Current Events, Special Days and Historic Anniversaries Brought to Life by Teddy Bears, Pandas and Other Cuddly Creatures
Monthly Archives: June 2013


by Elspeth

Today, taking advantage of the break from watching tennis, I thought I’d write about the catering at Wimbledon – a massive operation which is the largest of any European sporting event. 

Each year, three fruits are very much in evidence – strawberries which are, of course, synonymous with Wimbledon, bananas, the second most popular fruit at Wimbledon, with 23,000 eaten, 12,000 of them by the players, and pineapple, but more about it later.  

 Last year, during the Wimbledon fortnight, a staggering 28,000 kg of strawberries were consumed accompanied by 7,000 litres of fresh cream. The berries are freshly picked in Kent the day before they’re served, arriving at Wimbledon around 5.30 where they’re inspected for quality before being hulled.  Given the extortionate cost of catering at other sporting events like the Open and the Olympics, I was amazed to learn that the price of a punnet of strawberries, containing not less than 10 berries, and cream is only £2.50 which seems a real bargain to me! 

Now, I’m sure you must be fascinated to know why, when there must be lots of other fruits on sale at Wimbledon, I’ve singled out pineapple.  Well, the reason is that on top of the silver gilt trophy presented to the winner of the Gentlemen’s Singles title there’s a carving, not of a tennis ball, or a tennis racquet or even a strawberry, but of a pineapple.  Although no one really seems to know why, a spokesperson for the Wimbledon Museum believes that it could date back to the tradition of captains putting a pineapple on top of their gateposts when they returned home from sea, though I don’t know if they stuck to one on each gatepost as, if they went to sea often, they would end up with a whole pineapple plantation!  Another explanation is that the symbol of the pineapple dates back to the 17th century when it was a sought after commodity and, therefore, a symbol of status and wealth. 

Last year, 300,000 cups of tea and coffee, 250,000 bottles of water, 200,000 glasses of Pimm’s, 190,000 sandwiches, 150,000 bath buns, scones, pasties and doughnuts, 135,000 ice creams,100,000 pints of draught beer and lager, 32,000 portions of fish and chips, 30,000 litres of milk, 25,000 bottles of champagne, 20,000 portions of frozen yoghurt, 12,000 kg of salmon and 6,000 stone baked pizzas were consumed during the Wimbledon fortnight.  Interestingly, this year, less healthy foods have proved to be very popular, with pizzas selling especially well. 

The Bears in the Windows can’t wait until tomorrow, neither can I, as not since 1998 has Britain had representatives in both men’s and women’s singles in the second week of Wimbledon.  This year, Andy Murray and Laura Robson will be keeping British hopes alive and, whether they win or lose on Magic Monday, well done to both of them! 







by Elspeth

Yesterday, as I was waiting for Andy Murray to play his third round match which, I’m delighted to say, he won easily, I was reading some fascinating facts about Wimbledon – yes, I know, you’d think I’d have had something better to do – but, if like me, you like facts and figures, then Wimbledon must be the champion! 

Wimbledon’s official balls have been made by Slazenger since 1902.  But did you know that they’re no longer made in Britain?  Sadly, in 2002, production moved from Barnsley to Bataan in the Philippines and now the balls, made from raw materials from 11 different countries (including clay from the US, silica from Greece, magnesium carbonate from Japan and zinc oxide from Thailand), have to travel 50,570 miles across four continents before arriving at SW19.   The balls, which are stored at exactly 68ºF,  are hand-tested for weight, bounce and compression.

During the tournament, 250 ball boys and girls, recruited from local schools, fetch more than 54,250 balls, which are stored at 68º F.  At the beginning of each day, 48 tins are taken onto Centre and Number One Courts and 24 on each of the outside courts.  New balls are used after the first seven games, allowing for the warm-up, and then every 9 games as, after that, they’re deemed too soft and fluffy for the top players.

In 1986, with the advent of colour television, Wimbledon adopted yellow tennis balls because they are more easily seen – up until then, white balls had been used.  Given the importance of balls at Wimbledon, without them there would be no championship, last year, not surprisingly, the second top-selling souvenir in the Wimbledon shop was the miniature tennis ball, in either yellow or pink, of which 15,000 were sold and the fifth and sixth best-sellers, the 5-inch tennis ball and cans of balls, selling 9,000 and 7,000 respectively.

And just in case you think that a ball hit by your favourite player would make the perfect souvenir of a visit to Wimbledon, then think again.  People are expected to return any wayward balls that make their way into the crowd because the used balls are sold every day, in cans of three for £2.50, the money raised donated to the LTA’s Wimbledon balls for Schools Scheme.   Finally, my favourite fact about Wimbledon’s balls is that, one year, several hundred were given to The Wildlife Trust for use as nest boxes for harvest mice!  A big aaaah everyone!




by Elspeth

Today is the first day of Wimbledon and, although every major tennis championship venue has its own unique characteristics, most players agree that there is nothing that can quite match the magic that is the All-England Club during Wimbledon fortnight. 

Immaculate grass courts, exquisite flower beds, freshly minted Pimm’s, strawberries and cream, Union Jack painted faces on Murray Mount, former champion John McEnroe’s languid New York vowels delighting in our British foibles, the inevitable rain interruptions, now a thing of the past on Centre Court at least, and the great British eccentricity of queuing overnight for tickets, combined with a ruthless organisational efficiency, are what make Wimbledon unlike any other tennis championship in the world.

Wimbledon is a place of hope and glory where many live out their fantasies, but only a few fulfil their dreams.  After his devastating defeat in last year’s final, will this be the year that Andy Murray finally wins the title he wants so much and one which he richly deserves?



by Elspeth

I always associate Royal Ascot with the sensational monochrome costumes created by Cecil Beaton for the Ascot scene in My Fair Lady – the first West End show I saw as a child.  His decision to go for black and white wasn’t, however, just a touch of genius but was actually inspired by Black Ascot in 1910 held just after the death of King Edward VII.

Instead of cancelling the Royal meeting, it had been decided it should go ahead but in full mourning which meant that race-goers had to exchange their proposed outfits for shades of obsidian, pitch and jet.  It seems that the Mayfair dressmakers worked overtime to make sure that the ladies looked a million dollars (or perhaps a million guineas would be more appropriate), when they were photographed for the new-fangled illustrated magazines.  The late King would, apparently, have loved it and it certainly put black firmly on the fashion map.

As you look at this group of marvellous, monochrome bears, I wonder, if like me, you’re expecting one of them to shout out, “C’mon Dover! Move yer bloomin’ arse!”, just as Eliza did in My Fair Lady, smashing her genteel demeanor to smithereens and horrifying the lords and ladies gathered at Britain’s most prestigious horse race!  


by Elspeth

Truly outlandish hats have long been associated with Royal Ascot, the practice dating back to the sartorially adventurous Georgina, Duchess of Devonshire, who created the three-foot hair tower, a style echoed at modern-day Ascot by the legendary Mrs. Gertrude Shilling, whose millinery masterpieces, created for her by her son David for more than thirty years, included a replica of the Eiffel Tower, a giraffe’s head and a Victorian poke bonnet the size of a small armchair. 

David Shilling himself is no retiring wallflower in the hat department and, two years ago, as a tribute to Royal Ascot’s 300th anniversary, he sported a traditional top hat decorated with two cocktail glasses, red white and blue balloons, a wad of bank notes and candles which spelt out Happy Birthday.  This year, however, the milliner extraordinaire was evicted from the Royal Enclosure by the style police.  And his crime – he was wearing a hat decorated with flowers instead of the regulation topper!  It seems to me that he has a real case for sex discrimination as, amongst those who were allowed to remain inside the Royal Enclosure’s hallowed grounds were ladies wearing over-the-top creations including one which featured a fuchsia plant with dozens of blooms and another in the shape of an enormous silk rose, neither of which wouldn’t have looked out of place at Chelsea.

Why a race meeting should encourage the British aristocracy and the rich and famous to dress so outrageously remains a mystery, but any sartorial excesses are tempered by the always-present Royal Family whose choice of pastel suits, modest headwear and sensible heels bring an aura of grown-up restraint to the proceedings.

However, it seems that even Her Majesty is not immune from the people’s obsession with Ascot headwear and it’s become a tradition that bookmakers take bets on the colour of her hat.  On Tuesday, they had made pink the 3-1 favourite but, when the Queen turned up wearing a peach outfit with matching hat, they decided to pay out on both peach and pink.  Yesterday, the passionate racegoing monarch made further waves by wearing a mint green coat and a matching hat with pinkish-purple detailing.  As a result, dismayed bookies were forced to make a triple pay-out to punters who’d bet on Her Majesty wearing green, pink or purple!  Blue was the clear favourite for today’s Ladies’ Day but, after a flurry of bets on grey and silver, betting was suspended by two major bookies.  As it turns out, they needn’t have worried as Her Majesty looked lovely in lilac!

The Queen also made history today when her horse Estimate claimed victory in the Gold Cup – the first time in the race’s 207 year history that it has been won by a reigning monarch.  The delight on Her Majesty’s face showed what a very special moment this was for her especially when her son, the Duke of York, presented his mother with the Gold Cup.

Competition for the most spectacular hat is fierce amongst The Bears in the Windows on Teddy Bears’ Day.  I hope you’ve enjoyed this selection of my favourites!    







by Elspeth

A unique blend of equine stars, high fashion and gigantic hats is what makes Royal Ascot, which begins today, such a spectacular society event, one that is steeped in tradition and pageantry and is interwoven into the very fabric of British culture.  For many, this most British occasion, held each year during the third week of June, is simply about being seen, though racing pundits would argue that Royal Ascot has most definitely got something to do with horses!

It was in 1711 that Queen Anne first saw the potential for a racecourse at Ascot which, in those days, was called East Cote.  Whilst out riding near Windsor Castle she came upon an area of open heath that looked, in her words, ‘ideal for horses to gallop at full stretch.’  The first meeting took place on 11th August of that year, the inaugural event being Her Majesty’s Plate, worth 100 guineas, which was open to any horse, mare or gelding over six years of age.  Each of the seven runners, all English hunters, had to carry a weight of 12 stones, rather different to the speedy thoroughbreds that race on the flat today.  Nor did the nature of the racing bear any resemblance to that of today, with that first race consisting of three separate heats, each four miles long – about the length of the Grand National.  Queen Anne’s gift to racing, the founding of Royal Ascot, is marked each year with the opening race being the Queen Anne Stakes.  Interestingly, although high fashion is synonymous with Royal Ascot, Queen Anne was the complete antithesis of a fashion icon – she was apparently so fat that she had to be buried in a square coffin! 

Queen Anne’s passion for horses and her interest in racing has been shared by every Royal Family since.  Indeed, no one was more passionate about racing than the late Queen Mother from whom our present Queen inherited her love of everything equine.  The sight of her open-topped, horse-drawn landau leading the Royal Procession down the racecourse is an eagerly awaited tradition of Royal Ascot.  However, though for many in the crowd, the focus is on the Queen, for her, the focus is always on the horses.  In fact, her racing manager believes that if she hadn’t been the Queen, she would have made a wonderful trainer as she has is so perceptive and has such an amazing affinity with horses. 

Despite the fact that way-out headwear is part of the Royal Ascot experience – you can read more about this tradition later in the week – there is a strict dress code for entry into the Royal Enclosure.  , there is a strict dress code for entry into the Royal Enclosure.  Ladies must wear formal day dresses with their shoulders covered, satins and sequins are frowned upon, ropes of family pearls are appropriate and low-heeled shoes a good idea.  A complete no-no are acrylic nails, halter necks, mini skirts, bare midriffs, off-the-shoulder dresses, visible zips and piercings!  The form for men is that top hats, if worn, should be family heirlooms or of black antique silk from one particular shop in London, shirts should be pale, base colours, button down collars are discouraged, morning coats should be black and bespoke or pale grey and three-piece, though embroidered or comedic waistcoats should never be worn, and jewellery should be confined to a fob watch, family rings, cufflinks and tiepin!

Two well-known figures will be missing from this year’s meeting – Prince Philip, now recuperating at Windsor after leaving hospital yesterday, and Sir Henry Cecil, the champion trainer who sadly lost his long fight with cancer last week.  Hailed as Britain’s greatest ever trainer, Sir Henry was a legend in racing circles where he was well-liked and hugely admired.  Responsible for 25 British Classic winners, he was crowned champion trainer 10 times and is Royal Ascot’s most successful trainer, notching up a record 75 winners, including the great Frankel who came into his life when Sir Henry was not only struggling to rebuild his reputation, but also with serious illness.  The legendary stallion, undefeated in his 14-race career, was, according to Sir Henry, ‘the best I’ve ever had, the best I’ve ever seen.’ 

It seemed as if this magical colt had given him a new lease of life and the will to see out one of the most challenging and rewarding chapters of his life.  No one could fail to have been moved by his words before the equine legend’s final run at Ascot last autumn, his face gaunt and his voice barely a whisper, when he said ‘Frankel has been an inspiration and challenge which I needed so badly.’  The two were made for each other and it was fitting that one of the greatest trainers of all time was gifted the world’s greatest horse at the end of his illustrious career.  


Sadly, neither Sir Henry Cecil nor his wonder horse, Frankel, will be at Royal Ascot this year and, after today’s pre-racing procession, there was a poignant moment when Her Majesty led a tribute to the legendary trainer, knighted by her in 2011, when a minute’s silence was held for the ‘king of the flat’.  In a further tribute, Friday’s Queen’s Vase race has been renamed in honour of Sir Henry.  And, as the curtain rose on the five-day extravaganza, the feeling lingered that something was plainly missing.

This is the third time The Bears in the Windows have celebrated Royal Ascot and, this year, two windows are dedicated to the race meeting which has established itself as a national institution and the ultimate stage for the best racehorses in the world.  In one, I’ve recreated Sir Cecil Beaton’s stunning monochrome scene from My Fair Lady, the first West End show I saw.  Pandas were the obvious choice for my ursine ‘lady’ racegoers, all outlandishly attired in black and white.

In the other, the ‘Queen’ is presenting the trophy to the winner of the Gold Cup, first run in 1807 and still the most important long distance horse race on the flat anywhere in the world.  The Gold Cup is, traditionally, the feature race of the third day of Royal Ascot, known colloquially as ‘Ladies’ Day’ or ‘Teddy Bears’ Day’, as The Bears in the Windows prefer to call it!  The champion jockey is ready to celebrate with a bottle of champagne, while his equine partner is enjoying some celebratory carrots as he watches the presentation from outside the Royal Enclosure.  On either side of Her Majesty, who’s dressed in a smart but restrained outfit and a floral trimmed straw hat, are two pairs of race-goers – the men dapper in traditional morning dress and the women suitably attired in stylish day dresses with millinery creations Mrs. Shilling herself would have been proud to have worn!


by Elspeth

Today is Father’s Day, celebrated in this country on the third Sunday in June – an opportunity for children to show how much their fathers mean to them. 

The day’s origins can be traced back to 1909 when an American girl called Sonora Louise Smart Dodd came up with the idea of having a day dedicated to fathers.  Her own father, a veteran of the Civil War, had raised her and her five sisters alone after their mother died in childbirth and so she wanted to show how much she appreciated what he had done for her though, sadly, he had died before her dream was realised.    


On 19th June the following year, the people of her home town of Spokane in the state of Washington celebrated the very first Father’s Day. The popularity of a day set aside for spoiling your father received a boost when President Woodrow Wilson gave it his seal of approval, though it wasn’t until 1924 that President Calvin Coolidge declared it a yearly event in the United States.  It was about this time that we also began to celebrate Father’s Day in this country.


Like so many other occasions, Father’s Day has become over- commercialised, with shops vying for the lucrative business of the nation’s children.  Statistics show that Father’s Day is the fifth most popular occasion for purchasing a greetings card – it’s estimated that a whopping 32 million will be sent by loving sons and daughters this year.  However, whether you’re the one buying the card or the one on the receiving end, you may not realise that the type of card chosen actually reveals a great deal about your relationship.


For example, receiving a traditional Father’s Day card, featuring a car or tools, means that there’s a clear generation gap between you and your children.  While you secretly still see yourself as cool and cutting edge, they see you as the wearer of dodgy pullovers and corduroy trousers.  The good news is that they consider you to be ‘their rock’ and the important bringer of stability and order in their chaotic lives.  If you receive a ‘the greatest Dad in the world’ card, it means you’re clearly a sentimental old soul and will probably well up as you read the greeting.  However, beware as it also means your children know you’re a bit of a softie underneath all that ‘tough dad’ exterior and that they can play you like a fiddle when it comes to getting their own way!      


When it comes to deciding what to give your father, although the nation’s retailers try to persuade us that anything from a pair of slippers to the latest state-of-the art gadget makes the perfect gift, apparently, the most popular Father’s Day gift is a tie! 

Naturally, every year, the junior members of the Bears in the Windows family take the opportunity to show their fathers just how beary special they are and, in this year’s window, there are several proud father and child pairings, with ‘Super Daddy Panda’ the leading man!  As you can see, the bear cubs have bucked the trend and have given their lucky Daddy bears imaginative gifts like a model train, a bottle of malt whisky and even an iPad!








by Elspeth

Although The Queen was born on 21st April, today she celebrates her official birthday with the ceremonial Trooping the Colour or The Queen’s Birthday Parade as it’s also known. 

The tradition of the monarch having two birthdays began for practical reasons when Edward VII, who was born on 9th November, decided to mark his birthday publically in either May or June when fine weather was more likely.  As the birthdays of subsequent monarchs fell at convenient times of the year, there was no need for them to celebrate twice, but the tradition was revived by the Queen’s father, George VI, who was born on 14thDecember, with June being chosen as the most auspicious month. (Given the atrocious weather we’re experiencing in Ayr today, with London’s little better later in the day, though thankfully fine in the morning, one wonders if Her Majesty might as well just celebrate her birthday in April!) 


Last year’s Tooping the Colour

Did you know that, like Her Majesty, Paddington Bear also has two birthdays? The reason why the mischievous, marmalade-munching bear from Peru has two is because he wasn’t sure how old he was when the Browns found him in Paddington Station and so they decided he should celebrate his birthday on 25th June and again on 25th December.


While the Queen usually spends her actual birthday away from the public eye, her official birthday is celebrated in style with Trooping the Colour, a military ceremony dating back to the early eighteenth century when the colours (flags) of the battalion were carried (or trooped) down the ranks so that they could be seen and recognised by the soldiers.  Since 1748, this parade has also marked the Sovereign’s official birthday and, from the reign of Edward VII onwards, the Sovereign has taken the salute in person.

Nowadays, Trooping the Colour is carried out by fully trained and operational troops from the Household Division (Foot Guards and Household Cavalry) on Horse Guards Parade in Whitehall, watched by members of the Royal Family, invited guests and members of the public.  The Queen has attended her Birthday Parade every year of her reign, apart from 1955 when the event was cancelled because of a national rail strike.  As a keen horsewoman, Her Majesty rode to Horse Guards Parade until 1986 when she made her last mounted appearance on her beloved horse, Burmese.  Since then, she has, I suspect rather reluctantly, travelled in a phaeton, because, at the age of 87, she still rides regularly in private. 

     Last year’s Birthday Parade

During the ceremony Her Majesty is greeted by a royal salute and carries out an inspection of the troops – this year it’s the turn of the 1st Battalion of the Welsh Guards.  However, for her, this isn’t simply another ceremonial duty she has to perform as the Queen actually has a vast knowledge of the attributes of her guardsmen, apparently singling out ‘steadiness’ as a highly prized quality.  After the massed bands have performed a musical troop, the escorted Regimental Colour is carried down the ranks.  The Queen then rides in a carriage back to Buckingham Palace at the head of her Guards where she joins other members of the Royal Family on the balcony for a fly-past by the RAF.

Trooping the Colour 2011

If you’re not lucky enough to get tickets for the Queen’s Birthday Parade, there are two other opportunities for you to witness one of London’s most spectacular traditions.  The first dress rehearsal, The Major General’s Review, takes place in Horse Guards Parade two weeks before the main event and a second, The Colonel’s Review, one week before. 

This year’s ceremony was attended by members of the Royal Family though, sadly, not by Prince Philip.  His presence must have been sorely missed by the Queen who has had her husband by her side every year for the last sixty years, apart from on two occasions when he was on official visits overseas.  It fell to the Duke of Kent, cousin of both Her Majesty and the Duke of Edinburgh, to travel in the State Coach with the Queen but, as soon as the proceedings were over, Her Majesty paid a visit to the hospital where Prince Philip is, apparently, making a good recovery.  

Three years ago, The Bears in the Windows decided to have their own Trooping the Colour, a tradition they enjoyed so much that they’ve held one every year since.  This year, the Queen bear, is taking the royal salute, flanked by a soldier from the Bearhold Cavalry, whose mount looks as if it’s about to collapse under his weight, and a smartly dressed Welsh Guardsman, appropriately wearing a daffodil in his bearskin.  You may also have spotted a riderless horse, a retired veteran of Trooping the Colour, who’s now happy just to sit back and watch the spectacular event instead of having to worry that he might have four left hooves! 





by Elspeth

Today, His Royal Highness, the Duke of Edinburgh celebrates his 92nd birthday though, sadly, in hospital where he’s undergoing tests and not at Windsor with the Queen. 

Despite several recent health scares, the Duke has always bounced back, a fact I can confirm this from first hand experience.  While at The Royal Windsor Horse Show last year, I watched him drive himself to a reception and then jump up onto the ramp leading into the marquee at its highest point, despite having had heart surgery the previous December.  Anyone suggesting he is in poor health is usually given short shrift as happened on one famous occasion, when he apparently shouted at a Sandringham estate worker, who’d made the huge mistake of showing concern for his health, ‘Do I look bloody ill?’  Such is Prince Philip’s dedication to duty that, only a few hours before he was admitted to hospital, he attended one of the Queen’s garden parties, chatting away to guests and showing no sign that anything was amiss.


Although to some Prince Philip is a rather controversial figure, who has often had a bad press because of his rather endearing habit of calling a spade a shovel, he is so much more than those awkward gaffes for which he is so well-known.  Following the sudden death of King George VI on 6th February 1952, the Duke had to give up a promising naval career and his ambition to become First Sea Lord to serve as consort to his wife, the new queen, believing that, from that moment, his first and most important task was to make it possible for her to perform her role as well as she possibly could.  As a result, Philip has always been there when the Queen needed him – always cheery, always interested, always supportive. 


Even in his nineties, his persistent zest for life and continuing curiosity show little sign of abating and, some thirty years, after most people have already retired, he lives each day with apparent boundless energy, asking questions, which are often decidedly awkward but, above all, giving the impression of always thoroughly enjoying himself.       

As well as having been the Queen’s trusty consort for sixty-one years, Prince Philip can boast a whole host of commendable achievements of his own.  In 1941, he was mentioned in dispatches for bravery during the Battle of Matapan against the Italians and, in 1943, he saved 143 lives aboard HMS Wallace, a destroyer on convoy duty in ‘bomb alley’.  He has been president of the MCC on two occasions, designed the interior of the Royal Yacht Britannia, launched the Designer’s Prize, Britain’s longest running design award, and is or has been patron, president or member of an astonishing 837 charities and organisations, including the WWF.  However, possibly Prince Philip’s greatest legacy will be the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award – an incredibly worthwhile scheme for service to the community in which more than four million young people from more than 90 countries have taken part since it started in 1956.

For those of you who enjoy trivia, here are some about Prince Philip, some of which may surprise you!  Like the Queen, Philip is the great-grandchild of Queen Victoria and, as such, is 560th in line to the throne.  Before marrying the Queen on 20th November 1947, Philip renounced his Greek title to become a British citizen, taking the name Mountbatten.  At the time, he’s reputed to have only had the equivalent of 12p in the bank.  As his four older sisters were all married to German princes, they weren’t invited to the wedding.  Philip speaks impeccable French and, in 1961, was the first member of the Royal Family to give an interview.  He has made more than 5,000 speeches, has visited more than 170 countries and still performs 300 official engagements each year. 

He drives an LPG-powered London taxi to get around the city and also owns a Range Rover Discovery.  He is a talented oil painter and has written a dozen books on subjects as diverse as bird watching, carriage driving and the environment.  Every year since 1956, he has presented a Silver Wink to the winner of Cambridge University’s annual tiddlywinks championship and, in 1963, he presented a bagpiping trophy to the army of Pakistan.  Finally, perhaps one of the most unusual facts of all is that, to the people of Tanna in Vanuatu in the South West Pacific, the Duke of Edinburgh is a god!


Prince Philip has had to come to terms with a lifetime spent walking a few paces behind his wife but, in The Bears in the Windows’ 92nd birthday tribute window to this remarkable man, his ursine look-alike, dressed casually for once rather than in the more formal uniform of the Admiral of the Fleet, takes centre stage, with the ‘Queen’ standing a few steps behind, possibly for very the first time!

So, as The Bears in the Windows wish the Duke of Edinburgh a very happy birthday today, they also wish him well and a very speedy recovery. (If your reading this, Your Royal Highness, I hope you won’t shout at them!)


PS In case you’re wondering why Prince Philip seems to have changed his appearance, it’s simply because I don’t have two identical bears of different sizes to play him!



by Elspeth

The most glittering star of the Queen’s Coronation, apart from Her Majesty herself, left the Tower of London today for the first time in 60 years.

St. Edward’s Crown travelled the 3.4 miles to Westminster Abbey in a bespoke leather carrying case, before taking pride of place on the High Altar as 24 members of the Royal Family and 2,000 invited guests, including the Queen’s six maids of honour, joined Her Majesty for a service to mark the 60th anniversary of her Coronation.  Made for the coronation of Charles II in 1661 to replace Edward the Confessor’s medieval crown, melted down on the orders of Oliver Cromwell in 1649, this was the first time St. Edward’s Crown had left the Tower since 1953 when it was used for the actual crowning moment.

With its purple velvet cap and jewel-encrusted solid-gold rim, set with 444 precious stones and ringed with ermine, St. Edward’s Crown is, without doubt, the most spectacular piece in the Crown Jewels and the most symbolic.  This symbolism is perfectly portrayed in ‘The Crown’, a poem written by the Poet Laureate to mark the historic anniversary, which begins ‘the crown is what translates a woman to a queen.’  Almost a foot tall and weighing 4lbs 12oz, St. Edward’s Crown is the heaviest of the royal crowns and, as a result, Her Majesty actually only wore it for a very short time, replacing it with the equally dazzling Imperial State Crown(Other monarchs have struggled under its immense weight and so, rather than being worn, it was frequently carried in the Coronation procession and placed, as today, on the altar.)  Joining the magnificent St. Edward’s Crown on the altar was the golden ampulla in the shape of an eagle which had contained the consecrated oil used to anoint Her Majesty on her Coronation Day.  These were the two most important symbols of her Coronation – one representing her commitment to God, the other her commitment to her people. Both remained untouched throughout the service, a dazzling reminder that the Crown Jewels are sacred regalia and not royal bling.  

Back in 1953, the journey to Westminster Abbey involved 28 horse-drawn carriages and vast marching contingents of Foot Guards, flag officers, ADCs and chaplains, a modest affair compared with the return journey to Buckingham Palace, a 16,000 cavalcade featuring everyone from the east African Armoured Car Squadron to the Pakistan Army Corps of Clerks.  Today, 60 years on, to the huge disappointment of the crowds, there wasn’t a carriage in sight – let alone the Gold State Coach – as the Queen, accompanied by the Duke of Edinburgh who, for six decades has honoured his own vow to be ‘your liege man of life and limb, and of earthly worship’ returned to the Abbey in the State Bentley, accompanied by just two police outriders.  (Despite having had to pull out of an official engagement the previous evening, Prince Philip certainly wasn’t going to let his wife down now.).  In 1953, only her eldest son, Charles, had been there, having received his very own specially designed invitation from the Earl Marshal.  Yesterday, a single historic image captured the Queen with two Kings-in-waiting and the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s unborn child who will be third in line to the Throne.

Nor was there a robe or a coronet in sight amongst the distinguished invited guests, who had been advised that nothing smarter than day dresses and lounge suits should be worn.  The only people actually dressed for a Coronation were the clergy, dressed in the same blue and gold copes made specially 60 years ago.  One apparently incongruous moment came at the most poignant point of the service when a group of ‘representatives of the United Kingdom’ processed down the aisle of the Abbey – a girl scout carrying a flagon containing holy oil from the batch used to anoint the Queen, accompanied by two schoolchildren, a naval officer, a nurse, a teacher, a peer of the realm, a judge, two Chelsea Pensioners and a lollipop lady in a ‘hi-viz’ fluorescent jacket, a flash of modernity which caused the Duke of Edinburgh a great deal of amusement.

Sixty years ago, Her Majesty was dressed in a magnificent Hartnell gown with a train that stretched more than 20 feet.  Today she was wearing an elegant but understated outfit, designed by her own dresser, Angela Kelly.  Made from vintage oyster silk-satin brocade, given to the Queen several decades ago, her matching dress, coat and hat evoked memories of her elaborate Coronation gown.  


Back in 1953, she had worn or held the  finest jewels and regalia in the world, including the Orb, the Sceptre and, of course, St. Edward’s Crown, the guest of honour at today’s service.  Today, the Queen’s jewellery was relatively simple, though, nonetheless, priceless – pearls at her ears and neck and, on her lapel, a magnificent square aquamarine in a diamond setting, part of a parure given to her by the President of Brazil in her Coronation year, the blue of the magnificent stone echoed in the hand-rolled organdie roses which adorned her stylish hat.


Today’s service may have been short on pomp and circumstance, but there was definitely no stinting on one vital component of the Coronation – the music.  Who could have failed to be moved as Parry’s ‘I was Glad’ marked the Queen’s procession through the Abbey, along with the traditional cries of ‘Vivat Regina!’ from the scholars of Westminster School.  Although a joyful occasion, there were times during the service, when Her Majesty looked solemn and lost in her own thoughts, obviously remembering the day on which she had assumed the duties and responsibilities of sovereignty, the day when her life changed forever.

Of course, one final difference between today and Coronation Day sixty years ago was, of course, the weather.  While 2nd June 1953 was unseasonably cold and wet, ‘a horrible rainy day’ the Archbishop of Canterbury described as ‘very British’, today, the waiting crowds basked in the early summer sunshine under dazzling blue skies. Some were there to relive their own memories of that unforgettable day, others simply wanted to be part of history, while others wanted to pay tribute to a remarkable woman who, at the age of 87, more than twenty years after the official retirement age, still performs such a huge number of official duties with an energy and enthusiasm that would put most people half her age to shame.

In a solemn act of dedication to mark her 21st birthday the Queen vowed: ‘I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.’  There is absolutely no doubt that Her Majesty has kept the promise she made all these years ago.  This inspirational woman has given a lifetime of service, dedication and commitment to her family, her country and the Commonwealth and, throughout her long and eventful reign, has demonstrated an extraordinary energy, drive, sense of duty and fortitude. 




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