We all love the inner Royal Family and the Duke of Edinburgh is in that group, very much so, father, husband and grandpa, but the Queen [at this point knowing that her husband was not in danger or harms way, annoying though his medical condition was which hospitalised him] could have been advised to use all three carriages as I have suggested. It adds little to the crowds enjoyment in terms of time [minutes and seconds] but it does ADD something and that is why we pay, wait, queue, cheer, and wave to show our love and affection.

So, overall, how did I rate this Diamond Jubilee as a "One mans view"?

Wonderful, inspiring and altogether an occasion to be proud of, and fortunate that we were able to witness most of it. The division of which I have emphasised throughout, namely the Leagues, stands, for I firmly believe that the days of the Premier League are over, and that less and less will we see the days of old, when the military rules the roost, graciously giving way to the Media to carry out like-minded but totally dissimilar activities.  If we accept that the Royalty will be respected, rewarded, and be the focal point of the British peoples, and hopefully, though totally out of our hands, the Commonwealth peoples also, then events, be they Pageantry or Spectaculars, military or civil, will forever lock the bond of kinship, friendship and loyalty to the Crown which I have always adhered to, and to which our many foreign friends admire and, yes, envy. I finish by saying the obvious. Pageantry is all about style and only the Military can provide that in a meaningful way: civilians, ergo the Media cannot do Pageantry.

Even though you might not agree with this "One mans point of view" I hope and trust that my story and view point is rational based on my 74 years as a British citizen, and that reading this Snippet has in no way offended you, your culture, or your way of thinking.

God Bless The Queen

P.S.

My eldest son Steven is a Tutor and The Programme Director of Rose Bruford College an Internationally renown University for The Performing Arts just outside London. He has sent me this article which tells of the mind-blowing illumination of Buckingham Palace during the Jubilee Concert on the Victoria Memorial as Students from the College were deeply involved. Have a look here  -lights-up-the-palace.aspx and then scroll down to Steven Dykes and read his credentials. Note also that it was never intended that Stevie Wonder should have sung his song 'Happy Birthday' which seemingly caught many of the organisers off guard, but I am sure delighted H.M., as it did us, her loyal subjects.