Voices: The ‘main event’ of the jubilee isn’t the Queen at all

·3-min read
The synecdoche is at its most potent form in the royal wave (AFP/Getty)
The synecdoche is at its most potent form in the royal wave (AFP/Getty)

Helicopters, Spitfires, Typhoons and an 82-gun salute were all part of the warm-up act, but the main event was the same as ever.

A flick of the wrist was what they came to see. A flash of white glove under a bright blue sky, and a very large crowd of rather odd people were sent apoplectic with joy.

And why not? That’s all this is about, after all. You can find the Queen’s face on stamps and on banknotes. Her crown is on postboxes and pint glasses, and her crest is on absolutely everything she chooses it to be, from chocolates to shoes to garden umbrellas and her favourite brand of timber fencing. But the synecdoche is at its most potent form in the royal wave.

The whole point of the Queen is that she doesn’t say anything, or, really, do anything, and in that regard she did not disappoint. She never has. She is a human ornament, kept on display for the nation’s enjoyment.

For the very large chunk of the population that is finding this four-day weekend and its four-year buildup wearisome beyond belief, it is principally because there is nothing of any interest to say about it yet it must fill entire newspapers and broadcasting schedules for months and weeks on end.

While Her Majesty was getting ready to watch Trooping the Colour for roughly the 10,000th time, there is a chance she was listening to Today on Radio 4, where she will have heard herself described, in just one absurd moment, as “one of the most prodigious tree planters in British history.”

She has planted over 1,500 of them apparently, that’s averaging more than twenty for every year of her reign. A tree a fortnight for 70 years. Someone somewhere probably has a list of Her Majesty’s personal arboretum. There must be one outside practically every new hospital wing in the country, some of which have probably been knocked down and rebuilt several times over while she’s still going. What a life.

It would be a lot easier for everyone if we took it all entirely at face value. It’s just the wave and that’s it. It’s a ceremonial head of state offering absolutely nothing more than a “hope everyone’s okay down there” – a blissful party-politics-free sentiment that, for many people, is fundamental to the British way of life.

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People who care far too much about this sort of thing place great importance behind who gets to be on the balcony and who doesn’t on these auspicious occasions. The royal family, apparently, considers it a matter of great strategic importance. Exactly 10 years ago there were just six of them: the Queen, Charles and Camilla, Wills, Kate and Harry. This was, we were told at the time, a deliberate choice to keep it down to the very hardcore, the direct lineage, to look to the future, to strip away the hangers on and show it all to be in only the very safest of hands.

Of course, the future that would arrive shortly after would be one in which one of the hardcore members disowned the whole sorry show, in favour of moving to California to become the Prince of Netflix. Thankfully, he’s been replaced in the line of succession now, by an eight-year-old boy who, let’s be honest, won’t ever dare do such a thing.

There they all stood. Present, future and future future. Will things turn out as Her Majesty intends? Well she certainly won’t be around to see. But the rest of us will, and, well, things have a tendency these days of not quite going as expected.

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