Iconic Photos

Famous, Infamous and Iconic Photos

Pomp, Pageantry — and Monarchy

with 3 comments

The Royal Wedding in London two months ago makes me chuckle a little bit, not least because Britain used to be quite horrible at royal pageantry. In 1817, at the funeral of Princess Charlotte, the undertakers were drunk. At Queen Victoria’s unrehearsed coronation in 1838,  two train-bearers talked all through the ceremony, the clergy lost their place in the Order of Service and the ring was too small for Victoria’s finger. After the funeral of Prince Albert at Windsor in 1861, the special train back to London was so crowded that Disraeli had to sit on his wife’s lap.

The same year, watching the Queen open Parliament, Lord Robert Cecil bemoaned, that while many nations had a gift for this sort of thing, England did not: “We can afford to be more splendid than most nations; but some malignant spell broods over all our most solemn ceremonials and inserts into them some feature which makes them all ridiculous … Something always breaks down, somebody contrives to escape doing his part, or some bye-motive is suffered to interfere and ruin it all.” However, other monarchies that ‘had a gift’ — France, Germany, Russia and Austria (whose capital cities were better adapted to processions than London) — simply dropped out of monarchic race, leaving the Britons alone in the field.

On the other end of this pomp and circumstance are bicycling monarchies — more informal and modest personal styles of the royal families in Scandinavia and the Low Countries. One of the most famous exemplars of a bicycling monarchy was that of Olav V of Normay, known as “People’s King.” An accomplished skier who won an Olympic gold medal, Olav skied with no entourage but his dog. He also drove himself, and would drive in the regular highway lanes though he was allowed to drive in the public transportation lane. During the energy crisis in the 1970s, when Norway banned driving on certain weekends, the king would take a tram to go skiing — a practice he continued even after the crisis ended. In above photo, Olav tried to pay for his tickets, as the conductor told him that his adjutant further back had already paid for him.

— via Gisle from Norway

Written by Alex Selwyn-Holmes

July 4, 2011 at 5:50 am

3 Responses

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  1. I assume it’s the King in uniform who appears to have a sword. However, perhaps that’s a very elaborate conductor’s uniform–and the King is the fat one in the people’s nylon jacket. Am I missing an element that resolves the ambiguity?


    July 4, 2011 at 3:23 pm

  2. Oh, wait. Sorry, I now see that’s a ski pole, not a sword.


    July 4, 2011 at 3:24 pm

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