For the platinum jubilee, a patriotic pudding

For Queen Elizabeth’s coronation in 1953, the lampposts along the Processional Route were painted lilac, pale blue and white, at the instigation of Sir Hugh Casson, an architect who made his mark with the Festival of Britain, in 1951. The result was so “crisp and appropriate”, noted that magazine’s correspondent Mollie Panter-Downes at the time, “that they will surely shock to death those diehard Britons who think you don’t can’t go wrong with a handsome batch of red, white and blue, and a sprinkle of ‘Long May She Reign’s.’A stroll through central London a day before the Platinum Jubilee celebrations revealed that today’s designers oday had returned to experience. Along Regent Street, more than a hundred huge Union Jacks, strung five abreast, floated above the streams of buses and pedestrians like a proud but receding canopy of patriotism.

Seventy years ! Who could have imagined how long Elizabeth II could reign? Just two more years, and she’ll break Louis XIV’s record as the world’s oldest monarch – and he was four when he became king, so cheating. After two years of canceled events and banned gatherings, it was a relief not to have to accept a Zoombilee. And to what lengths have business establishments gone to mark this shining moment amid the hardships of the late pandemic and a cost of living crisis exacerbated by a European war on a scale not seen since just before Sa Majesty accedes to the throne? On Regent Street: hats off to the window dresser at Guess, who had accessorized the store’s haughty models with a pair of faux corgis. At Piccadilly Circus, the twinkling LED screen displayed a message from retailers John Lewis and Waitrose: ‘Congratulations Your Majesty’. This ad alternated with another, for Estrella Damm beer – perhaps a fitting incentive for the British public, who had been granted an extra day off and never seem to need encouragement to raise a glass, a can or a bottle.

On the Mall, the avenue that leads from Trafalgar Square to Buckingham Palace, some of the queen’s subjects had already pitched tents in privileged places, barricade side, for the procession. Rachael Axford, an office worker for a renewable energy firm in Cornwall, had taken the sleeper train from Penzance – although there was no sleep, she said, with all the excitement and the gin. She had adorned her place with regional stamens, a white cross on a black background, and her yellow and blue beach tent – a nod to solidarity with Ukraine – was equipped with folding chairs, sleeping bags, of Union Jack patterned clothing, and gin. Also: a Shewee voiding funnel, for emergencies. “I don’t think any other country can touch us for pageantry,” Axford said. She had camped at Harry and Meghan’s wedding in Windsor in 2018 and already had a game plan for the next big one, the Queen’s funeral.

For less-prepared Jubilees, tight rows of portable toilets lined the sidewalk of the mall, in the shadow of the grand mansions of St. James’s. The schoolchildren in the crowd discussed important things. “Technically the queen isn’t rich, she just has a lot of expensive things,” a middle-aged boy told a girl. “Home is priceless,” she confirmed. A young man in an ill-fitting black suit with a framed portrait of the Queen circa 1997 tucked under his arm rushed down the street, cellphone to his ear. As the cameras snapped, two guards in their red tunics and bearskin helmets marched toward the palace, stepping aside to let an ambulance pass. A Household Cavalry soldier had been thrown from his horse, it was later reported: one of the Jubilee’s first injuries, but surely not the last. The deliveries of gin and Estrella had barely started.

And so on to Piccadilly, where, at a Fortnum & Mason cafe, connoisseurs could order off-the-menu servings of Platinum Pudding: a dessert created by a home baker named Jemma Melvin, who won a national competition for design an edible fit for street party tables across the country. Concocted from layers of Swiss roll, lemon curd, citrus jelly, tangerines, pastry cream, amaretti cookies and ‘chocolate bark jewellery’ shards – phew – the dessert looked like “summer in a glass,” remarked Annalivia Foreman, who was at the cafe with her daughter Eve. Neither could actually taste the pudding (Eve: nut allergies; Annalivia: gut reset program), but Annalivia’s brother Hugh was in on it. He wrinkled his nose as he described the flavor as “light” and was skeptical of its colors, which were as subtle as Casson’s painted streetlights. “I served my country, and there is nothing patriotic about thissaid Hugh, former captain of the 5th Royal Inniskilling Dragoon Guards. After the family left, however, the pudding glass was scratched by a less critical subject, who washed it down with a cup of Platinum Jubilee-Blend tea. It had been a long morning, and a very, very long reign. ♦

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