Monday, June 4, 2012

Recollections – Stops in London and the Diamond Jubilee

As I have written in former posts (see here ) the first time I went to London I was 13 ½ years old. My grand-father had found a travel group that took school age children to a family in England for the Christmas holidays and the English children would come for the Easter holidays in France. I met the group at the Paris station and that was pretty much it – I was on my own on the ferry on the English Channel and at Victoria Station my English family found me by the number on my coat (I think it was 49.) They were a delightful family. Their daughter came at Easter to visit me in France and we always kept in touch. She now lives near San Francisco and has invited us to come and visit her in the fall. The family took me to all the London sights – St Paul Cathedral, Piccadilly, Trafalgar Square, Big Ben, Westminster Abbey, etc. At the time I did not take many pictures but still I bought postcards. Now I have better vintage postcards like those below. (Click on collages to enlarge, then click on any picture to see better.)

Earlier that year, in 1953, I remember hearing all about the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II on the radio. I have several postcards of the coronation.

It’s hard to believe that I went to London the first time just 6 months after she was crowned - June 2, 1953. She had come to the throne upon her father's death in 1952. Now, she has her Diamond Jubilee. Below is another postcard from that time.

I had so much fun in England – it made me an anglophile for life. I went back the following summer and then once or twice a year until I stayed one full year to go to college. Once in America I went back to France often and would try to take flights with a free stop in London or I would take a round-trip to London then the ferry or later the “Chunnel” to Paris. I never stayed long in London and would take a train to different places like Cambridge, Brighton, or visit museums. The last time I stayed though was in March 2002 and I went to Bath. Later that year my mother passed away, just before Christmas, and I had to go back to London to catch a plane home to Atlanta as all the flights were full leaving Paris. It was a sad time but in a way being in London felt more comforting than in Paris where there was much happy going on for the end of year celebration. Below is a photo (with a film camera) I took one year in London – don’t remember when – of a street artist.

Street artists have been making their art in London for a long time. Below is a 1912 postcard of a “pavement” artist too.

Last year we missed our flight in Chicago going to Paris and had to take a flight to London first. It was the Wednesday before “the wedding.” We did not stay in London but I watched it on the television in France. I also wrote a post about it – see it here,

My favorite tea is from Whittard of Chelsea. I would buy an assortment of teas on every trip to London. Below is an old film photo I scanned showing the Whittard Shop.

Yesterday I prepared a cup of tea for my husband and I and used some Earl Grey from Whittard’s. As I was placing the tea in a tin I realized that it was a special tin – I had bought it as a souvenir for Queen Elizabeth II’s Golden Jubilee in 2002. Ten years already. To go with our tea we listened to a CD purchased in Bath.

The Diamond Jubilee celebrations are quite a grand affair. The weather did not cooperate for the flotilla pageant as it was pouring rain. The flotilla pageant was the highlight of a four-day national holiday. I wish I could have been in London though but I watched it live on the Internet. I took many pictures but they were not as clear as those I had taken on the wedding from the French television. My cat Cody kept walking in front of the screen but he got bored and settled down.

This is the map showing the route of the flotilla (courtesy

Here are some of the pictures I took from the computer screen – but most are fuzzy.

In a way, the pictures being fuzzy like this and the weather being foggy and rainy reminds me of Monet’s painting.

The Thames at Westminster 1871, Claude Monet, French 1840-1926

There were 1,000 boats coming down the River Thames. The last time there was such a royal pageant was for King Charles II in 1662! What an assortment of boats – pleasure crafts, kayaks, gondolas, dragon boats, a replica of a Viking longboat and more. I read that there were also more than three dozen “Dunkirk Little Ships” private boats that rescued thousands of British soldiers from the beaches of France after the German invasion in 1940.

I even saw a paddle boat. The Thames is not the Mississippi though and everyone was under an umbrella.

I saw many flags on the boats I did not recognize but some I did, as the Canadian flag and other flags of the Commonwealth. I told my husband that if Lafayette had not come and helped the American Revolution there is a good chance the US flag would be included in the Commonwealth flags….

Even under this pouring rain thousands of people were watching the pageant, tooting horns, sounding whistles, waving the “Union Jack” flag as the boats came at a speed of 4 knots down the 7 mile (11 km) route. I read that one of the vessels taking part, called the Amazon, took also part in Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee in 1897.

Queen Elizabeth II was wearing a white coat with a shawl and a white hat and waved as the ships went by. She was in a colorful barge, accompanied by her family and other dignitaries. Sixty years of reign is certainly an accomplishment.

On the Official Website of the Queen’s Jubilee was the program for the “Central Week-end – 2-5 June 2012”: on June 4th is a concert at Buckingham Palace (Elton John, Lang Lang, Paul McCartney, Shirley Bassey and more.) Also 4,000 beacons are to be lit around the UK, the Commonwealth and UK overseas territories. (Photo Courtesy Diamond Jubilee

I still remember the first time I visited London all those years ago; my English family took me to look at the crown jewels in the Tower of London. There certainly were a lot of diamonds. I could not have guessed that almost 59 years later I could see them again, online.

Buckingham Palace released a formal portrait of the Queen for the Jubilee. She is pictured in the Palace’s Center Room wearing the State Diadem crown of diamonds and pearls, worn on her Coronation Day in 1953. She is also wearing Queen Victoria’s Collet Necklace, worn by her great-great grandmother for her own Diamond Jubilee photograph in 1897.

It is a beautiful portrait but I prefer the photographs taken by Annie Leibovitz, shown below. (Courtesy Contact Press/NB Pictures.)

The official website indicated that a message could be send to the Queen. So I sent her a message of congratulations. Buckingham Palace emailed me a thank you note. I scanned it below. (Click on picture to see better.)

I understand that the conclusion of the Diamond Jubilee will be at St Paul Cathedral with 2,000 guests, then a carriage procession. The Queen will appear on the Balcony and there will be a RAF Flypast and a Feu de Joie. A Feu de Joie (French for fire of joy or bonfire) is a celebratory rifle salute. It is used on rare occasions of national rejoicing. (In the US there was such a feu de joie, running down double lines of infantrymen at Valley Forge, PA on 6 May 1778 to celebrate American’s alliance with France.) Below is the official banner of the Diamond Jubilee. It was made with more than half a million gold-coloured buttons.

The official Queen’s Diamond Jubilee emblem was drawn by a 10-year old English girl. It is pictured on top of this post -on a linen souvenir bag sent to me by an English friend – she also sent the coaster below and several postcards.

"There'll Always Be an England" ( Ross Parker, 1939.)

Queen Elizabeth’s Flotilla (courtesy Getty Pictures.)


Note: Blogger Break - Post pre-programmed.


Dee said...

Dear Vagabonde, when I read your postings I always feel replete--filled to the brim--with the wonder of history and the beauty of vintage postcards and photographs. With your blog, uou help us celebrate so much of life, and I deeply appreciate all you share and all I learn from your wanderings and your boundless enthusiasm for life. Thank you. Peace.

French Girl in Seattle said...

Another wonderful post, Vagabonde. Since I was away on our sailboat this weekend, I missed the Jubilee celebrations on TV. Thanks to all your wonderful pictures (fuzzy or not...) I got to enjoy some of the festivities anyway. Merci beaucoup! I think you and I share a strong bond with England, and in particular with London. Is it because so many of us French kids got to take our first "international" trips there as Junior High or High School students? I always go back with great pleasure and excitement, planning my trips, as you do, with lay-overs in London :-) As a matter of fact, I have an itch to go back this summer. Mmmm... Maybe some trip planning is de rigueur. A bientot. Veronique (French Girl in Seattle)

Darlene said...

I am of English heritage so England has a special meaning for me. I was able to visit there about 30 years ago and loved it. I visited some of the places you mentioned and your post brought back fond memories of that trip.

I always admired Queen Elizabeth but I am more fond of her Mum.

OldLady Of The Hills said...

This was such a wonderful post! I missed all the Celebrations, I'm afraid...So, this was a real treat...I would have loved seeing the Flotilla, even in the rain....! You always give us so much to look at and enjoy, plus, your personal perspective enriches each and every post...Thank You, my dear....!

Down by the sea said...

What a lovely post you have written. Your photos are so good from your computer and as always your postcards are wonderful and also your memories of England. I watched the flotilla on the television. My sister who lives in Central London went down to the Thames walking through crowds 20-30 deep and couldn't get close enough to see anything!
What a shame Prince Philip has been taken ill and won't be the Queens side today.
Sarah x

Mary said...

Fabulous post, memories and photos dear. Thanks for sharing it all with us.

I'll be off in a few days - more world to see!
Take care - Mary

DJan said...

A blogger I follow who lives in London went to the soggy flotilla and took pictures. I enjoyed them, and also your much less soggy but very elegant post about the Queen. As always, I appreciate all the detail you provide! :-)

Z said...

She must have been so cold, but she stood throughout, she's remarkable!

Rosaria Williams said...

I've just been traveling without leaving my chair and my computer! This is so rich, Vagabonde, and so good of you to curate all these pieces for us.

Jenny Woolf said...

A lovely post. I was at Chelsea and so although I was only a little way from the boats I didn't see them nearly as well as everyone else saw them on TV! Still, it was fun being part of the crowd. I hope Prince Philip hasn't been too badly affected by making that trip in the cold at his age.

You have posted some super photos here - all so interesting.

Fennie said...

How is it, dear Vagabonde, that I learn more about the Jubilee from your blog than I do from my own television? Though as I have been active in 'assisting' (such a useful word - 'assister'- why we don't have it in English I don't know. I shall use it anyway and you will know what I mean) at Jubilee events both here and in France, I have had little time for television. I shall blog about them in due course. Needless to say we are all very proud of our Queen but would be delighted if republicans anywhere - in France or in the USA, especially - wanted to throw in the towel of rebellion, become vassals of the Crown again and join the Commonwealth. It does make sense to separate your head of government from your head of state. And the Queen speaks fluent French. Vive la Reine!

BJM said...

Yes, it has been a great celebration with lots of Feel Good consequences around the country! B.

joared said...

Appreciated your commentary and photos. I watched some of the television coverage -- especially enjoyed viewing the Flotilla coverage and the WWII boats (reminded me of those valiant rescue efforts and song I so liked as a child -- "White Cliffs of Dover."

Friko said...

Good Grief, Vagabonde, you've done a Jubilee post.
Pity you couldn't be here and stand in the streets, waving your little flag.

Shammickite said...

I watched some of the Jubilee celebrations but not all, but I have to admit to feeling very homesick seeing everything that was going on in London and all around the country. But I got a better view on the TV than I would have had in person. But its just the feeling of "being there" that would have made the difference.
CBC covered the concert on TV, but didn't show Shirley Bassey, a disappointment for me. But I saw Cliff Richard, and Tom Jones, and of course Paul McCartney... all my old favourites.

katy gilmore said...

Dear Vagabonde,
I LOVED reading this post and seeing your photos - I found you on Vicki Lane's blog and what a treat. I wanted so much to see more of the river pageant- you have brought it to life!
I lived in British Columbia when Elizabeth was crowned - it was such a big deal and it seems like her 60 years trace our lifetimes! Thank you again! Katy In March this year we were in London seeing so many of the preparations - and had a good long look at the Coronation Chair in Westminster Abbey!

今、この一瞬を said...

こんにちわ(Hello), Vagabonde.



  It is my joy to share your wonderful work.
  I pray for your happiness and world peace.

  Thank you for always visiting my blog.

Have a good weekend. From Japan, ruma ❃

Dianne said...

this brought back so many memories of my trips to London :)

Diane said...

This is a great post, I remember the coronation like it was yesterday, how time flies when you are having fun!! I love that photo of the Queen with the mirror. I have seen very little of London. I don't like big towns and somehow London never really was on my wish list to see. I have probably visited it briefly about 5 times in my life. Have a great weekend Diane

Olga said...

A beautiful post. I completely agree with you - I like the portrait by Annie Leibovitz much better; it has a certain sense of irony.

snowwhite said...

What a lovely post it is! I read your blog with a great interest. In Japan also, we have the Emperor and Imperial family. 60 years ago, the present Emperor Akihito attended the coronation of Queen ElizabethⅡon behalf of his father and this year attended her Diamond Jubilee with the Empress. Entire anniversary is just awesome!
I love Earl Grey. Decades ago, on English ship I traveled to Australia. The whole trip took two months, I never forget how I enjoyed tea time!
Thanks a lot for sharing. Have a great week!

Jeanie said...

This is such a wonderful post -- but indeed, we share that Anglophile passion. Long before I fell in love with France, I fell in love with England, the Royal Family and its traditions. I wasn't able to watch the flotilla, but did enjoy the concert and the procession tremendously, and like you, took photos on the telly screen. They're not very good... but I love them! I'll be posting on the London visit after I complete the Paris and Holland posts, so be sure to check in!

Ginnie said...

I was glued to the TV for a good part of those 4 days, Vagabonde, and love how you have put this post together as a tribute to it. Thank you. I have really grown into an anglophile, too! I LOVE England!

Vagabonde said...

I have been away from my computer for several days and was so pleased when I came back home to read all your comments. I know how busy everyone is and appreciate that you take the time to leave a comment. Welcome to Katy Gilmore for visiting my blog. I’ll try to get back to all your blogs this week. I am glad you enjoyed this post.

Pat said...

Vagabonde: I hereby pronounce you an Honarary Brit!

Unknown said...

What a fun post! I too love London and travel there several times a year as my daughter lives there. I just happened to be there for the Jubilee celebrations. Oh my, it was quite amazing to be there with London in such a festive state! Loved hearing all your memories and also the great re-cap of the Queens special days! Thanks and hope you enjoy the Biscoff shortbread cookies!
ps One time when I was flying home from London I asked the flight attendant for another package of Biscoff cookies and she dumped about 20 packages on my tray. I thought I had won the lottery, for sure!

CrazyCris said...

She sure was beautiful when she was crowned!

We didn't hear much about the Jubilee celebrations here in Spain... I think with the crisis people have finally lost interest in the "high-society" world, which is weird considering how much they love gossip here! I personally would have LOVED being in England for the celebrations! But between that and the Olympics tickets are just waaaay too expensive this year. I'll have to wait for the Fall or next Spring (my sister lives in Colchester, and for a few years before just outside of London, so I try to go once a year)

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