Thursday, September 29, 2022

In search of a rich wife

John Thomlinson, an English clergyman only remembered because of his diary, was born all of 330 years ago today. The diary is variously described as ‘strange’  and ‘unpleasing’ but is also said to give ‘a lively picture’ of the writer’s ‘sordid and selfish views’, in particular with reference to his efforts to find a rich wife.
Thomlinson was born in the small farming village of Blencogo, near Wigton, Cumberland, on 29 September 1692. He studied at St John’s College, Cambridge, and was ordained a deacon in 1717. Subsequently, he became curate at Rothbury, Northumberland, and rector at Glenfield, Leicestershire. He married Catherine Winstanley, daughter of his patron at Glenfield. He died in 1761. Very little else is known of Thomlinson, but for what is contained in his diary.
Extracts were first published in Six North Country Diaries edited by J C Hodgson (published by The Surtees Society, Durham in 1910). An introduction to Thomlinson’s diary notes the following: ‘On a sheet of paper pasted into the volume, there is written in an eighteenth or early nineteenth century hand, ‘This strange diary seems to have been kept by a young North-country man, of the name of Thomlinson, a student at Cambridge, just entering into Holy Orders. It affords a lively picture of the sordid and selfish views of the writer and of his friends for his advancement, in seeking for a rich wife, and the shameless traffic and trifling with the feelings of many women in this pursuit. There are many things that illustrate the domestic manners of the time, and some anecdotes of Dr Bentley and the proceedings at Cambridge, not without interest.’ ’
Arthur Ponsonby, author of English Diaries, says of Thomlinson’s diary: ‘This is an instance of a diary which, however unpleasing it may be, is quite spontaneous and honest and therefore portrays the character of the writer more vividly than letters or second-hand observations of others could do.’ And Wikipedia adds this: ‘Indeed, this is one of the most captivating, but little-known diaries of the period, rich in antiquarian and literary interest. Thomlinson does not hesitate to criticize his subjects, and reports scandals together with curious and humorous anecdotes including what is certainly one of the earliest limericks.’
Most of Thomlinson’s manuscript is held by The British Library, but The Huntington Library, in San Marino, California, holds one volume, and provides this information: ‘This journal or diary, kept at irregular intervals over nearly forty years (fullest for the 1720s), gradually morphs into a letterbook recording copies of Thomlinson’s correspondence. Early entries discuss with some frankness his family and prospects, his own and his family’s business and legal mattters, daily life and gossip, books and reading (including The Tatler), politics and current events, sermons, occasional medicinal recipes and cures, and accounts of his correspondence.’
Here are several extracts from Thomlinson’s diary (taken from Six North Country Diaries).
13 September 1717
‘Mr Fletcher debauched several women in Whitehaven; a lame gent, was told by some malicious woman that he had made an assignation with his wife and that they were then together - he went and found them, but it was accidental, he broke her and his head both - I believe with his crutch. But it is thought their meeting was accidental.’
14 September 1717
‘King of Spain entered upon Sardinia, and begun the war with the emperor - the pope is thought to be at the bottom of it - they deserved no mercy for disturbing the emperor when he is at war with the common enemy of Christendom.’
15 September 1717
‘Two men endeavoured to ravish a woman. Uncle took notice of it in his sermon, it had no less punishment assigned by our law than death, this startled the audience.’
8 October 1717
‘Brother told me yesterday that they de- signed one of Mr Ord’s daughters for me. Uncle John says they would never have gott that estate with the mill, if they had followed uncle Robert’s scheme, but he does not doubt but to gett it, if they’ll take his advice. Last Sunday Mr Dulap, senior, wished this place and uncle, such a hopefull successor as I, etc.’
10 October 1717
‘Mrs Nicholson accused uncle of great injustice about her fortune in making the match, etc. Said she was afraid the golden cup which old Mrs Nicholson had formerly given him had bribed him in her favour, and he knew no text of Scripture that commanded her to starve her children to enrich his relations, etc.’
15 November 1717
‘Uncle Robert says uncle John cares not how soon I was married - thinks of John Ord’s daughter - the eldest; she is a religious, good natured woman, not so handsome as the second who is a proud, conceiting herself to be a witt, etc. Neither the mother nor the eldest daughter are women of parts, or extraordinary sense, but enough to manage a house, etc. They think John may gett me this living, being acquainted with Mr Sharp’s brother, the lawyer, and he will do brother Richard business about the mill.’
30 December 1717
‘B Haddon sent me some apples, an orange, and a bottle of gooseberry wine to be drunk at Christopher’s. Uncle said he would be afraid to marry me into that family (i.e., Colingwood’s), I should gett into such a nest of drinkers at this time, etc.’
13 April 1718
‘Mr Werg reported to have offered to lay with two or three men’s wifes in Alnwick - one was the day before sacrament - she asked him how he durst, when he knew he was the next day to administer sacrament and she to receive it - he replyed love was a noble passion, and God would indulge it. This sent up to London, and they say he is stopt of the living.’
16 May 1718
‘Aunt Reed called me ‘an idle fellow - following his hussys,’ etc., and said she would tell my uncle when I came to Rothbury - staying something (sic) in town, etc., told by N Fay. Lettice and spinage will be fitt to be cutt in a week - cresses ready now - sown a few turnips.’
31 March 1722
‘Query whether I am not engaged to Mrs A Repington more than by inclination, i.e., because I like her best - I mean it is a query whether my words may not have engaged me - I cannot well recollect - only the letter to Mr Poynton, now in his hands, which she never saw. Uncle told bishop’s lady that if his lordship would give me a living, for he wanted to see me setled, and he beleived I would make a good parish preist, he would give bond to oblige a freind of my lord’s when his fell vacant, etc. The lady said his lordship had so many upon him for livings, that he knew not what to do - his chaplain had gott nothing yet, etc. This lady’s living is about 3 miles from Leicester, 300 l. per annum, and she has 1,200 l., and other sisters may die. 300 l. per annum is equivalent to 900 l. So that the lady of Amington is better fortune, if they have the estate, etc.’
This article is a slightly revised version of one first published on 29 September 2012.

Sunday, September 11, 2022

The Chuder Ede diaries

James Chuder Ede, not a name much remembered these days, was a key Labour Party politician during and after the Second World War. Born 140 years ago today, he played a major role in the 1944 Education Act, and, after the war, he was Home Secretary throughout Clement Atlee’s period as Prime Minister. His wartime diaries - published in 1987 - are said to reveal ‘much about the operation of wartime politics at a variety of levels, notably within the Labour Party’.

Ede was born on 11 September 1882 in Epsom, Surrey, the son of a grocer. He was schooled locally and then attended Christ's College, Cambridge, where he studied natural sciences. However, he ran out of funds in his second year, and left without a degree. Having been raised as a Noncomformist, he turned to Unitarianism and remained religious throughout his life. From 1905 to 1914, he taught at elementary schools in Surrey, but he also took an active part in the Surrey County Teachers’ Association (part of the National Union of Teachers) and in the Liberal Party. In 1914, he was elected to Surrey County Council where he worked to develop education policy. However, he was soon caught up in the war, serving in the East Surrey Regiment and Royal Engineers (mostly in France), reaching the rank of Acting Regimental Sergeant Major.  

During the war, Ede married Lilian Mary Williams, but they would have no children. After the war, having switched to become a Labour Party member, he was elected to Parliament at a bye-election, though he lost his seat in general election soon after. From 1929, he was elected MP for South Shields, losing the seat in 1931; but, thereafter, he regained it in 1935, and held it to 1964. When Epsom and Ewell were awarded borough status in 1937, he was chosen as the Charter Mayor. He was also appointed a deputy lieutenant for the county of Surrey, and was chairman of the British Electrical Development Association in 1937.

In the wartime coalition, Ede was appointed Parliamentary Secretary to the Board of Education, and served under two Conservative Presidents, first Herwald Ramsbotham, and then Rab Butler. With Butler, Ede - having detailed knowledge of state education - steered the Education Act 1944 through Parliament. Following the post-war Labour victory, Clement Attlee appointed him Home Secretary, a post he held until Labour lost power in 1951 (though for the last few months he was also Leader of the Commons). During his remaining 15 years as an MP in opposition, he continued an involvement with the British Museum, was an active member of the BBC’s General Advisory Council, and he held a leading rôle in the Unitarian church. He also stepped up his efforts towards abolishing the death penalty - as Home Secretary he had denied a reprieve from the death penalty to a prisoner he later knew to have been innocent. 

In 1964, he was created a life peer as Baron Chuter Ede. He died the following year (his wife having died nearly 20 years earlier). Further information is available from Wikipedia, Christ’s College Cambridge, and Epsom & Ewell History Explorer.

Ede kept diaries for some of his life, though, after the Second World War, the responsibilities of being Home Secretary left him with insufficient time to keep up the habit. However, the diaries he wrote during the war were edited by Kevin Jeffreys and published by The Historians’ Press in 1987 as Labour and the Wartime Coalition - From the Diary of James Chulter Ede, 1941-1945.

Jeffreys’ introduction begins as follows: ‘The Chuter Ede diary sheds important new light on British politics during the Second World War. Wartime politics have often been treated as an adjunct to the military and diplomatic events which naturally dominate the period between 1939 and 1945. The politics of the war years have been considered by many of the biographers of leading twentieth-century politicians, and the background to the Labour Party’s famous victory at the 1945 general election has also been carefully examined. But for the most part the war has remained a neglected area of study in modern political history; a reflection in part of the assumption that party politics were somehow suspended after the formation of a coalition between Conservative and Labour forces under Churchill’s leadership in May 1940. In consequence, little attention has been paid to the everyday working of the coalition government, to the wartime concerns of back-benchers, or to the relationship between the political parties at Westminster. James Chuter Ede was well placed to observe these developments. He served as a Labour junior minister at the Board of Education from 1940 to 1945, and was subsequently to become Home Secretary in Attlee’s post-war governments. His daily record of events, reproduced in edited form here, reveals much about the operation of wartime politics at a variety of levels, notably within the Labour Party.’

The following extracts are taken from Labour and the Wartime Coalition, which can be freely borrowed digitally from Internet Archive

28 January 1942
‘As I entered the Party Meeting Aneurin Bevan was pleading for ‘large scale abstentions’ in tomorrow’s division. Tinker vehemently opposed this but said there should be a free vote so that no one need sit on the fence of abstention. Muff warned the abstentionists that they should read in the Book of Revelations the fate that threatened Laodicea. Pressed to say what that was he defined it as a process of regurgitation Philips Price said we should give a jolt to the Government but not bring it down. The 1922 Committee had been satisfied about India & the maintenance of private enterprise, therefore we were entitled to feel misgivings. Bellenger wanted a reasoned amendment. Woodbum said abstentionists were trying to break up the Govt. He objected to seeing the Labour Party as an appendage to Henderson-Stewart. No one could be acquitted of lack of foresight. The Chamberlain Govt, was brought down by the abstentionists. Shinwell said it was clear the Party could not vote against the Government. American shipping would not be available until the end of 1943 & would then be inadequate. It should not be assumed that if he was seen talking with Winterton in the corridors that he was intriguing; he was probably discussing fat stock prices. Mainwaring said the discussion had been more mischievous than helpful.

Pethick-Lawrence lucidly summed up. We had to say whether we supported the Govt, or not. The Party had four courses open to it. (1) To oppose the Govt. No one had suggested that. (2) To allow a free vote. That would be a serious decision in an affair of this importance. (3) To have large abstentions. How this was to be arranged no one had explained although Muff had chaffingly suggested the A-M names should abstain & the N-Z names should support the Government. P.-L. suggested this course would render Labour Ministers continuance in the Govt. very precarious. (4) To support the Govt. Tinker insisted on moving for a free vote. 16 voted for this & 53 for supporting the Govt. Silverman asked that those against this should be counted and only 12 held up their hands . . .

When the P.M. left the House he remarked to Sandys, who was sitting beside me, that there was a lot of bitterness & there would be a rough journey . . .’

8 September 1942
‘. . . I reached the House just as the P.M. was moving the vote of condolence on the death of the Duke of Kent . . . The P.M. then rose, in Committee on the Vote of Credit, to give his review of the war situation. He was happy and did not strive after great oratorical effects. Nevertheless there were deft verbal touches that amused the House, which remained interested throughout the speech. He began by expressing his thanks for the defeat of the Wardlaw-Milne motion, nine weeks ago. . . He could assure the House we could maintain the defence of Egypt for months to come. He praised the policy of understatement practised by the Cairo communiqué in deference to the taste of the House. We were entitled to regard last week’s fighting as -and he made a dramatic pause as if seeking for some superlative - distinctly not unsatisfactory. Later Greenwood a little unnecessarily reproved the P.M. for this as a meaningless phrase. The House appreciated the humour of the deliberate anti-climax. He had had four days’ personal conference with Stalin to whom he paid a long, eloquent & hearty tribute . . . He made it clear we should go to Russia’s aid regardless of the loss & sacrifices involved. He had foreseen one political danger from the date of the collapse of France. He had feared that Hitler might create an empire like Charlemagne’s, but wherever the German went he was hated as no people had been hated in the history of the world. They corrupted everyone who associated with them. This remark led him to a stern denunciation of the attack on the Jews in France. The hour of victory would be the hour of retribution. The House emptied & not forty members stayed to hear Greenwood who was twice interrupted by Haden-Guest. who first asked if there was united strategy, & then ‘on a point of order’ if it was right for the P.M. to withdraw while the Leader of the Opposition was speaking -  Greenwood remarked that it was a point of hunger & intimated his sympathy with the P.M. When Greenwood sat down only Cary rose. I went to lunch . . .

Cripps, according to the wireless, trounced M.P.s who went out during the P.M.’s speech & those who did not stay to hear Greenwood or to carry on the debate. . .’

16 December 1943
‘I reached the House just before noon, but in time to hear Attlee tell the House that the P.M. had had a cold which had developed a patch of pneumonia. A bulletin signed by Lord Moran and two other doctors was read. Another is expected today. The House was evidently concerned and sympathetically cheered Attlee’s promise to send a message of good wishes to the invalid . . .

The Evening Papers have commendatory references in addition to long resumes of the Bill. For the purpose of this publicity the P.M.’s illness has taken the place we might otherwise have expected on the front pages. . .’

18 January 1944
‘. . . The P.M. strolled nonchalantly past me into the House. His progress was accompanied by loud, long and joyous cheers, every member in the House, except a few on the Front Opposition Bench, rising. Needless to say, he had another warm reception when he answered his first question. He had a long list. Herbert Williams, in a supplementary about the Italian campaign, asked if Montgomery’s speech some weeks [ago] had not caused false optimism. The P.M. drily, and brusquely, retorted: ‘I don’t know about false optimism; there’s been a lot of bad weather. . .’

6 July 1944
‘I heard the P.M.’s statement on the flying bombs. He had to wait to make it until a lot of questions on business about the Town & Country Planning Bill had been answered. The P.M. did not underrate the menace of the bomb. 2754 had been launched; these had caused 2752 casualties. He told of the months of heavy bombing which had delayed the use of this weapon by the enemy. He said June had been a very bad month from our point of view. The overcast skies had prevented us from using our great air supremacy over the Normandy battlefield and had prevented us from photographing & bombing the sites from which the flying bombs were launched. I was sitting below the Bar and there was some cynical amusement when the P.M. announced that Duncan Sandys, who is his son-in-law, was Chairman of the Committee in charge of offensive operations. The P.M. said the Chiefs of Staff suggested this arrangement. He announced that evacuation was taking place. No compulsion would be used. He could give no promise as to the length of the attack or its possible increase in strength. He paid a tribute to the work H. Morrison had done and wound up by saying this attack would not deflect our strength & determination from the Normandy battlefield . . .’

Friday, September 9, 2022

The Queen and I

I have never had a very close relationship with the Queen, who died yesterday, so no mourning for me. But I’m not a republican. I feel I’ve always appreciated the monarchy for what it is, a significant and colourful link to the past, one which enriches our cultural life. I often think of it as a first class tourist attraction. Absolutely, and like the rest of the country, I believe the Queen has been a fabulous force for good and for unifying of her people. She’s had a difficult and enduring job, and managed it exceptionally well. 

My mother was born in the same year as the Queen, and I was born in the year of her coronation. At the time, my soon-to-be-absent father bought all the new ‘definitive’ stamps (with the new monarch’s profile) to give me when I was older. Some he posted on the first day of issue, and I still have those First Day Covers as well as the mint definitives. 

The queen, I have to admit, has troubled my diary rather infrequently over the decades. Nevertheless, her death provides me with an opportunity to gather what few diary entries there are for a whistle stop personal memoir of her life - covering the last 50 years of her reign. If my diary entries are to be relied on, I only ever saw the Queen once in person, during my student days in Cardiff (though I don’t remember the event at all). The most recent of my diary entries mentioning the Queen was this year, when my family and I had a royal good time at a party hosted by the Symondsbury Estate in Dorset - my wife, Hattie, even posed with the Queen for a photo!

19 November 1971
‘Went in for 9 physics and pure maths skipped probability to see the Queen and Duke opening bypass.’

4 June 1977
‘Today England is celebrating everywhere the Queen’s Silver Jubilee. In London it is a magnificent festival and procession with the Queen and all her offspring. And what am I doing, sitting on the floor in the sitting room listening to Julie Felix, hoping the phone will ring. And yet, what is one of the most exciting things that can happen when one is travelling? To find a festival in process, to see the people celebrating - carnival in Brazil for instance. I enthuse exceedingly to find a festival, procession, and yet here I have my own most English celebration that can be, and I am completely disinterested.’

24 December 1985
‘The Pope wishes the world Happy Christmas in 51 languages. The Queen says everyone should add their bit, however small, to the goodness of the world. The UK PM says to the Falkland Islands people that their right is their democracy.’

6 August 1987
‘DREAM: I got the idea to interview the Queen and request her cooperation for a desert island discs programme. Much to my amazement she accepts. At first the full import of my achievement didn’t filter through but soon I realised that there were crowds of people interested (including many taxi drivers). I could see myself conducting the interview as if on TV. We were in a large room and seated quite far apart. The Queen was old and decrepit, and needed the advice and help of a small group of assistants behind her. She only came out with two or three records (one by Grieg) and when I asked her why she had chosen them she chastised me. The programme was about her discs not why she was choosing them.’

15 February 1992
‘THE QUEEN: I watch a documentary about the life of our Queen. It is well photographed and oh so very carefully judged. She comes across as a rather preposterous old woman, privileged beyond all realm of fantasy with wealth and high society - pandered too by the world’s most famous people yet with no higher intelligence than the hospital sick or dwellers in old peoples’ homes who she patronises with visits. Unlike Prince Charles who does show some spirit, some spontaneity, some depth of knowledge, Queenie appears vacuous and characterless. That documentary, I think, was an error of judgement - one kept on asking why bother, what is the point of her. She seems to sign countless documents but plays no part in their meaning; she talks to countless figures in public life (“one can call anyone in to have a chat”), but garners no intelligence. There is just ceremony without the slightest substance, formality without even the semblance of authority. The film only served to remind us of that.’

21 March 1992
‘CRISIS IN TWO INSTITUTIONS - ROYALTY AND MARRIAGE: Sarah Ferguson, dearly beloved of Prince Andrew and mother of Beatrice and Eugenie, direct descendants to the throne of Great Britain, has decided she can take no more. After a party lasting five years, after being a world star, she’s decided to quit. The Queen’s press secretary in talks with the palace correspondents quietly tried to blame Fergie but the tabloids called his bluff and ran headlines like - the Queen has the knives out for Fergie - and so on. Of course, the Queen couldn’t be seen to be saying such things, so the PR had to take it in the chin and apologise publicly to Queenie and Fergie. Of course, he only spoke what the palace believes, but the palace just couldn’t take all that stick. But there will be war now between Fergie and the Palace. She’ll demand lots and pots of lolly - after all if she’s to keep quiet and not accept $2m dollar for her story from an American publisher she’ll want reasonable compensation. Shame on her, I say, I’m with you Queenie; send her to Coventry; how dare she play around with the very history of our country as well as set such a poor example for the married folk of our society!’

21 November 1992
‘A terrible fire has consumed a third of Windsor Castle. It started in the Queen’s private chapel and raged for 10-12 hours. Hundreds of firemen worked to stop it but huge flames poured out of the building for most of yesterday. The media has reported variable facts about the castle such as that it contains the world’s most important private collection of art, that it is the most continuously lived in castle in the world, that with Westminster Abbey it is the most important building in the country.’

13 December 1992
‘DIANA LETS THE SIDE DOWN: I am upset by the news this week that Prince Charles and his wife Diana are to separate. The royal family has had a bitch of a year but this news is the worst of the lot. Charles is in line to be King and Diana to be Queen, therefore anything they do and say matters. The separation (and ultimate divorce) of Prince Andrew and Fergie does not matter half as much. By refusing to accept the strictures of royal family life, Diana has betrayed the trust and responsibility invested in her. We the people, do not shout and wave and adore Diana herself, we wave, shout, love and adore her because she is a symbol of the royal family, she has accepted the role and the responsibility that goes with it. She is sorely mistaken if she thinks she can carry on as a famous and important person, and be treated as such everywhere she goes, now that she has stabbed the whole system in the back. Royal families cannot expect to live like ordinary people; they have immense privileges and there are costs that go with them. Diana appears to want her cake and to eat it. And how on earth can she go on speaking for the marriage guidance charity Relate, when she doesn’t have the stamina for her own marriage. She and Charles, like many royal families, already live separate lives; what does Diana hope to gain by proving to the world that she is not living a dream happy marriage as shown in cornflake advertisements. In five or ten years time, Diana will realise what a terrible mistake she has made. She will not find whatever is missing in her relationship with Charles anywhere else, other than for a few moments, or hours or days - like everybody else. Life is about getting on with the business and making it as bearable as you can. Whatever she chooses to do, it will be the same in the end, yet as Queen she could have had the most fascinating and interesting of lives. 

And poor old Charlie must be in the very pits of depression - he has failed to provide the leadership to the people that he so desperately wants to give, he has failed personally to hold his marriage together, and he has failed the whole historic tradition of the royalty in this country by choosing the wrong wife.

The Annus Horribilis, as Queenie has called 1992, begins to sound like an understatement, a pathetic statement of personal frustration. Yet the tragedy is of historic proportions, and the Queen herself must take a huge chunk of the blame; all three of her children who married are now separated. The fact that one of them, Anne, remarried this weekend does nothing at all to mitigate the historic fall of the House of Windsor.’

28 December 1993
‘On Christmas Day, we did make one short call, across the road to see Alice and Dan. It was their 60th wedding anniversary - they married on Christmas day in 1933 at St Peters Church, down the road. And they have lived in that house opposite almost all that time. I do find it quite amazing. Dan has not been well, but the two of them were perky and holding court to many friends in the street who were popping in to see the telegram they had received from the Queen. Oh they were so proud, but they had not yet opened it. They were waiting to open it with some of their family on Boxing Day, even though Christmas Day was the day, but they forgot to take it with them and thus missed the pleasure they had been looking forward to. On Monday Alice popped over to show us the open telegram. It wasn’t signed (of course telegrams are never signed - why doesn’t she send cards with photos of Buck Palace and a reproduced signature?) but Alice was still as pleased as punch with it. Apparently, in order to get a telegram, someone has to send the details in good time to the Palace so they can be checked out. At least you don’t have to pay for them, yet.’

5 September 1997
‘Diana-mania has continued all week, and will culminate tomorrow with her funeral and mass crowds in London. Me and mine are all utterly cynical and find the whole thing amazing. In a chorus, which must have been coordinated in some way, the newspapers came out strongly against the Queen and the Royal Family on Wednesday for not speaking to the nation and by lunchtime she and they had reacted. This evening we had a five minute live broadcast by Queenie herself. A carefully crafted speech, full of the right words but not an ounce of feeling behind them. She did, though, say the Royal Family would learn from the lessons of Princess Diana. And she extended the route of the hearse to Westminster Abbey, thus allowing more people to line the roads. Millions are expected tomorrow - god help them all - just for a glimpse of the coffin. Even the excuse of wanting to be there for such a unique moment is pretty thin when you consider how much more of a real moment it would have been to see her alive. She attracted crowds when she was alive, but nothing like the crowds who are prepared to put up with horrendous conditions tomorrow just to see the car in which her coffin is riding!’

1 June 2002
‘All around is the Queen’s Jubilee. It means nothing to me, nothing at all. I’ve no problem with people finding an excuse to celebrate, but I see no reason to do so myself. The Prom at the Palace is probably under way by now - poor old Queenie she must be wondering what she’s done to deserve having her lawn and shrubs subjected to the tramplings and pickings and litterings of 12,000 commoners. It will only get worse on Monday, when the prom turns into a party, and the tramplers, pickers and litterers, all too genteel tonight, will be youthful and wild.’

4 June 2012
‘Yesterday was the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, though I don’t know why. She ascended the throne in February 1952, and her coronation was not until 1953, so how is June 1952 a proper anniversary of anything?

There has been, and continues to be, a lot of pomp and pageant. Yesterday saw a pretty amazing regatta on the Thames, with a 1,000 boats all joining an orderly procession with the Queen on ‘The Spirit of Chartwell’ and motoring/rowing from Wandsworth to Tower Bridge. Evidently, most of the TV coverage by the BBC was focused on the Queen and her entourage and any celebrities taking part, but I wanted to know a lot more about who was in all the hundreds of other boats and why they were there. Here at least is a list of the flotilla sections, which gives some idea of who took part: The Royal Jubilee Bells, Man-Powered Boats, Academy of Ancient Music, The Royal Squadron, The Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines Plymouth, Dunkirk Little Ships, Shree Muktajeevan Pipe Band and Dhol Ensemble, Historic Boats, The Jubilant Commonwealth Choir, Service, Steam and Working Vessels, Leisure Vessels, The New Water Music, Narrow Boats and Barges, The Mayor’s Jubilee Band, Passenger Boats, Rhythm on the River, Downriver Passenger Boats, London Philharmonic Orchestra. 

To be honest, I would have liked to be there . . . Unlike sports, where I usually feel the best seat is in the lounge, at least to watch the action, which to me is more important than the atmosphere, this regatta was something to be seen live, in the crowds on the banks of the river. Adam was due to come visit us yesterday, but I wrote him suggesting that surely he would want to see the regatta and that he could come down another day; and he decided to do just that. But, when I rang him yesterday afternoon, to get a first hand account, he wasn’t there, he was at home watching it on TV! He claimed the rain, and problems getting a viewing spot decided him against going.

Also yesterday there were Big Lunches up and down the country, and street parties carry on today and tomorrow (an extra public holiday) as well.’

31 August 2013
‘Adam has been to the Bank of England, and seen its gold, and held it in his hands. It’s very rare for anyone to get to do this, he tells me, and the last person was the Queen a few months ago. His minister has responsibility for the gold reserves, which is why he and Adam were there. In a few days, they go to Poland for a conference; then Adam goes to Spain for a week’s holiday. And then he starts his new job.’

20 June 2016
‘I watched some of the build up to the service at St Paul’s Cathedral this morning, and the service itself. Some 53 members of the royal family were there, along with British dignitaries and representatives of many organisations with whom the queen has had dealings with over the decades. She was dressed in sherbet yellow, from top to toe (well not her shoes), and tottered down the aisle with her hubby, also tottering, both some 15 minutes late (very unusual). David Attenborough read a piece of nostalgia by Michael Bond, author of the Paddington books (both also 90).’

5 April 2020
‘The Queen is giving a live broadcast tonight on TV. I wonder if this year is already turning out to be even more of an Annus Horribilis than 1992 was for her. I mean she’s lost her grandson from the royal family to someone who not only has coloured blood but is an American, and now her citizens are dying in their hundreds every day of some godawful disease.’

22 October 2021
‘The Queen was in hospital Wednesday afternoon (at least she didn’t have to wait many hours in an A&E queue - Cornwall apparently has only one emergency A&E and it declared a ‘critical incident’ because of the queues of ambulances waiting with patients). There appears no cause for alarm as she went home the following morning. But it was not many months ago that her husband was hospitalised for a few days, and then died not long after.’

2 June 2022
‘The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee - god bless her. 70 years on the throne, the longest in British history. We’ve been to a fete/party hosted by the Symondsbury Estate this lunchtime. It was pretty crowded out with families, enjoying the sun, the food, the drink. Red, white and blue bunting everywhere, not to mention cardboard cutouts and portraits of her majesty. Long trestle tables had been put out for picnicking, and if you’d pre-ordered a lunch box it was yours for the collecting, so long as you didn’t mind standing in a long queue. We, of course, brought our lunch, and took photos at the Jubilee party tables (as well as with the Queen, and while playing some of the fete games).’