UK Travel: International lovers of all things British prepare to celebrate Queen Elizabeth's Platinum Jubilee marking her remarkable 70-year reign. Holidays in London.
Queen Elizabeth 11 celebrates her Platinum Jubilee on Sunday, 5 June 2022, and all across the land, people will be letting loose with street parties, Union Jack tray bakes, bunting and mountains of Coronation Chicken. Now is a good time for an informational blog post for all of our few-to-many international readers on how to navigate the tricky waters of British Jubilee preparation and how to celebrate the majesty of Herself properly.
WHAT IS A JUBILEE?
A Jubilee is a jubilant celebration of an important anniversary and for the Queen of England, these nationwide revelries commemorate every ten or 25 years on the job. Queen Elizabeth was born in London in 1926, to the Duke and Duchess of York, George V1, and Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon. In 1936, her uncle, King Edward V111 abdicated the throne, and Elizabeth's father, George V unexpectedly became King of the United Kingdom and the Dominions of the British Commonwealth and she was the heir presumptive. King George died after a long illness and in 1952 while Elizabeth and Prince Phillip were on a tour of Australia, New Zealand, and Kenya, where they received word that she was now Queen with immediate effect. Elizabeth's first jubilee was in 1962, marking her ten years as queen.
SILVER JUBILEE, 1977
Those readers of a certain age may remember 1977 to be a very eventful year. Elvis Presley died and Pele played his last football match. The Queen commemorated 25 years on the throne with her Silver Jubilee. The first Apple computer went on sale as did the first Atari. STAR WARS. Studio 54 opened, Saturday Night Fever happened and disco music got everybody dancing. For those too rock to roll with disco, the Clash released their debut album and the Sex Pistols, four unlikely lads with questionable musicality, released their first, and only album Never Mind the Bollocks, which featured the anti-royalist song, God Save the Queen. The single was banned from radio play due to disparaging lyrics about the Queen being less than human and a bit of a fascist but still reached number two on the charts, denied only by Rod Stewart's double-A single I Don't Want to Talk About It/ The First Cut is the Deepest (thank goodness it wasn't Da Ya Think I'm Sexy). As a promotional alternative-jubilee event, Virgin Records owner Richard Branson and band manager Malcolm McLaren rented a Thames riverboat, ironically named Queen Elizabeth, for a punk rock concert parody of the Queen's riverside procession. Anarchy in the UK screamed from speakers crackling with head-splitting feedback as the boat drifted past Parliament. Anarchy was indeed the word of the day as the police soon arrived, and docked the boat with ensuing chaos as those onboard either ran away, were beaten up, or were arrested for obstruction and verbal assault. One could be arrested for being snarky in 1977. Branson and McClaren were successful in their efforts for publicity as this event is repeatedly discussed in every Sex Pistols documentary and with every one of the Queen's jubilees.
RUBY JUBILEE, 1992
Everyone was still talking about the events of 1977, so the Ruby Jubilee, commemorating 40 years, was a low-key event.
GOLDEN JUBILEE, 2002
The Queen had lost both her sister and her mother at the beginning of 2002, but the 50th anniversary was still celebrated with events throughout London and the Commonwealth. This was our first jubilee in England and I remember lots of flags and face paint at the village fête, even though I didn't know what a fête was at that time. I don't recall much more than that because I had three young children and I am lucky I remembered anything at all.
DIAMOND JUBILEE, 2012
The Diamond Jubilee in 2012 toasted 60 years since Elizabeth's accession to the throne, equaled only by Queen Victoria in 1897. 2012 was also the year London hosted the Summer Olympics and London was the most exciting place to be that year.
SAPPHIRE JUBILEE, 2017
Queen Victoria died in 1901 at 81 years of age and after 63 years as Queen and Empress. In 2017, Queen Elizabeth celebrated 65 years and became Britain's longest-serving monarch. This was only five years ago, but I have no recollection of this at all. I wonder if the Queen remembers?
PLATINUM JUBILEE, 2022
Most importantly, the Sex Pistols will be re-releasing God Save the Queen, again, on the 27th of May for anyone who still buys records. A docu-drama, produced without the participation of Johnny Rotten, by Danny Boyle called Pistol will soon follow. But enough about the Sex Pistols. Please Ed Sheeran perform God Save the Queen at the BBC concert with only an acoustic guitar and loop pedal?! Please! (post note: he didn't, damn.)
Before we delve into our Jubilee party planners, some translations may be helpful to our non-UK Anglophiles:
There is an extra bank holiday scheduled for the Queen's Platinum Jubilee making it week a three-day workweek. As best described, a bank holiday refers to all public holidays in the UK, some of which are without a specific significance. These are happily planned for Mondays or Fridays, creating long weekends that occasionally occur in conjunction with public or religious holidays, ie: a Bank Holiday Monday follows Easter Sunday. August Bank Holiday is simply the last Monday in August, and always the hottest day of the year... unless it rains.
This is as described on the tin (an aluminum can contain vegetables, tuna, coffee, or Spam, though one should never look too closely at the ingredients listed on a can of Spam). Neighbourhood streets are blocked from traffic and the residents set out tables of food and drink and eat outside on the street instead of in front of the TV. It is a lovely time to party with the people next door. My own experience with a London street party included some rather famous actors and a foot-in-mouth moment involving the local corner shop (convenience store) and some nappies (diapers). Ask me about it someday, if I haven't already told you.
As mentioned before, our first Jubilee was in 2002. We were spending time in the Cotswolds and, as I grew up in The US and don't speak Medieval Latin, I did not know that a 'village fête' is a variation of a fair; a festival, or a party usually held on public holidays, outside on the village green, often organized to raise money for charity. The popular Great British Bake Off emulates a village fête as competitive baking is a big part of.
Attractions at a Village Fête:
Tombola: a tombola is a game in which people draw numbered tickets out of a revolving drum and immediately win the prize that corresponds to the ticket number. Prizes are often donated and set out on a table stall.
Coconut Shy: a game in which one throws a ball to knock off a coconut shell from a post. Like a DIY down-a-clown.
White Elephant Stall: A bit like a yard sale, white elephant implying this is the stuff that no one wants.
What to expect at the village fête:
Morris Dancing: Must be seen to be believed but on the whole is a group of (usually men) dressed in white with bells on their knees waving around white hankies. Believe it, see it.
Fancy Dress: When I first moved to London, I assumed the fancy dress party invitations for my two-year-old daughter required her to come dressed in an evening gown. What fancy dress means in dressing up in costumes. Fancy dress ideas for younger partygoers might be a fairy or an eye-patched pirate. For older party people, just insert 'slutty' before fairy or pirate.
Bunting: Otherwise known as pennants in the United States, bunting is a string of triangular-shaped flags, decorated with designs common to the occasion that is being celebrated. Bunting can be pink or blue to celebrate a new babaí, adorned with pictures of champagne flutes and confetti for significant birthdays or anniversaries or even bedazzled with penises to signify a happy hen-do (bachelorette party). For the Platinum Jubilee, the bunting will undoubtedly be the red, white and blue of the Union Jack (UK flag), with the occasional 'keep calm and carry on' millennial pastel bunting, a la the Bake Off tent.
When you are the King or Queen, food is something you don't need to think about. Someone buys it, preps it, cooks it, and serves it to you at your request. Wouldn't it be loverly? Another jubilee tradition is the introduction of new recipes created by professional chefs for home cooks to re-create in their kitchens. Capitalizing on the international popularity of the Great British Bake Off for this jubilee, alumni Mary Barry hosted the Queen's Pudding Competition, which shortlisted home cooks' recipes for the official pudding, instead of those by professional chefs. Pudding is the English word for dessert, including all desserts, not just the Jell-O, Bill Cosby-type pudding. Pink Floyd's exclamation at the end of Another Brick in the Wall: "If you don't eat your meat, you can't have any pudding," was not a threat against butterscotch, banana cream vanilla powdered pudding from a sachet (package), but probably a warning against wasting a Sunday roast (the meal, not the meat though the meal does include roasted meat, plus potatoes, veg and a Yorkshire pudding, which isn't a pudding at all but is a bread roll type thing made with milk, flour, eggs and water used for soaking up the gravy) at the risk of losing a sticky toffee or an apple crumble.
The winner of the Queen's Pudding Competition was Jemma Melvin with her lemon Swiss roll (jelly roll) and Amarretto trifle.
A trifle is a sponge cake with layers of fruit, custard, and cream. The most famous trifle in history is, not an English Trifle, but Rachael's from Friends trifle that included the meat and peas layered with cream, fruit, and ladyfingers.
OTHER ROYALTY-INSPIRED CULINARY DELIGHTS
In 1897, French chef, restauranteur, and author Auguste Escoffier, was the head chef at the Savoy hotel in London, and a close friend of the Prince of Wales, later King Edward V11. He created several famed dishes, including Pêche Melba and Melba Toast in honour of Australian singer Nellie Melba, and the Bombe Néro, which is flaming ice cream, before he was sacked from the job for taking kickbacks on eggs. Noting her love of cherries, he is also credited with cherries jubilee for Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, which marked her 60th year as Queen.
Victoria must have also loved cakes because there are a lot of them named after her including Victoria sponge and Battenberg cakes. A Battenburg is a light, two-coloured sponge cake held together with jam and covered in marzipan. It was created for the marriage of Victoria's granddaughter, Princess Victoria to Prince Louis of Battenberg. The Victoria sponge is a light sponge cake separated by a layer of creme and jam and dusted with icing sugar (confectioner's sugar). The Battenberg Sponge is an especially popular tea time cake for children.
Rosemary Hume and Constance Spry, both principles with London's Cordon Bleu cooking school are credited with creating Coronation Chicken for the Queen's coronation celebrations in 1953. Based loosely on British dominance of the Indian subcontinent, coronation chicken comprises cold chicken meat, curry creme sauce, and dressing and is often used as a sandwich filler. It has an uncomfortable yellow colour but is still a top-selling sarnie (sandwich) in the UK.
PLATINUM JUBILEE 2022 EVENT PLANNER
TROOPING OF THE COLOUR: Thursday, 2 June.
The Trooping of the Colour is usually held on the second Saturday in June to commemorate the Queen's official birthday (she's the Queen of England, so she both a state and official birthday.) This year it will be held in conjuncture with the jubilee on the Bank Holiday Thursday. Beginning at Buckingham Palace, 1400 soldiers, 200 horses and 400 musicians will parade down the Mall (not a shopping mall but a long, expansive street) to the Horse Guard's Parade, joined by members of the Royal Family on horseback. The Queen will not join on horseback this year. She's 96 years old, for goodness sake!
BBC'S PLATINUM PARTY AT THE PALACE: Saturday, 4 June.
The BBC will be hosting and live broadcasting a star-filled music festival in front of Buckingham Palace featuring Queen + Adam Lambert, Elton John, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Andrea Bocelli, Elbow, hopefully singing Beautiful Day and not Grounds for Divorce, Duran Duran, and Diana Ross. If I was the program director, Rod Stewart and Ed Sheeran would duke it out onstage with a God Save the Queen, I Don't Want to Talk About It rematch. (post note: this didn't happen, though it should have.)
PLATINUM JUBILEE PAGEANT: Sunday, 5 June
The Platinum Jubilee Pageant will have all the excitement and spectacle of an international parade and carnival. It will combine street arts, theatre, music, circus performers and, of course, fancy dress to celebrate Her Majesty the Queen. There will also be a procession of 200 secondary school students carrying silk flags decorated with images concerning climate change and presenting their hopes for the future of the planet.
Many other events will be held throughout the UK Commonwealth. Consult the official government website platinumjubilee.gov.uk for all the details.
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