This picture, to me, sums up today’s Jubilee flotilla: drenched Royal College of Music students cheerfully singing Land of Hope and Glory at the end of a spectacle attended by over a million people. The rain, far from ruining the event, made it even more memorable and didn’t seem to deter the crowds. As the choir’s conductor put it: ‘freezing cold, wind, and rain but euphoric and unforgettable’.
Sky News captured the spirit by covering its real source: the onlookers. ‘Even on the train down, people were talking to each other,’ a member of the public said. ‘It’s been amazing seeing the princess and the queen, I loved it,’ said a four year old. Sky seemed to have mobilized its entire staff, from every point on the Thames to street parties in (sunny) Devon. On the other hand, the BBC appeared to have fewer correspondents out; and they were bemused by the hordes of bystanders. They seemed to be glued to eccentrics. (‘Look at these strange people in strange hats!’) Whereas Sky News showed normal people of all age groups having fun. It had a more instinctive grasp of what this was all about.
These crowds are gripped by the Jubilee, from Wick to Walthamstow. The queen may be the focus of attention, but she can unite the country – in a way that no one, or nothing else can. The polls show that the queen is way more popular than any political figure. She defies most metrics of political science. Logically, 21st century Britain should regard the monarchy as an anachronism. There are plenty of monarchs out there, and you can imagine the far richer Arab ones looking on in envy at the mass popular appeal that our monarchy attracts. They’ll have much more to wonder at the next couple of days.