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.


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.


windsor weekend: classic claridge’s

A stay at Claridge’s was the highlight of my first grown-up trip to London almost 20 years ago. I still remember quite clearly being advised of the strict dress code in advance of my arrival. This was the 1990’s and yet it was frowned upon for gentlemen to appear in the lobby wearing anything less than a jacket, while ladies were encouraged to forgo appearing in trousers.  As terribly posh as it all sounded, nothing quite prepared me for the real thing, however; a sumptuous and elegant Art Deco jewel on Brook Street that had seen more than it’s fair share of kings, presidents, and prime ministers, as well as most of the golden names of Hollywood. (During the Second World War Claridge’s became a haven for exiled royalty and heads of state. Just after the war, before the wedding of the then Princess Elizabeth, a harassed diplomat telephoned Claridge’s and asked to speak to the King. “Certainly sir,” was the response, “but which one?”) The walls of my room were covered in bright canary chinoiserie and the overstuffed four-poster bed was the most comfortable sleep of my life. Enough bowing and scraping took place to make me think that perhaps the staff thought I was an incognito head of state. And then there were the frothy champagne cocktails in Claridge’s Bar, which I thought was the epitome of chic. To this day I hold the hotel as the ideal to which all overnights are measured, so it seems almost too good to be true that a standard room can be had for £299 per night through the end of the year.  The promotion also includes a welcome bottle of chilled champagne and traditional English breakfast for two. And if you’re thinking what I’m thinking you’re thinking it’s time for tea.


royally absentminded

That’s right, it seems I forgot about the stiff upper lip nuptials taking place in Westminster Abbey today.  (I blame the chorizo) Since I’ve dropped the royal wedding ball, so to speak, why don’t we make it a Windsor Weekend? In honor of Wills and Kate and all the tacky tat being hawked across the UK right now (don’t forget my tea towel, Róisín!), I’m going to share with you a few of my favorite London bits. Namely that thing Brits do quite unlike anyone else: hotels. Let the honeymoon begin.


of kitsch and kings

The countdown to the royal nuptials of Wills and Kate has begun. Only three months to go and Britain’s got a serious dose of Royal Wedding Fever.  Visitors to London should expect to be bombarded at every turn with the faces of the newest newlyweds:  spoons, scarves, china, useless bric-a-brac, and the ever-popular – and practical – tea towel; few things make the British public as a happy as a kitschy commemorative.

Didn’t get your invite?  No worries.  Windsormania is so firmly embedded in the national psyche you’ll feel like a member of the wedding just by being there.  Or you can join William and Kate’s Royal Wedding Walk and visit the London locations and landmarks that helped define the next Royal golden couple. You’ll learn about “Kate’s fascinating life prior to joining ‘the firm’, and hear firsthand the whole story, from William’s cherished mother Diana, to Kate’s engagement ring, and all the gossip in between.” For $1,995, The British Royal Wedding Escape will take you on a private tour of the procession route before the big day. Plus, after the wedding you’ll get a private tour of Windsor Castle.

The homage that takes the teacake, however, comes courtesy of Shropshire’s 18th century Hadley Park House Hotel and restaurant.  To celebrate Prince William and Kate’s happy day the hotel is offering a free wedding reception on April 29, 2011 to any couple with their namesake.


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