May 22 2013 Latest news:
by Stephen Pullinger
Thursday, June 7, 2012
In grim economic times it was certainly a celebration to lift the spirits and make you proud to be British in every way.
On the national stage, there was the history-making splendour of the Diamond Jubilee River Pageant that will live in the memory forever, a concert outside the palace which spanned every decade of the Queen’s reign, and the faultless display of the whole Royal family.
It was no surprise that the truly professional star of the show embodied the word regal in every way, smiling through the terrible weather of the Thames river pageant and exhibiting the same inexorable show-must-go-on spirit after the Duke of Edinburgh was taken ill.
But other members of the Royal Family seized the opportunity to elevate their standing in the nation’s affections to dizzy new heights.
Was it really just a year or two ago that people were saying that the Duchess of Cornwall would never be Queen?
Now she was suddenly in the spotlight of the world’s gaze, chatting to the Queen contentedly during the journey from Westminster Hall to the palace in an open landau and appearing before the crowds on the palace balcony as part of a new pared down Royal Family.
While the national pageantry was admired by millions of people around the world as something the British do par excellence, the local street party celebrations, bringing neighbours together and breaking down barriers, were just as much a proud symbol of our nation in their own way.
From West to East – from a family fun day in King’s Lynn to exuberant parties around Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft – the jubilee galvanised every community and lifted the spirits of even the most non-committal royalist.
North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb was yesterday in Spain on ministerial business but still reliving the bank holiday whirlwind of fun activities around his constituency from a concert in South Repps to a fun day in Potter Heigham which – in true British spirit – went ahead despite the rain, inside the village hall.
Ruefully reflecting that it would not quite be British if the weather did not intervene, he said: “It was fantastic, all these communities doing things together.
“It brings people together and builds active communities. My experience of the weekend was incredibly positive.”
He said it was the nation’s admiration for the Queen which had been the key to making the jubilee so successful.
“She is held in such high regard. People admire her sense of duty and the way she leads by example,” he said.
On the international stage, the jubilee had been “a fantastic advert for the country”, a fact reflected by the enthusiasm of the hundreds of influential people attending parties held by the British ambassadors in Spain and Portugal.
Mr Lamb said it had been “such a good excuse for a party” he wondered if it might be possible to hold such national events more regularly, possibly pencilling in September 9, 2015, when the Queen takes over the mantle of Queen Victoria as the longest serving monarch.
His idea was applauded by the Lord Mayor of Norwich, Ralph Gayton, who said: “Anything that brings people together in this way must be welcomed.
“My abiding memory is the tremendous effort so many people have put into these events, from the Thames pageant and the concert to our local street parties and all the activities put on by schools.
“I was lucky enough to experience some of the events as lord mayor.”
Veteran Royal watcher Mary Relph, 78, of Shouldham, near Downham Market, still buzzing from being among the sea of spectators in front of the palace, is in no doubt the parties should be repeated in three years’ time – although she confessed to being barely able to walk after her exhausting schedule.
She said: “The jubilee was out of this world – there were such wonderful scenes.
“The Queen was marvellous, putting on such a brave face after the Duke of Edinburgh was taken ill and the Duchess of Cornwall has become a top lady, such a lovely, warm person.”
She said the crowds had exceeded those of the Golden Jubilee and the four days of activities had been “an advert for Britain”.
“No other country has got what we have got,” she said.
The Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Rev Graham James, said he believed the jubilee had “exceeded all expectations in terms of the number of people involved and the spirit in which they got involved”.
However, he was cautious about putting on such events on a more frequent basis.
He said: “I don’t think you can manufacture an occasion.”
Bishop Graham said the success of the jubilee reflected the “enormous respect the Queen is held in across the generations”.
“A huge amount is said about our diversity but I sense the jubilee was about what we hold in common in this country, reflecting a proper pride in our country, its history and instinctive hospitality.”
He said that people respected the burden of the Queen and admired her sense of duty.
Former home secretary Charles Clarke agreed with Bishop Graham that “events like the jubilee gain from their relative rarity”.
He said the Golden Jubilee had consequently stayed vividly in his mind as an exciting and positive experience.
However, Mr Clarke felt street parties would be a good idea on a more frequent basis because of the way they brought communities together.
The Lord Lieutenant of Norfolk, Richard Jewson, said: “The Queen said in her thank-you message how heartened she was by all the goodwill and I absolutely see it.
“From my experience, we gave a tea party in our home village of Barnham Broom not quite sure how many people would turn up. In fact, 300 people came and some of them we were meeting for the first time even though they only lived close by.”
He said in a perfect world it would be wonderful to hold such national events more frequently but people were probably too busy for that to happen.