Friday, 29 April 2011

Royal wedding, cake and tiaras.

There's an anecdote in a fantastic little book called "Laughter in Quaker grey" * that I love. (Readers should note that Quakers traditionally take of their hats for no one but God believing all men - and theoretically women- to be equal).

When George V and Queen Mary visited the cadbury chocolate factory works, George and Elizabeth Cabury showed them round. ... To show respect George Cadbury walked with his hat ff. Fearing that he may catch a cold the Queen reversed an earlier experience with royalty and said "Mr. Cadbury please put on thy hat." "Oh no, Thank you" he replied. "Please, Mr. Cadbury, " said the Queen, and aded playfully, "If you do not I shall ask the King to command you." Still George Cadbury hesitated. At that moment Elizabeth Cadbury  looked up and sai "George, put on thy hat." He did so at once."

Great story! Sessions goes on to give the second version, my favourite btw.

"...There is the same play about the hat, an the King is made to say,"You re the older man, if you will not put on your hat, I must take off mine," which he did. Just then Elizabeth Cadbury looked up, and said in her most regal manner, "George, put on thy hat." Both Georges, King and subject, promptly put on their hats. " 

Wonderful! (even if it probably might not have happened, possibly, maybe, as Sessions points out a little anxiously, lest his Quaker integrity be under suspicion!).  What a glorious demonstration of the struggle between being a British subject and all it entails with regard to the assumption that King and Queen are more important, higher on the social scale, and Quaker ideology and equality.

I went to a royal wedding party today, with Duckling and had this very struggle myself in deciding how to feel about it . In the end I decided it was all in a good cause - cake and good company-  and let myself feel however I actually felt! Which was happy. A little sentimental. Celebratory. Reminiscent of  my own wedding  and those of people I love. I look forward to more of this feeling of hope and love at a friend's wedding next month.

We had a great time today waving flags and eating cake and wearing tiaras (and wearing cake in a few cases - I'm looking at you, Duckling!) and discussing the wedding and the circumstances around it. It's a special one in lots of ways. The nation's watched prince William grow up and many people care deeply about him and his brother. The tragic loss of his mother made many of us feel for the prince today, when he must have missed her very much,  the engagement ring given to Kate more poignant and touching. Then there's Catherine Middleton herself. By no means from the 'lower classes' (let's not even try to pretend the class system isn't still an issue in the UK) she is, nonetheless, a commoner. Not royal. But today she married a prince. And she didn't promise to obey. (Yay!)

A lot of people are opposed to the royal family. I struggle with the idea that they're more important than other people, but I think they do more good for the economy than bad, and they seem to try to do much good these days with their influence. There were protests in places, but more commonly people were brought together today. Strangers camped out on the streets together, cheered together and enjoyed themselves together.  The atmosphere has been lovely. Up here in sunny-ish Scotland there were balloons on lots of houses and people on their way to parties as we made our way. People spoke on the street and worked together in the way the British do when there's either a huge celebration or a huge catastrophe.

I still don't think that anyone at that wedding is worth more than anyone sat in the sitting room of my friend's flat in Edinburgh this morning, but it was wonderful to see so many happy people celebrating together, two families joining (and several of them clearly enjoying each other's company), and two young people obviously very much in love starting the next part of their lives together.

* "Laughter in Quaker grey" 1952, Ebor press, York, unfortunately out of print but well worth a read. Some of the humour's not entirely funny, but some is, and its earnestness and debating over whether it's seemly to make a humerous book of Quaker history at all, alongside its little details of British Quaker life make it a fascinating read. I was going to post a link to amazon but Abebooks might have more copies at a better price to be honest.

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