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Sunday 14 June 2009

Trooping the Colour

Queen Victoria's granddaughter, Marie of Roumania, wrote of her grandmother's almost childish excitement about the theatre troupes or circuses that came to Windsor, and how it was lovely to see that thrill and hear her laughter. When the present Queen smiled yesterday at the red, white and blue flowing from the Red Arrows, there was something of the same effect.

The military aspect apart, the perfection of the Trooping of the Colour inspires such a sense of history and respect for the values of Her Majesty. We have gone through a lot of wishy-washy stages in this country in an attempt to remain up to date and it is good that we have discarded ancient prejudices or the ideas of Empire, but, at the same time when we seem to have 'thrown out the baby with the bath water', it is truly wonderful to see the pride that the young men, who marched with such perfectly choreographed steps, feel in marching before the Queen and all she represents. After all the scandals and shame of our Parliament, and the constant and continuing bickering between different political parties, to watchthe Trooping of the Colour, with all the history it evokes and the seemingly timeless way the tradition continues year after year, was like hearing what Robert Louis Stevenson so brilliantly described as a quiet mind marching at its own private pace like 'a clock in a thunderstorm'.
In the crowd a few politician snuffled to and fro, but the real reflection of this nation came in the persons of the Queen and Prince Philip - who at 88 years old stood tall in his busbym, saluting at the National Anthem - Princes William and Harry, who saluted and behaved impeccably, and the Prince of Wales, the Princess Royal and the Duke of Kent, riding behind the Queen's carriage, and still more in the young men who upheld the tradition of centuries.

It is truly tragic that all these ceremonials are based on old military ideas. We all long for a time when there is no call for soldiers or any sense of the need to kill other people. But I pray, with all my heart, that when humanity no longer requires people to be at war, this brilliant pageantry, and the respect behind it, will continue. The respect for the Queen isn't about militarism or empires or anything of the sort. It's about the real values of altruism and individual freedom and all the noble ideas for which our monarchy stands.

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