I suspect the change-of-address notification we sent to Buckingham Palace got misplaced because Darleen and I never received our invitation to the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. I understand this was just an unfortunate accident or oversight, but still… It hurts.
Nevertheless, it was wonderful to watch the little bit of the celebration we got to see on the news. Nobody does pageantry like the British, from the beauty of the uniforms, the splendor of the horses (Cleveland Bays, Irish Draught, Windsor Greys, which is not a breed name, just a reference to color), and the immaculate synchronization of every movement, to the blithe imperviousness of the royal family to appalling weather. Another great Englishman, Sir Ranulph Fiennes (The Guinness Book of World Record’s designated greatest living explorer, prolific author, and cousin of the two actors of the same surname) once said, “There is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing,” but the royal family didn’t even make any particular concessions in that department. I would have been bundled up in layers of wool and waxed cotton and clinging desperately to a thermos of hot coffee or a flask of single malt or both.
And if you can believe what you see on the news (always doubtful; see the thread of comments following the post, On the Border, back in March) there were two particularly humanizing moments that both occurred in the final ceremony when the royal family came out on the balcony. The first was when the incomparably beautiful Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge (Kate, as we close personal friends like to call her) walked out and saw the crowd and very clearly said, “Wow!” How nice to see someone respond so naturally to the extraordinary outpouring of respect and affection of so many people. Wow indeed. Coming only a few weeks after Prince Charles’ interrupting himself and saying, with great good humor, “Who the hell wrote this?” while reading a weather report that mentioned Balmoral, it made the Royal Family seem more like the rest of us. Much more dignified, much more disciplined, much richer, better dressed, and probably better educated, but very human.
The other moment was more poignant. The news station had hired a lip-reader to interpret whatever the royals might say to each other as they stood on the balcony. It’s an unspeakably tacky thing to do, and it goes a long way to explaining why the royal family is so careful and reticent all the time, but it did result in a single sentence that made my heart turn over. According to the lip-reader (and it certainly seemed accurate to me) the Queen at one point said, “I do wish Philip were here.”
After sixty years of marriage, sixty years of all the joys and woes, pain and balm, triumphs and stumbles common to all marriages, he could not be there for the final moment of her great celebration, and for that one moment, I was reminded of Charlie Chaplin’s famous song, first sung by Nat King Cole in 1954:
“Smile, though your heart is aching,
Smile, even though it’s breaking…”
At that moment, I could even forgive her forgetting to send me an invitation.