The Queen defied the threat of terrorist attack yesterday to ride down the Mall not in a closed bullet proof car, but in an open-top Range Rover.
With Prince Philip at her side and standard bearers of the Royal British Legion behind her, and in front of crowds estimated at a quarter of a million people, The Queen led the veterans of the Second World War down the Mall.
This “courageous gesture”, as the London Daily Telegraph described it, was made by The Queen in the celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the end of the war in which the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand and her other realms were so intimately involved.
Indeed we were almost alone after the Nazi occupation of most of mainland Europe, the Nazi -Soviet agreement to ravage Eastern Europe between them and the neutrality of the USA.
Referring to the recent terrorist attacks during a speech in Horse Guards, The Queen recalled the courage of the veterans and their generation:
“It does not surprise me that, during the present difficult days for London, people turn to the example set by that generation of resilience, humour, sustained courage, often under conditions of great deprivation.
That example and those memories should be kept alive by younger generations as they in their turn strive to keep the peace in our troubled world.”
A spokesman for Buckingham Palace, quoted in the London Daily Telegraph, said the use of the open-top Range Rover had in fact been planned long before Thursday’s Underground and bus bombings and it had been decided to keep to the arrangement.
“It was the same vehicle the Queen used for the Jubilee celebrations,” he said.
As in 1945, in such moments, people gravitate physically or emotionally towards the Sovereign who, being above politics, is a symbol of unity and not division.
As the Telegraph said, these scenes were reminiscent of 1945.
So the crowds followed The Queen and her veterans down the Mall.
Then, with the Royal Family now on the balcony – and not behind bullet proof glass – a flypast of period aircraft, including the Lancaster of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight followed.
A million poppy petals were dropped over the crowds, and a military band played Land of Hope and Glory.
The Telegraph reported that the most subdued part of the day was in the morning when the royal party attended a service of thanksgiving at Westminster Abbey attended by politicians, senior officers and veterans.
What should have been a service of farewell to the dead of 60 years ago became a moment to remember the dead of the previous 72 hours.
There was silence as the seven books of remembrance containing the names of all the British civilians killed in the Second World War were paraded through the Abbey.
As the royal party left, the Abbey bells were struck simultaneously, or fired.
It was, the Telegraph said, the first time they had been rung in such a way since VE Day and VJ Day.
Lunch was then held at the Palace for hundreds of veterans, followed by a show in Horse Guards in front of 12,000 invited guests.
The Telegraph says that it is expected that veterans of the war in the Far East will also stage a substantial event to mark VJ Day.
These wonderful scenes demonstrate once again the continuity and stability the constitutional monarchy gives to our nations, and the quiet courage and strength of our Sovereign Lady, The Queen.
Until next time,