Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Friday, 1 June 2012

Joining in the Jubilee

As the main weekend of Jubilee celebrations has approached it has been impressive to see ever more shops, pubs, houses and public spaces being decked out with Union flags and bunting and stylish shop window displays with books and commemorative items, often with affectionate humour involved in their design and display. 

This suggests a quiet and very typically understated British way of celebrating such events as Jubilees and Royal Weddings - we slightly surpise ourselves at our patriotic display and enthusiasm, but keep it within the best of decorum and dignity - very like the Monarch and Monarchy we are celebrating.

Therein is part of the key - this celebration is about us as well as about Her Majesty, because we sense that somehow we are part of this rather mysterious institution that we periodically realise is not just how to choose a head of state, but incorporates our history and institutions, our identity and personality. The Monarchy is not just a family and a way of governing, it is also us. When we say Britain, or rather  the United Kingdom, is a Monarchy we actually mean something much more than the presence of the Monarch and her family - we are speaking of ourselves as a national community.

No doubt some at least of the bunting and flags will stay in place to encourage UK competitors at the Olympics. However, and I hope the London 2012 people will not be too upset by my saying this, I doubt if people feel for the Olympics what they sense about the Queen and her Jubilee. Yes, we may well, ironically, become couch potatoes and watch the competitions, but, let's be honest, for all the popularist hype, the Olympics are, of their very nature, infinitely more eliteist than the Jubilee - and who had heard of anyone organising a street-party to mark them?


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