For those of you on Mars or anywhere else uninterested in the British Monarchy, Britain and her dominions are celebrating the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II this weekend. Our queen is only the second British monarch ever to make it to a diamond jubilee, marking a reign of sixty years: the other was Queen Victoria, in 1897. So it’s a pretty good excuse for a party.
It was only when we visited the south of England last month that we realised quite how excited people were getting about the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. In rural Scotland, you might easily miss the occasion completely. Down south, on the other hand, even with a month to go to the Jubilee weekend you could hardly move without tripping over Union Jack bunting. The newsagents were stuffed with magazines about the Queen, reminiscing on her sixty glorious years, and the gift shops were having a field day.
I thought it was marvellous. The majority of Scots are monarchists, but we tend to be a bit coy about admitting it. I’ve only seen one house with bunting on it, for example, and that was yesterday. England’s joyful enthusiasm for our hard-working Queen and her Jubilee made a happy contrast. I came home inspired, and I freely admit that I have snapped up a fair number of Jubilee souvenirs, from the sober (beautiful mugs for my children from the Royal Collection) to the silliest (royal family face-masks, anyone?).
When I was a little girl, my granny gave me a delicate bone china cup and saucer commemorating the Diamond Jubilee of Queen Victoria. I suppose her mother had left it to her. Over the years, other family members gave or bequeathed commemorative mugs from later coronations and jubilees, so that now we have a shelf full, covering the whole span of the twentieth century and beyond, from 1897 to the present. This sort of china isn’t worth much in monetary terms, but means a lot in terms of family history. Adding a mug which commemorates the Diamond Jubilee of our present Queen, therefore, will make a rather nice balance to that first cup from the reign of Queen Victoria.
There are all sorts of grander schemes one could adopt for the Jubilee, of course. At one point we were thinking about lighting a beacon (over two thousand beacons are being lit across Britain, from Cornwall to Shetland) and throwing a garden party for our neighbours. It could have been fun, but the death of my father-in-law three weeks ago put paid to such expansive thoughts. We are not in the mood for parties and bonfires now.
Nevertheless, the Diamond Jubilee is a historic event and one worth celebrating, even if on a modest family scale. So I shall be hanging up some Union Jack bunting on the front steps this morning. The boys have caught my enthusiasm, and yesterday spent an hour or so absorbed in making paper bunting decorated with symbols of monarchy. Today they are going to ice the cupcakes I baked on Saturday: jelly diamonds and Union Jack cocktail flags will feature heavily, I believe. This afternoon, we plan to eat our Jubilee cupcakes and the Jubilee shortbread I’ve bought (I couldn’t resist the tins!) and to drink tea from our Jubilee mugs under our Jubilee bunting, while watching the television to try to spot our friend in one of the thousand boats in the Jubilee flotilla on the Thames. Yes, I am making the most of it: goodness knows it is a relief to have something happy in our lives just at the moment.
There are plenty of other people out there who need this reason to be cheerful more than us, of course. With that in mind, there are several brilliant Jubilee ideas out there to balance out any self-indulgence in the cupcakes and shortbread department: we might plant some trees to add to the Jubilee Woods project, for example or volunteer for an hour as part of the Jubilee Hour initiative. As always, the Queen inspires by her example. Happy Diamond Jubilee, Ma’am!
More shameless monarchism can be found in A rather special April.