GOD SAVE THE QUEEN!
I have been looking forward the DIAMOND JUBILEE RIVER PAGEANT for months. I have followed all the news about the GLORIANA, the new set of bells, the Queen’s Barge, and of course the 1,000 ships that would accompany the Royal Family from Chelsea Bridge to Tower Bridge–a seventeen mile stretch of the river. Stephanie and I decided that we would go to the river at midnight because it has been raining heavily, and we knew early morning eager beavers would be fewer due to the very wet weather. We arrived at Festival Hall at 1:00 am with our chairs, waterproof clothes, cameras, and snacks. From Hungerford Bridge to Waterloo Bridge there were only two lonely tents on this portion of the Embankment. And IT WAS POURING DOWN. Mrs. Moore and I set up our chairs under the Golden Jubilee Bridge where it was dry–hoping that it would stop raining for the great Pageant down the river. It poured, and I mean it really poured until about 11:00 am when the people started to arrive, and the sky was a bit brighter. We moved from under the bridge where we had spent the night talking to the police guards and security guards who were placed all along the river and over the bridges–they were as numerous as bees in a beehive. Wow! By 1:00 mid-day, the crowds were really arriving in great numbers, and we were against the railings with complete river views. People were six deep, then ten deep, and finally numbering at least 25 deep, and the rain had stopped. It was a great relief knowing that it would be a gray day, but the color I was looking forward to was the Pageant. There were large screens on the north bank showing the Pageant as it was coming closer and closer to us. FINALLY, the boat carrying the new set of church bells came through the bridge with the GLORIANA, the Queen’s new personal Thames Barge. It was a copy of Frederick, Prince of Wales’s early 18th century royal barge at the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich. My heart began to beat faster and faster, and my cameras were snapping fast and furiously. Suddenly, I realized what 1,000 boats on the River Thames would look like: it was a massive scene of incredible color. The Symphony in a covered glass boat played GOD SAVE THE QUEEN right in front of us, and there wasn’t a dry eye anywhere. The spectators drew dead silence and some of the old generation put they hands to their hearts. I suddenly realized what it meant for England to celebrate the Queen’s sixty years on the throne, but also to celebrate the royal family’s roll in English life for a thousand years. It was a moment when I could feel a united soul of a nation with a “fire in the belly.” Then the great cheers burst out, and all hell broke loose. Hundreds of boats, one after another, started passing before us like a great museum mural. It was like the modern BAYEUX TAPESTRY telling a story, one event after another. Then, from under the Hungerford Bridge, I could see the Royal Barge coming through with a gilt canopy atop. The crowds went wild, waving their Union flags, and screaming at the top of their lungs. I just glued my eyes to my camera and snapped one image after another. The Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh stood in front followed by Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall and then Prince William, the Duchess of Cambridge, and finally Prince Harry. The Royal Barge was enormous with huge garlands of red roses dripping in formal patterns on the sides of the barge. The crowds really went wild, and I knew THIS QUEEN had clearly gone down in history as the most popular sovereign ever to sit on the British throne. Queen Victoria was very elderly lady at the time of her Diamond Jubilation, but this queen was clearly “with it” standing with her family, waving spontaneously, dressed in a white suit and hat, and smiling from one ear to another. She was enjoying every minute of it. Prince Charles went from one side of the barge to the other greeting the 1.5 million people along the Embankment–, also enjoying himself thoroughly. At the back of the Royal Box were William and his Catherine who were obviously hugely popular with the adoring crowd. Prince Harry was at the back of the box enjoying the ride, casually positioned, and smiling as if flirting with his very excited audience. To stand along the river and watch this moment of public adulation was amazing. It was like publicly signing a document assuring the popularity of the British Royal Family for another thousand years. The Royal Barge with its 1,000 accompanying boats made an impression on me which I will never forget. There was a magic in the air with united smiling faces like we never see in these troubled modern times. I will never forget seeing twin boys just over from us along the railing on their father’s shoulder waving the Union Flags. Their Queen is in their mind and soul from the earliest childhood. Really, the entire event was one of the greatest experiences I have ever attended. Besides, I loved the people who shared the moment with us–they were like friends. And then it started to drizzle again. But, luckily, the Pageant had passed down the river and into our memories and hearts. GOD SAVE THE QUEEN–that is what we all felt after this wonderful occasion.
Thomas Moore email: TMooreSr@me.com Telephone: 801.791.9918