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We don’t know if Queen Elizabeth ever read Mark Twain. But it appears to be sending the same message (the actual text is disputed) that he sent to the press in 1897: “Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”
In the last week, the Queen has suddenly gone from being a regular non-attendant to events she used to never miss (like reading the speech opening a new Parliament) to a fully engaged public figure. And it feels like she’s enjoying the fact that there’s a mischievous twinkle in the royal’s eyes as she demonstrates that she can still actually walk, speak, and cast the magical spell of her presence.
It started with horses. One should never underestimate the importance of horses in the Queen’s life. Being among them changes them. A woman who is normally sparing with her emotions in public comes very alive in a world where she is fluent in the language of breeding, training and racing Thoroughbreds.
So the Royal Windsor Horse Show, always one of her passions, has been pumped up this year as the prologue to the main events of the Platinum Jubilee. It was held at Home Park, not far from her Windsor Castle flat, but even then she wasn’t sure she’d be there until her Range Rover suddenly pulled into the arena for one of the week’s early events.
The passenger-side window was rolled down and the monarch, making her first public appearance in a month, began chatting softly to fellow riders. It felt tentative, like she wasn’t sure if she should get out. But she got out, and at this point it’s important to scour the wardrobe for clues as to how the royal comeback is being orchestrated. She walked to a seat in the stands with a cane, wearing a dark waterproof coat and headscarf, something she had always preferred for rural sporting life, which served as a sort of leveler, a signal that she was different from the servants freed palace protocols.
It looked very different at the finale of the show on Sunday. This was a first taste of the long-planned extravaganza, a fusion of Hollywood, the circus arena and a compelling national narrative that celebrates the role of equestrian sport in Britain’s imperial past. Tom Cruise looked particularly messianic as he introduced a triumphant number entitled A Gallop Through History, performed by the King’s Troop of the Royal Horse Artillery. This is not an active service unit, but a professional theatrical offshoot of the Army, appearing in 19th-century uniforms to perform historical tableaux.
“Prince Andrew is the curse that plagues the family that can never be exorcised, no matter how great the show.”
This stirring jingoistic performance may have helped distract people from the fact that ties between the military and the monarchy are being restored since 150 veterans sent a letter to the Queen saying: “British Armed Forces officers must… upheld by the very highest standards of integrity, honesty and honorable conduct. Those are standards Prince Andrew has surpassed.”
But of course, Andrew is the curse that plagues the family that can never be exorcised, no matter how great the show.
For this evening, the Queen waived the sportswear. More of the hostess of a country-style dinner party, she wore a long ice-blue sequined dress covered with a gray shawl. We began to wonder what the official line that she had an “episodic mobility problem” meant. She was evidently independently mobile and conveniently used a walking stick.
However, none of this prepared us for the Queen’s next appearance. Over the past decade, her wardrobe has been reinvigorated by Stewart Parvin, who encouraged her to choose bold colors for her everyday engagements. The Queen has never favored souped-up catwalk couturiers, but when she was younger she used some designers, like Norman Hartnell, who seemingly made her look older than she was. Parvin does the opposite, and Her Majesty loves it. He’s a classic London bespoke tailor, as adept at tailoring his coats as Coco Chanel.
So the Queen came alive in a lemon-yellow Parvin coat when she unexpectedly showed up at Paddington station for the opening of the new railway that bears her name, the Elizabeth Line. The effect was instantaneous – like a scream of “I’m back”.
There were other signals to enjoy. Among those waiting to greet the Queen was Boris Johnson, her least favorite Prime Minister. Well-informed pranksters had speculated that the reason she skipped reading Johnson’s dictated opening speech at the last moment was because, seeing how childish it was, she threw it at Charles , whose sad expression upon reading it indicated that he had caught the same scent.
By now it was evident that the monarch preferred talking to her horses far more than Johnson did, and she gave him short work in Paddington before striding confidently through the glittering hall and showing off at the turnstiles how to use the digitized map.
Whose hands are behind this sweeping performance? If there’s anyone in the Queen’s inner sanctum, it’s Angela Kelly, her dresser. As Tina Brown writes in her new bestseller, That palace papersKelly is “the last person anyone wants to attack in the palace” and is “the woman who sees the monarch in her pantyhose four times a day.”
It was Kelly who discovered and hired Parvin, as did royal milliner Rachel Trevor-Morgan. Kelly is the only one in the Queen’s circle of working-class background, the daughter of a Liverpool crane operator. Apparently she and the queen are happily conspiring together, which is reflected in the outfits that Kelly, Parvin and Trevor-Morgan control and tinker together and set the tone for the comeback queen.
“Seen from the broader perspective of upcoming Platinum Jubilee blockbuster events, these three Queen appearances feel like a little teasing.”
Perhaps the most tantalizing speculation about the Queen’s ability to resume public appearances on her own terms revolves around whether she will make it to the Epsom Derby horse races over the big anniversary weekend. In the social hierarchy of British racecourses, Ascot is the champagne and caviar event and Epsom is the fish and chips – Londoners flock there in droves and the toffs are vastly outnumbered. It’s the kind of place Kelly would love to see Her Majesty having fun.
Seen from the broader perspective of the upcoming Platinum Jubilee blockbuster events, spanning three days in the first week of June, these three Queen appearances feel like a little teasing. How is their new visibility part of a testing out for what is to come? So much is being read about how committed she is now to being able to attend public events that she could previously put up with — most notably, she is now fit enough to maintain a daily routine that suits her own determination to be on to stay on the throne as long as she’s able to do the job?
Meanwhile, the big revelation in all of this is that the Jubilee is partly an exercise in using history as propaganda to place the House of Windsor in the pantheon of Britain’s great monarchies. Nothing spoke of it more than the appearance of Dame Helen Mirren, who played Elizabeth I at the Windsor Horse Show. Dressed in a costume more Lord of the Rings than Tudor, Mirren sang a 16th-century hymn of praise, thanking Her Majesty “for all the years you have carried our nation and been its heart and drumbeat”.
It was particularly bold to give the connection between Elizabeth I and Elizabeth II the appearance of institutional continuity. The Virgin Queen was unrivaled as a nation-builder, transforming a troublesome offshore island into a dominant European power in 45 years. She left her own mission statement as a reminder that humility and power are not incompatible: “Though God has lifted me up high, yet I count this as the glory of my crown, that I have reigned with Your love, I have reason to be nothing more.” to wish than to satisfy the subject, which is a duty I owe.”
Long gone are the days when a British monarch had the power to keep his subjects happy. Elizabeth II is at least trying her best to entertain her.
https://www.thedailybeast.com/queen-elizabeth-wants-us-to-know-pre-jubilee-that-shes-still-very-much-here?source=articles&via=rss Queen Elizabeth wants us to know before the anniversary that she is still very much here