Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Happy Belated Birthday Ma'am !

MrMartha is a bit red faced at failing to commemorate the birthday of Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth ll of England, a week ago. So is taking a moment and do so now. Born 21st of April 1926, HM has just turned 83 years old.

If observing the Sovereign's
'Official' Birthday, celebrated by the Trooping of the Colour on Saturday the 13th of June -- MrMartha is not late at all. One has to love the British...choosing a ceremonial birth date for their Monarch that coincides with much nicer weather for a parade.

Queen Elizabeth has now been on the throne for almost 57 years, and based on the longevity of her beloved "Queen Mum" she will continue to reign for many more years, if not decades. (Sorry Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall)

MrMartha actually saw the Monarch in person, during a summer 1974 visit to London. As a student traveling with a school group, many scoffed at the opportunity to make the pilgrimage to Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the guard and chose not to go. MrMartha, however, got the last laugh on that...

The day of MrMartha's visit happened to coincide with the one day each year that all of the ceremonial royal carriages are taken out from the Royal Mews at the rear of the palace, and given a bit of a road test, driven around the Victoria Monument roundabout in front of the palace. Fully staffed with teams of horses, grooms, and footmen, though unoccupied, the procession went by like something out of a documentary film, actually it seemed a bit surreal....The Coronation Coach with its magnificent carved and gilded decorations. The so called Glass Coach, which would later famously carry Princess Diana and her umpteen feet of wedding dress train to Westminster Abbey. The Irish State Coach in which the Queen rides to the State Opening of Parliament (on that particular occasion, the crown rides in it's own separate coach!). Several of the open carriages known as the State Landaus, which carry the royals at assorted events like Ascot. It was truly amazing to see.

This unexpected treat was then followed by the traditional changing of the guard, which for all of its cliche, is still a pretty magnificent thing to see....with the bands playing and the soldiers marching smartly in formation, it was an afternoon well spent, and we had a wonderful vantage point just across from the magnificent Victoria Memorial that sits opposite the main gate.

Just as the pomp and circumstance of the guards were finishing up, we could hear a cheer rising from further down the Mall, and echoing closer to us....Stepping out into the street to see what was happening, MrMartha could glimpse several black Rolls Royces (or were they Bentleys?) headed up the red colored road. As the vehicles came closer, it became apparent that the first car in the procession had flags at the front fenders, an emblem at the grille, and GOOD HEAVENS a crown on top.

MrMartha was amazed as Queen Elizabeth was driven past, showcasing the patented "Royal wave" just as you see on TV, and not six feet away! The cars drove around and entered the side gate at the palace front, and just at that moment the Royal Standard, the personal flag of Queen Elizabeth, was raised above the palace, snapping smartly in the breeze, and signaling that the Sovereign was once again in residence there.

Upon returning to the rest of the group, a disdainful tone queried "Did you see the pageant?"
..."Yes, and the royal coaches, oh, and the Queen"......It was an afternoon that has been clearly etched in MrMartha's memory ever since.