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.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Jubilee celebrations - style and substance

The celebrations today in London to mark the Diamond Jubilee all appeared to go very well to this Oxford based television viewer - even the weather just about managed to behave until the conclusion.

Here are a few of my own reflections on today's ceremonial and images.

The form of today's events must refect the Queen's own choices - and may indeed reflect the fact that she and Prince Philip are ten years older.

Unlike the state ceremonial of a Coronation or the State Opening of Parliament Jubilees are not pre-determined in their form - Queen Victoria's two celebrations in 1887 and 1897 were significantly different from each other in charcter and location. In 1977 there were clear links to that of King George V in 1935 - even the commemorative stamps followed the same design - and a very similar format was followed in 2002. This Diamond Jubilee was organised in a rather different way.

The river pageant, a joyeuse entree by water meant that more could be done and seen by people, and afforded th eopportunity to send out more images. This was clearly seen to be the day for the male members of the Royal family to wear service dress and decorations. I rather regret they did not for the service today at St Pauls, as had been the case in 1935, 1977 and 2002.

Similarly I also rather regret the decision not to use the State Coach and other carriages for the journey to St Pauls, which we saw in 1977 and 2002 - but not in 1935. I doubt if this use of cars was conscious restraint as much as a practical decision concerned with the logistics of moving men and horses as well as historic vehicles. Nonetheless I think it did perhaps reduce the splendour of that part of the day.

It fell to the Heralds to provide ceremonial colour alongside the copes of the clergy and the robes of the Lord Mayor.The wearing of morning dress by the Princes made it a more subdued if elegant service - reminiscent of the services to mark the Queen and Prince Philip's wedding anniversary, and this may have been the idea - the service appeared more private and reflective than overtly celebratory.

The scene inside St Paul's Cathedral for the Jubilee thanksgiving service

Image: Daily Telegraph/ Murray Sanders/Daily Mail/PA Wire

The service itself was better than that in 2002 and it seemjed to me taht there were far clearer references to the traditional language of the Book of Common Prayer - 350 years old this year - and perhaps reflecting not only Royal preferences but the influence of the Bishop of London. The sermon was certainly better than Archbishop Coggan's in 1977 and for once Archbishop Williams was clear in what he was saying, although I think he had confused the then Princess Elizabeth's radio broadcast on her 21sth birthday in 1947 from South Africa with her accession in Kenya in 1952.

The television coverage at St Pauls was good, using the architecture to effects, and unlike the 1977 obsession with the camera in the top of the dome.

The Lord Mayor of London was there with the pearl sword, and entertained the Queen at the Mansion House afterwards but I wonder if there was a perhaps a conscious decison to keep "the City" at a distance in the wake of the financial crises. Thus it was not a lunch a Guildhall afterwards, but a return to Westminster for the Queen and the closer members of the Royal family - Guildhall hosted other distinguished visitors, but not before the eyes of the camera. The emphasis on the charitable works of the ancient Companies of London again stressed the links between the Crown and the City, but kept the modern City in the background. in any case  Westminster Hall is a a very suitable historic setting for such a luncheon - carrying on the tradition of Coronation banquets there from 1100 until 1821.

There was the the opportunity for a carriage procession for the return to Buckingham Palace.

 The Queen leaves Westminster Hall at the Palace of Westminster in the 1902 State Landau

The carriage procession in Whitehall
Image:Daily Telegraph/Reuters/Ki Price

The Queen, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry. An estimated one and a half million people lined The Mall below. As the Band of the Irish Guards played the National Anthem, a celebratory cascade of rifle fire, the feu de joie, was volleyed, for only the second time during her reign – the first was for her 80th birthday in 2006.

Image: Daily Telegraph/David Jones/PA Wire

Something which was also being made clear was the hierarchy within the Royal family. More so than on previous occasions there was a sharper focus, differentiating the Prince of Wales and the immediate line of succession - who were the only members of the Royal family to appear with the Queen on the Palace balcony - from the other children of the Queen and prince Philip, and with the Royal cousins forming a third group. The Queen was clearly emphasising the future with the next three ion line to the throne - this was dynasty rather than family in its message.


Image: Daily Telegraph

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