UK press praise thousand-boat flotilla on Thames for stirring national pride


AFP

LONDON — The “raucous and teeming” scenes which met Queen Elizabeth II as she led a 1,000-boat flotilla to mark her diamond jubilee show that British pride is alive and well, the nation’s newspapers said Monday. Over 1.2 million braved foul weather to cheer on the queen as she made her way down the River Thames on the red-and-gold Spirit of Chartwell amid a water-borne procession of kayaks, steamers and tugs. The crowd’s defiance highlighted British perseverance, which will be needed with economic storm clouds looming, Monday’s papers argued. The editorial of The Times’ souvenir edition said the showpiece event had turned the murky river “into a Canaletto for the 21st century.” It said the crowd’s response recalled historian Mandell Creighton’s 1896 description of the English character as “an adventurous spirit … courage to face dangers, cheerfulness under disaster and perseverance in the sphere which he has chosen. “The beauty of yesterday was raucous and teeming,” it added. “Ships, towers, domes, theatres and temples lay open to the clouds and to the sky. For all the rain, Earth had not anything to show more fair.”

It concluded that the open display of national pride raised hopes that Britain “will always be home to a happy breed of men, and women … a precious stone, set in a silver sea.” Elizabeth, 86, is only the second British monarch to celebrate a diamond jubilee, after Queen Victoria. The staunchly-royal Daily Mail splashed “Elizabeth Rules the Waves” across its front page, calling the event “a quintessentially British occasion, with weather to match. “True, the nation was keen to take its mind off the storm clouds gathering at a terrifying pace over the economy. But few would deny … the affection and respect for her six decades of service that was so clearly evident yesterday,” said the paper’s editorial. “Surely nothing could better symbolize the 86-year-old queen’s stoicism, resilience or dedication to duty than seeing her standing waving to the cheering crowds from the open-topped royal barge, fully exposed to the elements, for four hours.” Poplar tabloid The Sun also released a souvenir edition which carried as its headline: “ABSOLUTELY SPLASHING — Rain can’t put off 1.25m who lined Thames for pageant.” Centre-left publication The Guardian, a frequent critic of the monarchy, celebrated the “colorful occasion on a grey day” but argued it “was an event with undercurrents as well as the more obvious surface goodness. “It was full of spirit. But whether the nation which it affected to embody actually exists is another matter,” said its editorial.

The broadsheet insisted it was “an occasion whose symbols, purposes and deeper meanings, its commissions and omissions and its priorities, cannot simply be ignored.”