Even if you watched the Summer Olympics in London this year and have been diligent about keeping up with the news on English royalty you may still have missed the tidbit that Big Ben (the huge clock tower at the Parliament buildings of Westminster) has actually been re-named to Elizabeth Tower in honor of her 60th anniversary on the throne. Amazingly, this citadel that illuminates the Thames at night, a short distance from Whitehall, is not only the seat of Government for Britain but was a principal home of all the monarchs up to the crowning of Henry VIII. Most guides you’ll pick up concerning London will sport some replica or photo of the tower and it is the most handsome one I can think of in England with it’s four-faced clock that chimes every hour and can be heard from miles around. It replaced a medieval clock that was built in 1288 which had lasted for nearly five hundred years when Big Ben was installed in 1860 ! Big Ben’s Tower, which was originally named after Sir Benjamin Hall because of his vast girth (if I am to be up-to-the-minute proper) is 316 feet of Pugin/Barry Victorian Gothic splendor unmatched in magnificence or size any where in the world. The reference to Ben is actually attributed to the bell which chimes the hour and dwarfs the other four which chime at additional intervals if they are still in operation.
On Christmas Day Queen Elizabeth gave her annual holiday message in 3-D for the first time and was a recap of the year with an absolute positive spin which has been rare in recent years. What comes to mind is the ‘annus horribilis’ speech the year that a horrific fire tore through an ancient wing of Windsor Castle. This year was not without its trials for the Queen who celebrated her 60th year on the throne. What she didn’t mention was that her husband was ailing during this time, acutely, and she stayed with the ceremonies while he had to convalesce in hospital. The strain barely showed on her, however.
She may be the most resilient and resourceful monarch to ever grace the English throne and that is admirable considering the times she lives in and what she has had to endure as far back as WWII. No other Queen has seen the technological advances in their lifetime as she has and it appears that she has taken hold of the 21st century with the strength and tenacity never before witnessed in any previous time. Hence, along with all the other celebrations this year, such as the Royal Wedding with Prince William and Kate and their recent joyful news of a baby on the way and the aforementioned Summer Olympics, this was also the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Only one other monarch has held the position longer who was Queen Victoria and she served as Queen for sixty-three years up until her decease. It will be amazing if Elizabeth surpasses Victoria for longevity and I hope she succeeds because it will show how strong and apt she really has been all these years.
I had the good fortune to be present in London for Queen Elizabeth’s Silver Jubilee in 1977 and it was marvelous to see all the commemorative items that were available. A tote bag was my lot at the time but I still have it and have kept it in mint condition. The atmosphere was more palpable than any trinket could have substituted in its place and it was certainly a magical time to be in London. A very young BFF at the time wanted to know if I liked the Queen (being a Yank- wink! wink!) and of course I replied in the affirmative.
She had the good fortune to follow in her father’s footsteps this past year in welcoming the Summer Olympics to London. King George VI also opened the 1948 games in London. This was again a great past year for Team USA because they came away with so many medals. We’re still more than double the total (2,302) of the Soviet Union’s medals which are 1,122 and outdoing Great Britain’s 725 and Germany’s 659 and France’s 633 ! There was great spirit and playing on every side, however, and so much to see this year. Most of what I saw were women’s gymnastics and basketball as well !
Just before the beginning of this new year Queen Elizabeth handed down hundreds of honors which exceeds the amount of honors of previous years. 85 year old Scottish physicist, Peter Higgs, from whom the Higgs boson (a subatomic particle which gives identity and weight to protons, electrons and neutrons of atoms) received its name (bka The God Particle) and fame was given a Companion of Honor award. Stella McCartney, Paul McCartney’s daughter, was given a most prestigious Officer of the Order of the British Empire for designing the uniforms worn by the British athletes at the summer Olympics.
In the past, the venues left behind by the Olympics committees have been rather abandoned and onerous burdens for the affected communities to deal with in the wake of the Olympic events. I’m happy to report that this time the residuals will be dealt with in a much more efficient and ecological way because of some very innovative Colorado companies who were engaged for the buildings in question. The Douglas County based construction company CH2M Hill were responsible for most of the structures which included the Velodrome, the stadium at Olympic Park which sits on its own island, Aquatics Centre and beach volleyball venue which was located at the Horse Guard’s Parade. In all, this company was responsible for building 22 venues many of which will be repurposed and altered for continued use.
I was most impressed by the venue that was built at Greenwich Park but it was so large it could have housed the Coliseum in Rome inside the actual playing area and was used during the individual jumping equestrian event. I’m sure the Queen wouldn’t have missed it for the world !
Overall, this past year was excellent for the United Kingdom and I hope good fortune and continued success will be the lot for its citizens, royalty- young and old- and historical venues.
Respectfully submitted by