Friday, June 1, 2012

Happy and Glorious

This weekend the United Kingdom will celebrate the 60 year jubilee of Queen Elizabeth II. The celebrations will rise above the pettiness of old scandals associated with the Royal family, not to mention the constant speculation about when William and Kate are going to breed.  This is a time to remember how much the country has changed since 1952 – and how much in other ways it has stayed the same. There will be street parties around the land just as there were on Coronation Day and the same immaculate pageantry will remind the world that this elderly lady is the symbol of Britain’s long sweep of history since Alfred the Great. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

Here on Midatlantic, I mark the occasion by posting this lovely drawing by Norman Hartnell of the Queen’s Coronation dress. The gown incorporated the symbols not only of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (the rose, the thistle, the leek and the shamrock) but the symbols of the Dominions – as they were then called. It included the Canadian maple leaf, the Australian wattle, the New Zealand silver fern, and the South African protea as well as the lotus flower for India and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) and wheat sheaves, cotton, and jute for Pakistan.

And I draw your attention to this short but very beautiful anthem – O Taste and See, a setting of Psalm 34 – written for the 1953 Coronation by that most British of composers, Ralph Vaughan Williams. I defy you to listen to it and not think of the antiquity of Albion epitomized by that little old lady in the crown.

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