it’s good to be the queen

72634611June 2 1953, Elizabeth II was crowned at Westminster Abbey in London. Six decades on, England is celebrating her 60-year reign with a range of events across the country, from river pageants and big lunches to concerts and a royal appearance by a miniature monarch. As if I needed another excuse to visit the UK, here are just a few of the celebrations fit for a Queen. The Coronation Festival, Buckingham Palace, July 11 – 14: This one-off event in the gardens at Buckingham Palace will see over 200 companies with the prestigious Royal Warrant of Appointment exhibiting. By day, visitors will be able to explore the Buckingham Palace Gardens, which will feature four areas showcasing the very best of Food & Drink, Design & Technology, Homes & Gardens and Style, Pursuits & Pastimes. By night, visitors will be taken on a musical tour of the Queen’s 60-year reign, with performances by the National Youth orchestra, the English National Ballet, Katherine Jenkins, Russell Watson, Katie Melua, Laura Wright and The Feeling. Rowing Regatta, Windsor, June 15 – 16: Her Majesty The Queen has given permission for a unique regatta to take place on the River Thames at Windsor Castle to celebrate the Coronation anniversary. Rowing crews will race side-by-side over a distance of 1,000 meters between Prince Albert and Queen Victoria bridges, and spectators will be granted entry into the normally private grounds of the castle to watch the race. This special event will be the first regatta on the Thames at Windsor for 44 years.

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Mini Me, Windsor and Manchester, May 25 – 27, Windsor; May 31 – June 2, Manchester: The Queen of Miniland will put on her real crown jewels in Windsor before taking a carriage north for a guest appearance in Manchester. Visitors can watch the tiny 10 cm high LEGO model of Her Majesty The Queen, complete with a 48 tiny cut diamond encrusted crown, twinkle as she waves from the balcony of her miniature Buckingham Palace, alongside minute figures of the Duke of Edinburgh, Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry. Coronation!, Westminster Abbey, May 1 – September 30: A new exhibition of archive pictures of the 1953 Coronation is now on display at Westminster Abbey through the end of September. The Abbey has partnered with Getty Images to include some of the best black and white news pictures of the time alongside some never-seen-before pictures illustrating the pomp and magnificence of the joyous celebrations that swept the nation. Coronation River Pageant, Henley, June 2: To mark the 60th anniversary, the Coronation River Pageant will showcase 130 classic and traditional boats on the River Thames at Henley. The boats will be moored at Marsh Meadows and will travel upstream to Phyllis Court Club before making the journey back. Boats will be dressed for fun with plenty of bling, colorful characters and historic look-a-likes. Gloriana, the Royal Opera House, June 20 – July 6: Benjamin Britten’s Gloriana was commissioned by the Royal Opera House to mark the Coronation of Elizabeth II in 1953. This year marks the centenary of this great composer and to mark the occasion, Richard Jones is directing a new staging of the opera, which explores tensions between affairs of the state and of the heart.

Ox roast Brierley Hill 1927

Ledbury Ox Roast, June 1 – 2: In June 1953, the townspeople of Ledbury in Herefordshire rallied together to hold a huge Ox Roast to celebrate the coronation. Now, 60 years on, the community has come together again to recreate this special event. And you don’t have to be local to attend: everyone is welcome. The Big Lunch, Chipping Sodbury, Gloucestershire, June 2: Dust off your bunting and start packing your picnic as Broad Street in Chipping Sodbury prepares to welcome one and all for The Big Lunch. The market town also plays host to a three-day jazz festival from May 31 – June 2 to keep everyone in celebratory Coronation spirits.

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wishlist: spitbank

Spitbank Fort

The English city of Portsmouth has been fortified since Henry VIII built Southsea Castle in 1544 to protect the entrance to the harbor. The Tudor monarch was well aware that the strategic naval port on the south coast of Hampshire was exposed to attack from the French, a consideration that also concerned Prime Minister Palmerston a few years later in the mid-nineteenth century. Across the Channel, a newly crowned Emperor Napoleon III had revenge for his uncle’s defeat at Waterloo on his mind, which caused the British Government to reassess their coastal defenses. The result: a ring of detached sea forts - Spitbank, Horse Sand and No Man’s Land – built on the Spithead shoals in case of French invasion. The irony is that the forts never saw any action in the defense of he city, landing them the nickname “Palmerston’s  Follies.” De-activated by the end of WW II, the forts have been privately owned since 1982, going through many guises until one of them – Spitbank – finally found its true calling as a luxurious hideaway hotel. Arrive in style from your own private yacht or let them pick you up from nearby Gosport in a water taxi. The first thing you’ll notice is how things have changed since 1867: the previous gun emplacements have been transformed into eight stunning bedroom suites with sea views. The rooftop’s been converted to highlight a hot pool, expansive sun decks, and a steam sauna – all of which look out to Portsmouth Harbor and the iconic glass Spinnaker Tower. Your biggest decisions are likely going to involve where to eat and what to drink, so start with some bubbly in the Victory Bar before moving on to local crab and ribeye in the historic arched, brickwork of the Officer’s Mess. How about digestifs round the fire pit, looking out over the Isle of Wight? If the breeze proves too strong, settle in for brandy and roulette (or poker) in the Crow’s Nest. Win or lose, there’s nothing like waking up to the sound of the waves. Take a room for a short break or – more to my liking – hire the fort out as your own private island, with your own private crew. There’ll be no need to worry about neighbors telling you to keep the noise down – until the other two forts go condo that is.

spitbank suite

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it’s good to be the king

Especially if you happen to be Bhumibol Adulyadej, more commonly known as Rama IX. The king of Thailand – no Yul Brenner jokes, please – has reigned since June 9, 1946, making him the world’s longest reigning current monarch and the world’s longest serving head of state. (The Thai monarchy has been in continuous existence since the founding of the Kingdom of Sukothai in 1238.) Today is the king’s 85th birthday and for the past ten days I’ve been greeted by billboard-sized photos of his majesty everywhere I go. This little shrine outside my hotel was the most demure example I could find.

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