Diamond Jubilee

Today is Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee. I watched the pageantry and pomp of the royal river parade while working at the museum (muted, of course), and while I watched the flotilla of over a thousand ships sail down the River Thames, I thought of the stories my mother and grandmother told me about when they lived in England sixty years ago. I asked my mom to write down her memory of the Coronation party they had back in 1953, and with her permission I share it with you.

Dad was a captain in the AF and he and Mom went to various functions at the Officers’ Club, other officers’ houses, and in turn entertained at our house. I don’t remember many parties, but back then kids didn’t often participate in adult gatherings.

My memories of the Coronation party are sketchy and definitely from the mind of a 6 year old — a girl who loved fairy tales, pretty dresses, and the formal world of grown-ups.

I was enthralled by the crown, the gown, the uniforms, the setting, and oh my goodness the carriage! Although television had been around more than 10 years it was still limited. We had a small black and white TV with rabbit ears antenna and a round screen. Many people did not have a TV. While in England my mom made friends with several British families. I think some of them were invited as well as some military ones. I don’t remember the adults OR the children!

I wore my best dress, probably my Christmas dress — it was dark velvet on top with short poufy sleeves and a full plaid skirt in red and green and some other colors. I remember going to the buffet table for nibbles of food. And being so excited. The grownups were dressed up, also; cocktail dresses and I think the men were in suits, not uniforms. I think we celebrated with wine when she was crowned.

Oh, the long walk down the aisle, the kneeling for prayer, the clergy in their best attire, Elizabeth, finally sitting on the throne (I think), processing out, the crowds and the cheering.

Besides the TV, other rooms had radios so if you weren’t in with the TV you wouldn’t miss anything. I’m not sure where the TV was located. It was placed up high and vaguely recall that it was on top of the refrigerator, which seems strange. However, the kitchen was probably the warmest room and I think the TV had been put in an odd place to get good reception, a problem when you use rabbit ears!

Sixty years later and here I am, my mother’s daughter in the UK for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, marking the sixty years of her reign. After work I went to a barbeque and we toasted the Queen with champagne. Watching the British royal family is in my family history; I am continuing it: today by watching the Jubilee, last year, by going to a friend’s house and watching the royal wedding of Prince William and Kate. The pageantry and the show of it all is fascinating. I am glad I am here to watch and be a part of it, because, in a way, it allows me to share in the memories of my mom and MeeMee, while making memories of my own.

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