Those were the instructions given to organizers of the year-long Silver Jubilee celebrations in 1977. They created a string of engagements that ran the length and breadth of Britain. Crowds 10-thick were common at many spots, with more than a million taking in the grand procession in London. Before then, engagements were known for being a tad stolid, even boring. But since 1977, especially after the professionalization of the royal household, which started in the 1980s, events became more public- and media-friendly. The Thames River Pageant during the 2012 Diamond Jubilee is a a perfect example (even if the weather didn’t cooperate).
However, British Prime Minister David Cameron seems not to have ever heard that famous motto. This week will be gruelling for Queen Elizabeth II. It’s jam-packed with events, many scheduled months, even years ahead, yet, as if the Queen didn’t have enough to do, Cameron decided decided to cram in a state opening of Parliament.
Here’s her schedule of public events:
Monday: Reception for lord-lieutenants
Tuesday: Garden party at Buckingham Palace for thousands
Wednesday: State opening of Parliament
Thursday: Start of a state visit to France and the 70th anniversary of the D-Day landings
Friday: Events in France, including the Bayeux Cathedral and the Normandy beaches for D-Day
Saturday: More official duties in France before rushing home to attend the Epsom Derby
Bear in mind that regular daily duties, including reading government documents in those famous red leather boxes, are on top of all those duties.
So it boggles the mind that Cameron would shove a state opening of Parliament into the schedule, given that the spectacle—the Queen travels in a horse-drawn coach, wears a crown, evening dress, and full, heavy velvet robes to give the actual speech from the throne—must be exhausting for an 88-year-old sovereign. Even she’s aware of her limit. Last month she made headlines when, at a religious service for the Order of the Bath at Westminster Abbey, she backed out of plans for one part of the service that involved negotiating steep, narrow stairs while wearing an evening gown, tiara, and full set of ceremonial robes.
According to reports from March, Cameron moved the state opening back from its recent May schedule because he wanted to press the restart button with something sexier than originally envisaged. Reports also say that palace officials tried to get it moved to Tuesday, June 3 to give the Queen a day’s rest before her state visit to France, but that Cameron insisted on the Wednesday. Joe Little, managing editor of Majesty magazine, told the Express, “I don’t think she would have wanted the state opening to be then, but if it is then so be it.”
If anything goes wrong, there will be a price to be paid, by Cameron.