After finishing an academic year teaching in Russia, I went to the United Kingdom for two weeks with Mom. We hadn’t planned it this way, but we happened to be in London for the celebrations of Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee. She’s only the second British monarch in history to reach 60 years on the throne, and if she holds on for another three years, she’ll beat Queen Victoria.
Being in London during this time brought on some additional excitement and exasperation. It was exhilarating to be there right in the midst of the activities, flag waving, costume wearing and cheering, but it also put a crimp on being a tourist. On our first try, we couldn’t get in to St. Paul’s cathedral because they were setting up the security for the next day. We couldn’t get anywhere near Buckingham Palace because they were setting up for a concert. We went to the Tower of London twice, because there was so much to see that we couldn’t possibly do it in just a few hours. On our second trip there, we realized that if we stayed put for another four hours, we’d have a spot along the river to watch the royal barge and thousands of other boats come down the Thames. We chose not to stay and watch because we had such a short time in London and we had a lot of items on our ‘must see’ list. Later during the day, we were near London Bridge and heard that the Queen had just passed. We were prevented from getting any closer by security. It was a cold day to be in a flotilla waving to people for four hours.
Back at ‘home’ with Mom’s 86 year-old friend Ella, we joined the millions of people watching the Jubilee concert on TV.
Ella referred to the royal family like she would members of her own family. Prince Phillip was ‘the Duke’, Prince Charles was ‘Charlie’, William and Harry were ‘the boys,’ and Kate Middleton was ‘Katie.’ It was fascinating to hear her stories. In her youth she’d been a dressmaker and had even made things for Queen Elizabeth’s sister, Princess Margaret. She told us about the Queen’s wedding, and how she and her friend had run out to watch as the royal carriage drove by. History’s so much more fun when you’re in the midst of it and hearing stories from the people who live there.