I get the impression that a large percentage of people my age are a little disillusioned with the monarchy.
In a straw poll during one lecture at university, we were asked to raise our hands if we cared about the monarchy. Out of a full lecture theater, only a handful of us were bothered.
Since then we’ve had a royal wedding which may have helped renewed interest in Britain’s most famous family, but overall my generation is cynical.
Sometimes it even takes foreigners to remind us of our own nation’s unique standing in the world. Today on The Mall, much of the front row were made up of Americans who had camped out just to catch a glimpse of her Majesty.
My mother is, other than the Queen herself, the biggest royalist in the world. To illustrate this point, while at home last night watching the royal concert on TV, my Mum stood to sing the national anthem…
Today was a first for all of our family as we went to London to catch a glimpse of the Royal family. But why bother? That question bugged me all morning, but especially when my alarm went off at 5.30am.
The answer had started the night before.
It wasn’t Cheryl’s shocking vocal performance, Grace Jones bizarre costume, those comedian’s terrible jokes, Cliff Richard’s embarrassing “Dad dancing” or Will.I.Am’s usual “it’s all about me” attitude that impressed me.
The beauty and magnificence of it all came later in the evening. Stevie Wonder’s unfortunate moment of singing; “Happy birthday to you” led to @Queen_UK tweeting “It’s not one’s Birthday. Awkward.” But Stevie rescued it magnificently when he changed the lyrics of “Isn’t She Lovely” in honour of the occasion.
“Isn’t she special/a young eighty-six years old/I can’t believe what God has done/let’s celebrate the royal one”
Madness performing “Our House” on top of Buckingham Palace was a special moment, as was Paul McCartney leading all of the artists and thousands of onlookers in a rousing rendition of Ob-La-Di Ob-La-Da.
By the time the national anthem had been sung and Prince Charles had delivered the best speech of his life, I could almost see the earlier cynicism melting from my Twitter feed.
At the mention of the DofE’s health, her majesty looked close to tears. The outpouring of love towards the Queen was touching.
I’ve always supported the monarchy, but this weekend has gone a long way in cementing my belief that this country needs the Queen and to do away with the monarchy would be a travesty.
Those on the other side of the argument have made my beliefs even stronger. Peter Tachell’s disgusting and offensive opinion piece that The Guardian dared to print incensed nearly everyone who read it. Then there was the New Statesman‘s usual cynicism, but that was to be expected.
Tatchell managed to frustrate me further when he moaned “Media coverage of #DiamondJubilee one-sided in favour of #royals. Not everyone is pro #monarchy. Pro #republic voices should also be heard”. I couldn’t resist hitting back with: “Boo you! Party pooper”. Immature, but he deserved it!
The Queen has counseled 12 Prime Ministers. She’s met with everyone from Churchill to Cameron week in week out. In the often messy world of politics, she has remained a-political. A figurehead that brings millions to our country ever year, the Queen is well respected and rightly honoured throughout the world.
Open about her faith and clear about her responsibilities (all of which will continue until the day she dies), the Queen has remained steadfast in holding the country together through the toughest of times.
It’s not right to ask “what does the Queen do?”. This weekend has reminded us that our identity does not lie in what we do, but who we are. The Queen does a lot for this country. But who is she? The answer is obvious; she’s a living legend.
The 9th of July 2011 was the best day of my life. Stacey Tonks agreed to marry me. Here’s the full story.
My story begins 9 weeks ago when I asked Stacey’s parents if I could marry their daughter. To my complete and utter delight they said yes! Two days later I was back in Southampton buying the ring. Stacey’s trip to America allowed me to do both these things in complete secret…she didn’t have a clue! Buying the ring was easy as we had already been looking at different styles and had both agreed the specifics of what it had to be like.
After Stacey returned from America she kept asking if I had bought a ring yet (this wasn’t unusual as I had said during New Years Eve celebrations that I wanted to propose that year…and no, I wasn’t drunk at the time.) Anyway it was so difficult to pretend I hadn’t bought one, and it was obviously just as difficult for Stacey’s parents and brother to keep everything a secret. But I’m so pleased they did.
Next up, my jet setting girlfriend was off to France for a week. This gave me and my parents the perfect opportunity to drive to Wakehurst Place (where mine and Stacey’s first date had been almost three years ago) to spy out the area. We found the perfect spot for a picnic. But that was not all. When Stacey did her gap year in America, one of her friends had got engaged and unbeknown to this girl, her boyfriend’s friend was a few hundred meters away snapping pictures of the moment. When Stacey showed me the picture of the proposal taken from a distance I think her exact words were “this is the most romantic thing ever!!”. I knew I had to do something similar! Hence my parents being there and us organising a place for them to hide and take photos!
So for the three weeks after that, all I had to do was organise transport there, try not to panic and keep my mouth shut! I’m forever indebted to the Berry family for letting me borrow their car. The day before the proposal I was at Thorpe Park with Stacey and her friends for an early birthday celebration. (Stacey turned 20 the day after I proposed). I had the cheek to play Stacey a song that day called ‘Marry You’ by Eric Clapton and BB King. I asked her if she liked it. She said “No, I don’t like it. I don’t want to marry you!” It’s a good job I knew she was joking, or I would have freaked!
The Saturday morning came. I had very little sleep the night before. I went to pick up the car and drove into town to buy flowers and coffee to turn up with. As I walked to the cash-point and got my wallet out, I realised I had left my bank card at home!! Disaster number one. I quickly prayed that would be the first and last mistake of the day. Thankfully it was a minor error and I still managed to turn up to Stacey’s with some pink lilies and Starbucks White Mochas on time.
I normally cycle to Stacey’s so needless to say she was pretty surprised at how I’d managed to turn up with a massive bunch of flowers and two coffees! As we set out on our walk (apparently just going for a stroll along the seafront), I said “hmm I don’t feel like walking” and proceeded to get into the car. I hurriedly explained we just had it for the day and I hadn’t bought one! “I wanted to take you somewhere nice for your birthday” was the only excuse needed. She suspected nothing. We drove up Beachy Head – one of our favourite spots and I told her we should go to Wakehurst Place for the day. At this point Stacey was still convinced I would wait until September to propose!
We had to arrive at Wakehust Place for exactly 1pm. My parents and their friends who happened to be visiting from the US had gone ahead to set everything up. Knowing all this, I had to take two deliberate wrong turns so we didn’t arrive there too early! I was also visibly concerned when it started to rain. As we walked into the gift shop, it was still raining. We bought our tickets, it was still raining. I went to the toilet (where I did the final checks on the ring and very nearly dropped it down the toilet). Still raining. As we walked outside, it was perfectly sunny. A short walk later and I was leading Stacey towards a picnic basket. She was convinced it was someone else’s. It wasn’t until I sat down and said “let’s have lunch” that she realised the picnic was for us and a proposal was probably around the corner!
What with me being beyond nervous, and Stacey getting more and more excited we barely ate anything. I only waited ten minutes after sitting down to pop the question. There was a speech and everything, but she can’t remember any of that because she was overwhelmed with excitement at the time. While all this was going on, my parents and their friends were taking pictures. Stacey had never met my parent’s friends so they were able to get really close and take some amazing pictures, without Stacey realising what was going on!
I ended the speech with saying “do you want your birthday present early?” I knelt down on one knee got the ring out and said “Stacey Tonks, will you marry me?” She screamed “YES!!!!” and gave me a massive hug. A wave of relief rushed over me and I suddenly realised the ring was already on her finger! Didn’t waste a second. Just before popping the question I had taken the outer packaging off the bottle of Bucks Fizz, but not popped the cork. The moment Stacey said “yes” the bottle popped itself! Quite amazing.
It really was the perfect day.
And we got the perfect picture….
***still want more juicy details?*** Check out Stacey’s blog here
Situated in the beautiful countryside of Kent, Chartwell was the house where Churchill would sit and write many of his famous speeches. It was there that he also drew inspiration for most of his books from 1924 until the end of his life in 1965.
Winston Churchill inspires me for many reasons. This is not the place for a full biography, but it is important we remember his incredible leadership, which we have surely all benefitted from.
He was a soldier, a historian, a statesman, a knight, a journalist, a painter, a bricklayer and perhaps the greatest Prime Minister this country has ever had.
He accomplished a huge amount in his life, his political achievements (for which he is best known) did not get off to the best start when in his 20s he ran for parliament and…lost.
Whilst covering the Boer war in South Africa as a newspaper journalist, he was taken prisoner, but escaped and became a national hero.
I would say “the rest is history” but that is simply not true. Churchill led an incredibly varied and busy life. Even listing the highlights would take hours.
Almost all of the information I’ve just typed, I had no knowledge of before today. The visit to Chartwell was fascinating, there is much to be discovered there about this amazing man. The rooms have been beautifully preserved and many of Churchill’s original paintings hang on the wall. It was amazing to walk through the same gardens that our wartime Prime Minister would have spent hours in.
Churchill invited many famous people from around the world to his house. One black and white photograph shows him standing with Albert Einstein. It was quite eerie to look at such a photograph and realise you are standing in the very house that 2 of the most famous people in the world would have used and spent time in.
I highly recommend a visit to Chartwell, but as I read the information provided inside the house I couldn’t help but be reminded of something.
Although I’ve never really studied history in any great detail, I would agree with those older and wiser than me who point out that how we talk about, teach and explain history often contains a lot of opinion and is therefore ultimately bias.
This is not to take away from or discredit Churchill’s achievements in any way at all, only to point out Chartwell gives a somewhat rose-tinted view of his life.
Churchill never claimed to be a perfect man, and he wasn’t. But I believe we are all indebted to him for his incredible leadership that won this country and our allies the toughest war the world has ever seen.
It was a pleasure to pay tribute to Sir Winston Churchill and enjoy the beautiful place that is Chartwell with the people I love. (Stacey, I love you too and we must go there this summer, you’ll love it!)