29 May 2012

My Kind of Army

Here she comes, her Most Britannic Majesty,  Elizabeth II, Dei Gratia Britannia rum Regnorumque Suorum Ceterorum Regina, Consortionis Populorum Princeps, Fidei Defensor, and so on.  She formally celebrates 60 years of being queen regnant ( as opposed to queen consort) putting her but three years shy of the longest reigning British monarch, Victoria.  Read about her: Queen Elizabeth II marks diamond jubilee - The Washington Post
I confess to a touch of Anglophilia, nourished at first by a recording of the Cold Stream Guards I owned as a boy. As a youngster in Washington DC pageantry was easy to find, and quite charming to a child – with all those shiny bits. I remember quite clearly going to Arlington Cemetery one Memorial Day and seeing both the silent sentinels before the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and seeing President Eisenhower deliver remarks. Impressive and stirring. I missed that sort of excitement when we moved to Baltimore. That record of the British Band reminded me of the ruffles and flourishes years before. No doubt I was attracted to the Boy Scouts by the snappy uniform as much as the knots and trees.
I got a taste of my boyhood delight years later when my wife and I visited Ottawa Canada, the National Capital, where during summers the Governor’s Own, a ceremonial regiment, perform their own ‘changing of the guard’ based on that in London. We went back a few times over the years, as Ottawa is a great city. With our sons in tow back in 1990- something we waited for the show and our youngest, a blue eyed blond haired charmer, was selected to be part of the ‘intro show’ conducted by the National Capital people. He and a francophone kid were coached to ask questions about the ceremony, which he did quite well thanks to dad’s teaching beforehand. We even got a front row seat.
Then in 2001 I took the same son into London in late May to see if we could glimpse the parade going to ‘Troop the Color’ at one of the formal rehearsals that marks the Queen’s official birthday. Once again his appealing face got attention and a police officer handed us tickets to the grandstand and we saw the whole show.
I am faintly embarrassed by my fondness for military pageantry, but I am wise enough now to prefer the British form.  They do it best, hands down, with a wonderful combination or clueless arrogance, effeminate machismo, and Victorian frumpiness that makes it perfect.  But why describe it.  Watch it yourself, and when you’re done you’ll find yourself stiffening your upper lip, and thinking “There’ll Always be an England.”

No comments: