When it comes to a position on the British monarchy, I am generally rather ambivalent. The Queen’s role is largely ceremonial, and an unelected House of Lords is a far more alarming swordswipe across the whimpering guts of supposed democracy. Asking me whether I’m a monarchist or a republican will usually elicit a blank, shrugging response. You may as well ask me whether I prefer 1930s experimental jazz or medieval lute concertos – I simply don’t care enough to have an opinion.
One thing that is often chalked up in the Royal family’s favour, however, is its impact on tourism. And there’s no denying that revenue from Royal-related tourism far outstrips the money the British taxpayer spends on the upkeep of Liz and co. People are suckered in from around the world by castles, palaces, history and tradition. Frankly, Visit Britain could just keep dangling pictures of castles in front of the majority of American visitors and they’d still keep coming.
Therefore, an event like the Diamond Jubilee should be tourism gold dust, right? Spend millions on a big pageant along the Thames, broadcast it around the world and show potential visitors just how wonderful Britain can be. It’s a no-brainer.
Alas, what was broadcast to the world was a marathon of bleak, black comedy. Hundreds of little boats set off down the Thames, honking away in celebration. By description, this sounds incredible. In reality, it looked a little tinpot – the equivalent of trying to demonstrate wealth by shaking coppers out of a big collection jar.
The Royal party stood there heroically, waving with rictus grins for four hours as the novelty factor wore off, turning the procession into a stoic clock-watching exercise. And all the time, it got wetter, greyer and darker. The BBC commentary team plunged deep into its barrel of fake laughter, trying to pretend that the whole sodden affair was still in some way highly enjoyable. Yelps of faux-amazement were interspersed with announcements that yet another supposed highlight of the day had been cancelled due to the weather. The wow moments were continually replaced with waaaaaaaaah moments.
Then there was the climax; the glorious fist-chewing climax. A dolled-up choir sailed past the royal barge as the surrounding gloom reached a crescendo. They sang Land Of Hope And Glory, over and over again, as if continual repetition of the words until the end of time would eventually make the Weather God’s arse stop slinging its thundering rainwater diarrhoea against them. Everything about it screamed epic misery at the sluice gates of hell.
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It all left me with one question. What must the millions of potential visitors around the world have been thinking as they watched this? Was it…
A) “Wow! I really must go to Britain as, once every sixty years they send some boats down a river whilst singing.”
B) “That confirms everything I feared about Britain. It just looks GRIM. Two weeks in Cancun it is.”
God bless you, ma’am.