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.

Saturday, 4 June 2022

The Platinum Jubilee - Day 3

Today I watched a sequence of things relevant to the Jubilee on television. I caught up with the recent programme on archive film of The Queen’s life from home movies taken up to and including the Coronation, accompanied by repeated quotations from speeches and broadcasts by Her Majesty over the years.

This material was of interest in showing the Royal Family away from the public eye. Some of it was at one level unexceptional in that it could be any family, but then it was a striking reminder of the human side of life in the House of Windsor when that was not seen in the way we have become much more used to in the present reign. In total it is a fascinating archive resource for the life of the Roysl Family in those years. 

To me probably the most striking images were those of King George VI as Duke of York and then as monarch which showed him as very much a relaxed and proud husband and father. One gained from this a much clearer idea than literary descriptions might convey of happy family life and the bonds forged with his wife, daughters and grandchildren. It reveals much more than the formal photographs or the profile on a coin which is perhaps how he is remembered by many today.

The film is well worth catching up with on BBC iPlayer.

This was followed by a re-run of the 2018 programme on the Coronation with The Queen reflecting on that event with her very practical observations about the weight and awkwardness of St Edward’s Crown and of the Imperial State Crown, and the discomfort of the Gold State Coach. 

In the evening I watched the Platinum Party at the Palace. Now Pop Concerts are not especially ‘my thing’ but this was an undoubtedly impressive production, and its staging and use of Buckingham Palace, the Victoria Memorial and The Mall as a backdrop extraordinarily effective. The technology involved would have been unimaginable in the world of 1952 - an apt visual metaphor of the changes these last seventy years have seen. There was also a self-deprecating lightness of touch - not least Her Majesty taking tea with Paddington Bear - which is very British in its understatement and quirkiness.

Ten years ago I was struck when watching the equivalent performance by what a remarkable blend that was of contemporary popular culture with an ancient institution that was celebrating the reign of its latest custodian. That was even more true this evening, reinforced by both the celebration of seventy years of changing life and the call to safeguard the global environment. An institution in which continuity is implicit has, as is often pointed about monarchies, the ability to point to the long term, and call attention to what does need doing. This was also a long established institution which could be confident in itself to endorse the modern world and to look to the future - the future of the world in all its complexity and future of the monarchy with the speeches from the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Cambridge and the presence of Prince George in the audience. There was also one felt a great sense of genuine shared exhilaration and enthusiasm in displaying affection and regard for The Queen as well as simply enjoying a jolly good party.

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