Tuesday, June 21, 2005

The Queen's Birthday

ast Saturday (June 11th) was the Queen’s official birthday. (Her real one happens to be some other time during the year when the weather isn’t as nice.) As part of the celebrations, the Queen issues the Birthday Honours List. On the list this year were 900 people who were being honoured for various things. Strangely enough, my name was omitted this year…an oversight I’m sure will be corrected sooner or later. I mean, she is a busy lady.

In fact, last Saturday, she was quite busy. You see, as part of her official birthday celebration, she reviews the troops. And, in traditional British style, this is no small thing. Called Trooping of the Colour, it starts out at Buckingham Palace and stretches the entire way down the Mall and on to the Horse Guards. The Mall, which is rather long, was lined with guards in their red uniforms and tall bearskin hats. Various sets of military groups (I’m sure there is a specific name for them…Units? Brigades? Corps? Companies? Troops?) marched from the Palace towards Horse Guards. There were several bands and lots of horses. My favourite horse guy was the one who was playing the kettledrums while riding his horse. (I feel like I’m six again: ‘My favourite horse guy played the big drums…they were loud!’) Anyway…

After the various military units march past, then the Royal Family makes their way down the Mall. Since I had somehow managed to find a place just across from the Palace, right by the barricades, I have a very nice view of the Royals as they rode by. Everyone from Prince William and Camilla, all the way through to the Queen herself rode by and waved at me. (Okay, they didn’t stop and point directly at me when they waved, but still…)

Then, after the Royals passed by, we have a nice, long, 90 minute wait while they all made their way down the Mall to do whatever it was they did at Horse Guards. But, our patience was finally rewarded. (Well, it had less to do with patience and more to do with the fact that I was in the island in the middle of the square and the exits were closed off the entire time.) Before too long, the entire parade returned back to Buckingham Palace while the Queen stood just across from me (that part really is true) and reviewed the troops as they passed by.

Soon, she rode back inside the Palace while an artillery group fired a 21-gun salute. Then, after the 21-gun salute, they continued for another 21 shots or so. (Really. Even the British people were surprised.) The Royal Family reappeared on the Palace Balcony and waved at the adoring crowds as jets from the Air Force flew over.

Then, the Royal Family returned to the relative calm of the Palace as the adoring crowd scurried out of the way of the military bands that don’t stop for anyone in their way. At least, that’s what we were told. And none of us really wanted to find out if that was truly their marching order. (Get it? Marching order? *sigh*)

Next year, I have to figure out how to get a ticket to the seats at Horse Guards. I have to figure out what they do for those 90 minutes.


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