Last October my partner and I were surprised and delighted to receive an invitation from the Duke of Edinburgh to a reception at Windsor Castle. It seemed unreal passing through the State Entrance, walking up the Grand Staircase to the magnificently restored St. George’s Hall and spending several hours being able to explore the historic rooms at leisure. To read more about that evening, click here.
This weekend, the whole country is in a Royal frenzy as there is a four day holiday break from routine to celebrate the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Everywhere, there is red, white and blue bunting and Union flags flying in preparation for street parties, village dances and fetes. For many of us, the Queen represents more than just our Country, partly because, having been there for sixty years, the majority of us have no memory or knowledge of any other monarch. She has always been there, always consistent and that is quite a comfort when the news is full of political and monetary chaos throughout the world.
Windsor Castle is not just a grand, old building; it is also a much loved home to the Royal Family, so it was only natural that it would play a lead role in the Jubilee celebrations. “Around the World in 60 Years” was an extravaganza that celebrated not just the Queen’s achievement (Queen Victoria, the present Queen’s great-great-grandmother is the only other monarch that reigned for over 60 years) but also
a record of the many countries that she has visited during that time. When we had the opportunity to be at Windsor for this once-in-a-lifetime treat we leapt at the chance.
The performance, which took place in the private grounds of the castle, began with the entrance of the Household Cavalry and King’s Troop, which is always guaranteed to whip up a fervour of patriotism. Behind the arena, the stage was a massive recreation of the facade of Buckingham Palace.
The arrival of the Queen and Prince Philip brought everyone to their feet. The British don’t display their patriotism openly very frequently but when the band played the National Anthem, “God Save the Queen”, there were many – men and women – whose voices faltered over the words “long to reign over us”…. For me, the raising of the Royal Standard above the mock Buckingham Palace, which is only ever flown in the presence of the Queen, was my emotional downfall, for I am always aware how fortunate I am to live in a free democracy: one half of my family did not and perished because of it. My friends tease me, saying that now my family have lived here for 100 years, I will soon be a ‘proper’ Englishman!
We were one of the last to leave the arena and as we sat we were noticed by the Cook Islanders who performed a ‘haku’ especially for us. It was very exciting to have our own private performance and made our evening even more memorable.
And just when the evening could hardly be even more magical, we stepped outside to see the castle lit up in a dark sky. Breathtaking!
My photographic skills couldn’t cope with the extraordinary horsemanship of the Cossack riders – to see them rehearsing for their performance, click on the link here.
The Diamond Jubilee Pageant “Around the World in 60 Years” is to be shown this coming Sunday on television: ITV 6.30pm – 8.30pm.