One of the things I enjoy most about doing this column is the challenge of digging up little-known things; you know, stuff not in the headlines. I mean, Prince Harry getting a lap dance, or Prince William jetting to the Caribbean—you can read about that anywhere. You’d be hard pressed to find the stuff I tell you. So let’s get going.|
It seems the Queen’s 80th birthday last month was a great success. As I mentioned here last month, the Queen invited 99 people born on her birthday to lunch at Buckingham Palace—and the guests could bring a date! The three-course meal included boeuf bordelaise and mille-feuille au citron. (Okay, I’ll be honest here—I don’t know what the hell kind of food this is. I just hope it was soft.) The main course was served on solid silver royal dinner service, decorated with the Prince of Wales’ feathers, garter, and coronet, normally reserved for state banquets. I bet the old folks were just dotty with glee over this.
Anyway, the Queen chatted with her guests, and a good time was had by all, with maybe the exception of one elderly gent—a former Royal Navy engineer—who tripped going up the palace stairs. It seems his knee gave out, and he grazed his nose. And not to worry—there were “heartstart” machines on hand as well, but they went unused, thank God.
Prince Charles hosted a birthday dinner for his mum the Queen at Kew Palace in London. It was an intimate dinner, attended by 26 members of the Royal Family. Dinner was—are you ready?—timbale of organic Hebridean smoked salmon, Morecambe Bay Brown shrimp mayonnaise and fine herbs, with caper, lemon, and parsley dressing, juniper-roast loin of Sandringham Estate venison with a port wine sauce, served with steamed young cabbage and spring vegetables, and birthday chocolate sponge cake coated with a dark chocolate ganache and filled with a Highgrove fruit filling, served with a Highgrove red berry compote. The wines were Le Fleur Petrus (Pomerol) 1995, Corton Charlemagne Grand Cru 1994, and Chateau d'Yquem 1982. Hey, this is exactly what we had at my birthday dinner last year!
Kew Palace, you ask? Give us some info on Kew Palace, you ask? Okay. Kew Palace, in southwest London, was home to “mad” King George III in the early 19th century. He used the digs to convalesce from bouts of mental illness. It has undergone £6.6 million of conservation work and was just reopened to the public after being shut down for 10 years. No word on who paid this bill.
The Birthday Gifts
What’s a birthday without presents? The Queen said all she wanted was a “nice sunshiny day,” but you know how people are. Since everyone usually ignores the “no gifts” directive, it seems the Palace created a present list for those who wished to contribute. British Prime Minister Tony Blair and his Cabinet each chipped in £30 for a Spode tea set which matches the Queen’s existing Spode china. You know, this was a great idea. I bet the Queen doesn’t have nearly enough tea sets.
The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust gave Her Majesty a pair of Berwick’s swans named Dylan and Deena. And here’s something I bet you didn’t know: the Queen is the owner of all Britain’s native mute swans. How does one own all the swans in Britain? I’m going to put this on my list of questions to ask the Queen when we get together.
Of course, the Queen’s birthday caused the anti-Monarchists to surface. Some were really P.O.’d that the Prime Minister spent an hour in Parliament gushing out birthday praise for the Queen, an unelected head of state. Some believe that the Monarchy is unnecessary and that there should be an elected head of state after the Queen’s death. It costs taxpayers $65 million for the Queen to perform ceremonial duties. Of course, there have been arguments going back and forth about this for years, which brings us to this issue’s notable quotes:
"Let's wish the queen a very happy birthday. And when she goes, let's bury this ludicrous institution [of the monarchy]." --Jonathan Freedland, The Guardian, April 21, 2006.
“One of the jobs at which [the Queen] is particularly good is to reach parts of British life never touched by national politics or the London media. It is monarchy that visits Women’s Institutes, Scout troops, lifeboat stations, old people’s centres, cottage hospitals and special schools. Monarchy goes where glamour never penetrates because monarchy needs no votes. The Queen is colonel-in-chief of the ‘little platoons’.” –-Simon Jenkins, The Sunday Times, April 16, 2006.
“The Monarchy is always best when it is doing its duty. If we didn’t have a royal family, the ladies in their hats, who would go and visit the hospitals, the hospices [and] take the salutes from soldiers?” --Robert Lacey, Historian, USA Today, 5/3/2006
“Britain has an elected president already. Does it really want to see you-know-who and his wife sitting on the throne and decked in ermine?” --Simon Jenkins, The Sunday Times, 4/16/06
I guess it’s all in how you want to look at it.
Queen Fun Facts
In keeping with the Queen’s birthday theme, the royal government website (www.royal.gov.uk) posted 80 facts about the Queen: how many dinners she attended, how many portraits she sat for, how many corgis she’s had, etc. But I dug up a couple of my own fun facts I bet you’re dying to know:
The Queen’s handbag contains a hankie, a gold compact, a comb, lipstick and—on Sundays only—a bank note for the church collection. (I wonder how much the Head of the Church of England contributes every week from her purse?)
And lastly, some of the Queen’s umbrellas are jewel-encrusted. Ha! You didn’t know that now, did you?
That’s it for this month. Whew! I am exhausted! Check in next month for more exciting Royal Family fun.