September 9th 2015 was no ordinary day. Try as she might not to celebrate becoming the UK’s longest serving monarch in all history, her subjects simply refused to let the day go unmarked.
The media was involved in reporting the special day and, to be fair, even though saying that Her Majesty wanted to keep the day low-key, her staff at Buckingham Palace released an official photograph taken by Mary McCartney (above). And on te River Thames, the occasion was marked by a flotilla of boats including the royal barge Gloriana and a fireboat sending plumes of water high into the air, a four-gun salute from HMS Belfast as well as Tower Bridge lifting in salutation.
I am nearly as old as the length of time that Queen has reigned, being born in 1952. That might qualify me as a New Elizabethan and, even if not officially, it would do for me. In fact, we often use monarchs’ names to describe certain times in history, such as Elizabethan (Queen Elizabeth I), Georgian, Edardian and Victorian, so why not call this time ‘New Elizabethan’? Sounds good to me.
Not many people get to see the Queen at close range but it has happened twice in my life.
The first was in 1977, when she celebrated her silver jubilee. At the time I was a press officer of the London Borough of Greenwich and was escorting/shepherding those journalists not given rota passes to be with her.
As I got the last one through a gate and away from the intended route, I turned around to see her right there. She just looked and smiled before moving on.
Another 25 years sped by and this time there was a uniform involved. It was when the official golden jubilee tour visited Bangor in North Wales. The visit included a celebratory service in the city’s cathedral, where four of us were on duty in St John Ambulance uniforms just in case our first aid skills were needed. They weren’t!
Anyway, as the procession left the cathedral, members of the congregation acknowledged her by giving a court bow, just nodding the head downwards, as she passed. Even the women were doing so but the court bow is traditionally only used by men; women curtsey, not a full curtsey but a simple bob one.
Our senior St John officer, a woman, decided that the three female officers present would give a bob curtsey, not the court bow. As the Queen approached, they all curtsied in unison. At first the Queen appeared to be taken by surprise by the sudden movement but then, realising what was happening, smiled broadly. Sovereign Head of Order of St John
We felt that nothing less was acceptable for our monarch who is also Sovereign Head of the Order of St John that is behind St John Ambulance.
The time that the longest reign was reached cannot be calculated exactly as the precise time that King George VI died is not known but it is thought that he died at about 1am. If that is the case, the Queen became our longest reigning monarch shortly after 5.30pm on the 9th.
Just an aside here, if you are ever introduced to the Queen, royal protocol and etiquette demand that the first time you address her that you call her ‘Your Majesty’ but after that just say ‘Ma’am’ but remember to pronounce it as in ham not as in arm.
Similarly, if meeting any royal prince, it is ‘Your Royal Highness’ the first time, and subsequently just ‘Sir’. Simple really.