The hidden purpose of the Jubilee jamboree

On Friday, I felt a little like a stranger in a strange land.  Driving down the A77, seeing Union flags fluttering from houses was jarring, simply because it was such an unusual sight in Scotland.  It wasn’t house to house but a smattering;  discombobulating nonetheless.

But why so?  The occasion of the Diamond Jubilee has emboldened royalists and loyalists alike into displaying their allegiance in their red, white and blue glory.  But a mature country at ease with itself, surely, can tolerate a little difference?  People in Scotland feeling that they can wear their colours on their window sills is a good thing, even if they might not be my colours.

Perhaps this should be the view of all Jubilee agnostics and opponents.  It’s a weekend of fun;  grit your teeth and bear it, and by Wednesday it will be all over.

Except.  It does matter, for this is not just a kingdom-wide party for a little old lady who has done her bit and deserves a reward, but a display which has constitutional and political resonance and importance.

The documentaries shown in the run up to this weekend were telling.  We had the Queen and the role of the monarchy, as told by her children and grandchildren;  we had the Queen of Scots, with a cast of ordinary and not so ordinary Scots;  and then we had Prince Charles guiding us through a suitcase full of family cine-film.

A pal opined that it amounts to the kind of propaganda that the Soviet Union would have been proud of.  Few dissenting voices on whether or not monarchy is a good thing;  whether hereditary principles have any role to play in a modern state/kingdom;  whether 60 years of service is worth the cost, the limitations and the privilege it epitomises and embodies.

Revisionism is all the rage – God Save the Queen! – and look, here’s the twelve hours a day TV and radio coverage to prove it.

There is no denying the Queen’s indefatigability:  even I’m prepared to concede that an old lady of 86 and her bidie-in of 91 deserve a party – or at least a gin and dubonnet – for standing to greet all those boats and watercraft pass her by in the grimmest of weather conditions.   But did we need to know what Celebs listed C to F on the scale were wearing to prove their patriotism?  I’d rather Richard E Grants Union underpants had stayed where they belonged.

In Scotland, there were a few street parties, but only where the police wanted us to hold them. Public money was bestowed on organisations and communities to allow them to celebrate;  yet, that same money could have been spent on giving disabled people, of all ages, and their families a break.  A wee treat for the Jubilee if you like, to show that we understand the point of public service.  Which is not to enable the continuation of class divides nor embolden difference and prejudice.  But there’s my ingratitude showing through.

We’re not nearly finished yet though.  There’s a big pop concert, a horse parade, a church service, beacons and no doubt a balcony wave.  There will, of course  be more inane wittering throughout.

More easily coped with being at work – not all of us got a four day bumper pack of time off from work and school.  And by arranging different get-togethers – Jubilee afficionados aren’t the only ones who can be jolly.

But as an historian, I cannot deny that my interest is piqued.

Whether or not the monarchy survives its next throne-warmer, few of us are likely to witness a Diamond Jubilee again:  there have after all, been only two in history.  I would have liked a thoughtful documentary or two along these lines.   The river pageant on the Thames resurrected an old tradition:  it was interesting to see how it had been brought up to date and it made for an extraordinary sight.  Though a five minute package on the news, rather than five hours wall to wall would have done.

The supermarkets were doing a roaring trade on Saturday, as families stocked up on celebration essentials:  junk food and booze.  What does that say about our idea of a good time?  It would be interesting to be able to track the stats on alcohol-related admissions and offences and domestic abuse incidents over these long four days.

But most interestingly of all is the purpose of this splurge, which has been subtly woven into the celebrations.  The Queen is nothing but a canny operator;  her lifetime of service, though couched within a realm of privilege and patronage, is still remarkable;  her ability to steer her House through turbulent times is pretty astonishing.  Especially as it has emerged in rude health.

And all those documentaries, all that coverage, all those activities, presented with a bias and an imbalance that is stunning, given that – still – nearly half the Scottish population would declare themselves republican, or at least, not monarchist, are there to achieve one thing. To secure her successors and succession, and to ensure the continuation of the constitutional monarchy.

As you charge your glass and toast HRH today and tomorrow, you might want to reflect that not only are we paying for it all, this weekend more than ever, but are likely to do so for a long while yet.





18 thoughts on “The hidden purpose of the Jubilee jamboree

  1. I was feeling pretty easy-osie about the Jubilee, I think most Scots are just quietly ignoring it while appreciating the holiday and if people down south want to get out the flags and bunting and go a bit crazy well, why not? It’s up to them.

    Then I read that Guardian story about jobseekers working the river pageant being made to doss down under a bridge. And then I read the blog post that broke the story by a guy called Eddie Gillard.

    I still don’t really care about the monarchy, sorry, but more than ever before I do NOT want to be part of a country that treats people like this. I can’t tell you how angry it makes me that people can be treated like that just because they are unemployed. I just hope that the story goes wider than the Guardian/left wing blogs and tweeters. Will the BBC pick it up though, or are they so intent on broadcasting patriotic propaganda that they will ignore it?

    • The BBC will of course ignore it. Their sycophantic coverage has been a disgrace. Couldn’t agree with you more re not wanting to be part of a kingdom that behaves in this way. Oh we’ll get the handwringing fromt he Palace that the Queen didn’t know. But then she wanted to celebrate with heads of state with dubious human rights records didn’t she? Privilege and patronage about sums it all up.

  2. if hear one more imbecilic comparison that goes along:

    “what would you prefer; president Blair?”

    then i will scream!!

    i did not have a vote in electing this Mrs Windsor and i have never had a chance to vote to eject her from the throne.

  3. Well I respect the woman. And I shall genuinely raise my glass to her today because she is quite incredible.

    As I look around at what serve for politicians then I really DO despair for there is not one of them who isn’t a liar when required. Even under oath they will lie. No exceptions. They take the public for fools and WE pay for that too, even after the expenses revelations. They are still at it, many of them. How much money is wasted by them? And let’s have a wee shiftie at the EU. How “accountable” are those squandering BILLIONS there? They can’t even get their accounts signed off they’re so dodgy.

    What do we have instead? President Cameron/Miliband/Salmond? No thank you.

    The Queen is an easy target. It is not her fault she was born into the family she was born into. The way things are done here isn’t her fault either and she has indeed served her country during her time as monarch. Remember she was never meant to be in that position for her father had to step in after her Uncle – the King – decided an American divorcee was more important. Some say that decision cost the Queen’s father his health and eventually his life at quite a young age. She has not had her sorrows to seek either watching three marriages out of four involving her children collapse. I think the woman has played a blinder.

    • “Some say that decision cost the Queen’s father his health and eventually his life at quite a young age.”

      Who’s “some”? Doctors? Surely the chain-smoking is a more obvious explanation.

  4. In two days the Jubillee celebations will be over; these have and will have no effect on the referendum on Scottish independence which will delive a yes vote.

    Post independence, the people of Scotland will determine who governs them and under what system they are to be governed. I have my own view, I believe Scotland should be a republic but that is up to the majority who will vote in any plebiscite.

    I would like to believe that in an independent Scotland people of differing beliefs would still be allowed to celebrate their culture, history and traditions no matter what these are.

  5. ‘T was a celebration truly worthy of . . . RURITANIA!

    Not as well organised as a North Korean equivalent would have been, but not as pretty either.

  6. Whatever the rights or wrongs of a monarchy (and I’m a republican) I totally agree with you on the media coverage. The BBC is supposed to display political impartiality, yet any opposition to this festival of privalidge is ignored.There was no debate, no alternative view. Just wall to wall propeganda.

    • The BBC is the state broadcaster. It’s supposed to cover these events. It hasn’t been very hard to ignore them. This morning out of 100s of channels only four were carrying the Jubilee (and two of those were the state broadcaster). There was more coverage of the various Star Trek franchises. The monarchy is mocked (and rightly so) on at least a weekly basis in the media, including BBC radio and TV. Are you suggesting that during the coverage of Churchill’s state funeral there should have been a documentary about his alcohol consumption?

      There have been debates in the run up to the Jubilee about the monarchy, the trouble is that no one is very interested in it. That’s why none of the mainstream parties want to talk about it and it’s why the Nats dropped the monarchy referendum policy. It’s going to be a struggle to do well, never mind win, the independence referendum. Having it turn into a referendum on the future of the then, even more aged and magisterial monarch, will result in a comprehensive kicking. I don’t think that the monarchy is going away any time soon and, in any case, I’m much more exercised about the House of Lords.

  7. I’m with Thomas Paine on this one:
    “Hereditary succession has no claim. For all men being originally equals, no one by birth could have the right to set up his own family in perpetual preference to all others for ever, and tho’ himself might deserve some decent degree of honours of his contemporaries, yet his descendants might be far too unworthy to inherit them.”

  8. One benefit of living overseas – Anglo(phone) expat noxiousness apart – is to be spared this kind of cloying, reactionary excess, and to have ex-colonial colleagues fully supportive of ones repulsion at the whole feudalistic, dying imperialist sychopancy.

    Good luck with it.

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