Throughout my time in London, I was fortunate enough to partake in excursions offered by the two classes I was taking at the time. These excursions took us out of the classroom and into the world we were living in. This allowed us to stay connected with the current events happening in our environment, despite the fact that we were only just visiting for six weeks. For me, these excursions helped me get more connected to what London had to offer and made me realize that London is truly a diverse city.
One of my favorite excursions of the trip occurred when – I was fortunate to see the Queen of England, Elizabeth II, with my very own eyes. This excursion was for my class Community Action in Contemporary London, taught by Professor Lorraine Gutiérrez. While this excursion did not relate completely to what we were learning in class at the time, Professor Gutiérrez thought it would be a good experience for us to see the pomp and circumstance of one of England’s oldest rituals.
That day, we arrived at Buckingham Palace early, around 8 or 9 AM. We were one of the first groups to arrive, as the roundabout circle in front of the palace was sparsely populated with groups of two or three people here or there. While some of my classmates grumbled that we got up early just to wait around, I did not mind because this meant that we would get the best view of the procession going to Parliament. As organizers moved around us to continue getting things ready for the event, I watched the cars of some ambassadors (readily apparent by their license plates and the flags on their vehicles) speed past and make their way down the street. I also enjoyed the sun, as it was a warm and Sunny day in London, a break from the cloudy and mild weather we had been getting lately. As an hour or two passed, more and more people began to fill in. Soon, the entire roundabout was filled with people from all around England and all around the world. One family next to me traveled four hours from their home just to see the Queen pass through. Another couple across the way from me came all the way from Canada, easily noted by the Canadian flag they waved proudly on the barrier. Some of my classmates made comments on how things like this never happen in the States. While they were right to say we never have people crowding around to see Congress open, we do have our own events, such as the Presidential Inauguration, that tend to draw in the masses.
Finally, after waiting for three hours, the royals finally began to make their way to Parliament. Some of the royals were in groups, such as Camilla, Duchess or Cornwall, and Prince Charles, Prince of Wales; others, like Prince Phillip, Queen Elizabeth II’s husband, rode by himself. This surprised me a bit because I assumed he would ride in with his wife. However, what surprised me the most was that the Queen’s crown had its own carriage to itself! When the Queen finally passed through, the crowd went wild. I have to admit that I got a bit excited myself. It was just so interesting to me to see someone as famous as her in person. Even though she passed by my section for only five seconds, I could tell she looked elegant and poised (but then again, when does she not?). The whole pageantry of the event was something that cannot be contained in words but can only be fully realized when one sees it in person. To some, it does not make sense but I see why England continues to do this year after year – by keeping the pageantry, they keep their traditions and thereby, also keep their history.
For more information on the Contemporary London, United Kingdom Program visit the MCompass page.