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 directgov.uk)
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.
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 Beacons.com)
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.