One has to hand it to the British – they know how to throw a great party. I’m writing this just after watching the gala event at the Windsor Horse Show for Her Majesty the Queen’s 70-year Platinum Jubilee Celebration. It’s pretty unusual for a person to hold the same job for 70 years and working well into their 90s. Steadfast and dignified, our Queen has fulfilled her promise she made in her 20s: to devote her life to Great Britain’s and the Commonwealth’s service. The May 15, 2022 star-studded gala was a celebration of Her Majesty’s lifelong devotion, and it was done in fine style that recognized her love of horses and ponies.
I remember being in Yorkshire, England for Her Majesty’s 60-year Jubilee Celebration. The entire country was decked out in bunting and street parties were numerous. The souvenir shops did a thriving trade selling everything from coasters to bobble head dolls. At the time, my mother and I were in England on vacation, ensconced in a hotel room with a television and way too many wreck-the-diet, sugary snacks, watching the royal pageant sailing down the River Thames. As I look back on that special moment for our family, I also reflected upon the story from the 1950s that Mum often shares:
As a child, Mum watched the 1953 coronation on a nine-inch screen, black and white television. Not everyone had televisions —in the 1950s few British houses even had a landline phone—so on this occasion her father, mother, brother and she all bicycled over to a relative’s house where seven people clustered around the tiny screen. Back then, many people specifically bought these brand-new consumer products just to watch the coronation. It was a very solemn occasion with peerage present wearing twinkling coronets and jewels. Visiting historical properties today, one can even see robes worn by certain aristocrats attending the coronation ceremony. Occasionally, coronation chairs come up for auction and I recently saw a pair on television: each bore a small three digit number plaque and was upholstered in faded blue velvet. Because of the numbers, one can go back in time and actually discern who sat in these chairs for the ceremony. What a fabulous link to the past!
This type of social history actually fascinates me. Customs, souvenirs and family memories go far beyond a mere royal event. The way that the coronation impacted the social history of the country is something that bears further discussion. Social history includes local customs, trends, community, food, dialects, events and so much more. Social history is part of family history. Never confuse family history with genealogy. Genealogy is the intense study of accurately proven family trees. Family history, involving social history, is a much broader look at everything that deals with a person’s life, community, history and environment. Numerous articles are written about food, communications at the time, consumer products, advertising slogans and more. Social history makes history come alive; without this detail, it would simply be a boring list of facts and dates. Make family history more accessible and more interesting by including these tidbits of social history. Large, international gala celebrations are often remembered, denoted by numerous people asking each other where were you when, or what was I doing on that day in history? The May 15, 2022 televised event was one of those occasions and I know I’ll long remember the military parades, draft horses carrying drums without shying, dressage exhibitions, acrobatics, highland dancing, opera singing, great actors’ performances and so much more.
Whether you are a royalist or not, one must celebrate the life of a devoted lady well into her 90s who has given her entire life to public service. Personally, I admire Her Majesty’s diplomacy, perseverance and dignity. May 15, 2022 was a day to put politics aside and celebrate, something everyone can appreciate considering the challenges our world faces today. To all the performers who demonstrated their amazing skills and honored our monarch, thank you. To Her Majesty, congratulations (and know that your audience enjoyed seeing the delight on your face as you watched all the horses galloping past). Cheers!