Wednesday, 9 September 2015

A Visit to the Coronation

Queen Elizabeth II becomes Britain's longest-reigning monarch later when she passes the record set by her great-great-grandmother Queen Victoria.

The Queen will have reigned for 63 years and seven months - calculated at 23,226 days, 16 hours and approximately 30 minutes at about 17:30 BST.

BBC News

To reflect today's news, I'm posting an article I wrote back in 2012 for the Parish Magazine of St Brelade, La Baguette. It came from an interview with a parishioner who had been over to England for the Queen's Coronation.

In passing, a memory of mine, of how things have changed. When Channel Television used to sign off for the night, they would always end with a clip of the Queen, saluting, on horseback, as the National Anthem played. It was an old clip, because the Queen, even then, looked much younger than she did in real life, but it was rather nice to see - it showed the youthful Queen, full of promise and hope. And I think that, by and large, that promise has been fulfiled. 

Perhaps the road has been rocky on the way, but today she is still here, and I think most people, apart from die-hard republicans, are rather glad. I had republican sympathies in my youth, but I think looking at other countries, where there is a President instead of a Monarch, provided ample evidence to dissuade me of that way. And we have only to reflect on England's own history under the Commonwealth to see that a "Protector" of a republic is not necessarily the best alternative.

A constitutional monarchy, which came by historical accident as the monarch's absolute powers were gradually lost, seems to me to have provided the United Kingdom with a good deal of stability. It could perhaps be summed up in the phrase "I maintain". It's not a flashy rule but it is not a monarch's business to be flashy. And Elizabeth II has maintained Queen for these many years, bringing a stabilising influence where needed, and a figurehead that was outside of politics.

And that also has economic benefits, because of that sense of stability, which of course the international business community desires. Fortune Magazine notes:

"Monarchs typically serve their respective nations longer than democratically elected heads of state: The recently abdicated Dutch Queen Beatrix was on the throne for 33 years; Elizabeth II of Britain has held her position for 61 years and counting. This kind of leadership stability gives these particular figures additional sway in the business community."

Parishioners Remember: Coronation Day 1953

Back in 1953, there was a special airline day trip to go to London from Jersey offering Islanders the opportunity to see the Coronation procession of Queen Elizabeth II.

St Brelade Parishioner Ann Shepard saw this advertised at the specially reduced rate of £6 per person, in the JEP. That does not seem a great deal now, but her weekly take home pay back in 1953 was just £5, so it was more than one week's wages. But it was a chance of a lifetime, and she decided to go with her friend Beryl.

Along with other Islanders, the two 19 year olds had to be at the Weighbridge at 5.30 in the morning, where a coach took them to the Airport. The trip was popular, and she remembers that the Dakota airplane was full.

In the middle of the flight to England, the Captain announced over the communications system that news had just been received that Sir Edmund Hillary had reached the summit of Mount Everest. He was the first climber to achieve that goal. The press called the successful ascent a coronation gift.

In London, they took a train to Hyde Park, where they saw the Queen and the Coronation Procession proceeding along Birdcage Walk, followed by all the other dignitaries, most notably Salote, Queen of Tonga, in her open carriage. After the Coronation, they saw the Queen again, now processing towards Buckingham Palace.

After the crowds had gone, Ann and Beryl made friends with two young South African men, who had also been watching the show, and they were treated to a meal out.

But all too soon, it was time to get the plane back to Jersey, and Ann remembers being so tired that she slept for the entire flight. But it had been a memorable day, and one she still treasures.

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