Thursday, December 31, 2015

I declare before you all, I dislike it when people quote that speech

You: What speech?

Me: The Queen's 21st Birthday Speech

You: Sacrilege! How can you possibly dislike a speech where a young woman declared her dedication to the nation? Have you no heart?

Okay, I have nothing against the speech itself. It is patriotic and who can argue with the sentiment? No, I dislike when other people repeat it. Especially now that the Queen is almost 90. Actions speak louder than words and since she spoke those words in 1947, she has more than proven her dedication to the point there is no question. Whatsoever. If you think you have a good reason to question it, you haven't been paying enough attention.

In recent years she has hit several milestones. In 2012 she celebrated her Diamond jubilee. In 2015 she became the longest reigning monarch in British history. In 2016, the Queen will turn 90. On that occasion we will no doubt hear this chestnut trotted out time and again by people who have only read about her in books or observed her from a distance. No doubt they have memorized the words so that when someone asks how the Queen has remained so dedicated throughout her reign they can say: "Well, in 1947 she said....'I declare before you all.."

The actual speech is much longer (835 words) but it is the following 34 words that people quote the most:

I declare before you all that my whole life whether it be long or short shall be devoted to your service and the service of our great imperial family to which we all belong.

Good heavens! Even I'm doing it!

Yes she is dedicated. She has reiterated it a number of times over the years, most recently rededicating herself anew in 2012 during her Diamond Jubilee year. To be quite honest, I thought the last reminder to be completely unnecessary. A) Because she has proven it B) Because if you're on a roll, why jinx it?

The main reason I dislike quoting that speech is because it tends to ignore a crucial reality. The Queen is mortal and she will die. It makes no allowances for anything less than that. She is slowing down (regardless of whether people want to acknowledge it). Holding her to a speech she said at 21 is completely unrealistic in light of how old she is. Sometimes I wonder, if, for arguments sake. If the queen were to decide to retire/abdicate would people hold it against her? Mention the mere idea and you won't be allowed to complete the senten--

"It will NEVER happen! She said so herself...'I declare before you all...' and although I've never met her the very idea is an anathema to her..."

But she is getting older...if anyone deserves a break it is her?

"NO!..It will NEVER happen..."

As wonderful as it would be, the Queen cannot keep going. She has remarkable stamina for her age. Longevity is in her DNA. But the people who quote the speech at every milestone want her to keep going, regardless. As if the idea of her slowing down/taking a break (read: acknowledging her mortality) is wrong. When Pope Benedict XVI resigned and monarchs in Netherlands, Spain and Belgium abdicated because they knew their limits they were criticized as quitters. Instead of being seen as a prudent decision in light of their health or to make way for the new generation, it was seen as a negative.

Those families acknowledged reality while we maintained smug bragging rights.

"Well, they couldn't hack it but our queen..OUR Queen knows what dedication is.. Why, she said so herself in 1947: 'I declare..'"

Now, fast forward 10 years to her 100th birthday. Still reigning, dedicated and going strong.

Me: Maybe she should take a break? Step down?

"NO, NO...she said 'I declare before you all'

Fast forward to 2030. The Queen is 104 and although in sound mind she is frail and fading slowly. Maybe it is time to call it a day?

"Never! Remember when she said 'I declare before you all..."

As she gets older this will become more absurd. It's as if it is a point of pride for people. We are here to remind her that she must keep going - no. matter. what. It wouldn't surprise me if people quoted it on her deathbed. The Queen did not write the speech and privately she must have misgivings about being held to those words: 'Out of all of the things I have said since then, that is what people remember?' How many of us would want to be held to something we said when we were 21? Even if it was the most moral, righteous, perfect statement. It would be a lot to live up to for anyone.

Here's the thing. Those words do not represent her reign. They do not encapsulate who she is as a person. If she decides to step down tomorrow, it will not diminish her stellar duty and devotion. If anyone deserves a break, it's her! After her death, it will be a long time before we see anyone as dedicated as her again.

So the next time she has a bout of ill health or another monarch steps down, instead of quoting that speech, how about looking at her realistically and cutting her some slack instead?

© Marilyn Braun 2015

Thank you for enjoying this article. If you use the information for research purposes, a link to credit the work I've put into writing it would be appreciated.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Royal Focus: Princess Mary 1914 Christmas Gift Tin

They were meant to bring comfort and boost morale to those fighting in the front line during the First World War. The Princess Mary Christmas tin from 1914 is possibly the best known wartime royal memento, but she was not the first royal to send a thoughtful item to the troops. Her great-grandmother, Queen Victoria, had done something similar in 1900 during the Boer War.

Imperial War Museum © IWM (EPH 3347)
As a personal New Years gift, Queen Victoria sent tins filled with chocolate to British soldiers serving in South Africa. The chocolate was supplied by three British chocolate manufacturers: Cadbury's, Fry's and Rowntree's. The red, blue and gold tins were designed by Fry's and copied by the other companies. Although they vary in size, all feature a portrait of Queen Victoria with her royal monogram and South Africa 1900 written beside it. Below the portrait, written in cursive is 'I wish you a happy New Year' with her signature below it. As Quakers, the companies were reluctant to support the war effort because of their pacifism but loyalty to the Queen won out. Following Queen Victoria's example, in 1901 Queen Alexandra sent a Christmas gift to the Boer War troops in the form of 5,500 monogrammed silver mounted briar pipes.

In 1914, the same year of Princess Mary's gift tin, her grandmother, Queen Alexandra the Queen Mother, also sent a similar gilt-tin as a personal gift to members of Household regiments. These tins contained a card and 18 cigarettes, each printed with her name. Alexandra's tins were not as widely distributed as Princess Mary's making them rarer.

Imperial War Museum © IWM (EPH 2716)

However, it is the Princess Mary Christmas brass tin from 1914 which is the best known. Inspired by her hospital visits to wounded soldiers, Princess Mary, the seventeen year old daughter of King George V and Queen Mary, sent out a public appeal in national newspapers for the 'Sailor and Soldiers Christmas fund' to provide a Christmas gift for ‘every sailor afloat and every soldier at the front'. In the first week the fund had received £12,000 in donations. The following week this amount had risen to £31,000. By the time the fund closed in 1920 it had raised £162,591.

Photo © Marilyn Braun

The embossed brass tin boxes were designed by Messrs Adshead and Ramsay. They feature a profile portrait of Princess Mary surrounded by laurel leaves with two Princess Mary 'M' monograms on either side. Inscribed on a cartouche at the top of the box are the words 'Imperium Britannicum', with a sword and scabbard on either side. In other cartouches around the edge and sides of the box are the names of Britain’s allies in the First World War; France, Russia, Belgium, Servia, Montenegro, and Japan. France and Russia are each superimposed on three furled flags. At the bottom is inscribed 'Christmas 1914.' flanked by the bows of battleships forging through a heavy sea.

There were challenges in producing the brass tin itself and its contents. Some items were considered luxuries and with metals being used to create munitions, brass was becoming harder to come by. Sheets of brass had to be ordered from the United States and a large quantity was lost in the 1915 tragic sinking of the US Lusitania. As metal shortages increased, many of the subsequent tins were made of cheap alloy metal. Despite the difficulties, the boxes were a success. The recipients were divided into three classes, and there were different variations in the contents, which you can read about here.

With over 2.5 million tins distributed, unlike Victoria and Alexandra's tins, Mary's are neither unique or rare. But they were no doubt cherished by appreciative recipients serving in the Great War.


Harewood: A Christmas Legacy Continues
Kinnethmont: The Princess Mary 1914 Christmas Gift
Australian War Memorial: Princess Mary's Christmas Gift 
National Army Museum: Queen Victoria's Gift Chocolate Box, 1900
Presentation Pipes with particular reference to the Queen Alexandra Pipe
 Museum Victoria Collections
Queen Victoria and Queen Alexandra's tin images from Imperial War Museum

© Marilyn Braun 2015

Thank you for enjoying this article. If you use the information for research purposes, a link to credit the work I've put into writing it would be appreciated.

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

National Novel Writing Month - Royal Style!

Yikes, it's been a while since I updated this blog!

Since I started this blog in 2005 I always envisioned it as a place to vent my frustration with royal coverage, to add my own satirical viewpoint to royal news and also to make informative posts that people would enjoy. Each year the amount of posts goes downhill. I feel guiltier and guiltier knowing that I am letting this blog languish. I make a vow each year to change that doesn't change.

What can I say? Life gets in the way.

There is always a nagging feeling that I should get back to it. For the most part I find royal news to be relatively uninspiring. I think that blogs like mine, which provide commentary are simply not interesting. Who wants to listen to someone rant? People prefer blogs that deal with royal clothes and jewels and that's OK. But I do find it frustrating at times and I feel as though I can't keep up.

I've been focusing more on writing fiction. I did a few blog posts featuring my work in progress 'The Kidnapping of Princess Alexandra'. I took the work down, mainly because I did not feel that the posts did the storyline justice, it was too distracting and after a while I didn't get the point of doing it any longer.

Instead, I signed up for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo for short). Each November, participants are challenged to write 50,000 words in 30 days. If you have never heard of it, here's a link. Let me tell you, it is not for the faint of heart. The idea is to simply write whatever you want, without editing yourself and see where the story takes you. Nothing is scarier than starting with a blank page. Even scarier is throwing most (if not all) of the work I had already written out the door and started from scratch. It forced me to focus on the story, take it in a different direction and all sorts of storylines started to pop up, things became clearer and also more confusing too. But I loved the challenge of NaNoWriMo and finished my 50K words ahead of schedule. Here's my Winner badge to prove it.

That's about all you get. Well, that and a PDF of a winner certificate to fill out. Oh yes, and bragging rights. Oh, and the satisfaction of having actually completed something. Which I would say is far better than winning money but that would be a lie.

Right now I have a 50K work in progress, multiple story-lines I didn't have before, a beginning, an ending but a very (very) disorganized middle. Instead of posting the work in progress here, I have started posting it on a site called Tablo.

Here is the link to the story: The Royal Correspondent

Feel free to follow along for the ride!

© Marilyn Braun 2015

Thank you for enjoying this article. If you use the information for research purposes, a link to credit the work I've put into writing it would be appreciated.