British Monarchist League
 
Through My Eyes: Trooping the Colour 2011
  By:
Thomas J. Muscatello-DeLacroix Mills, 
Secretary General, The British Monarchist League
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I have determined that I have been tremendously spoiled, and this is something I have just come to realise. I have been spoiled by the history, the culture, and the traditions of this great nation to which I am pleased to defend at any given opportunity. Throughout the years, I have come to belong to an exclusive club, a club so exclusive that my Grandfather and I are the only members. To those who know, there is nothing more special than the bond between a Grandfather and Grandson, especially when the elder is a retired Grenadier Guardsman of Her Majesty’s Foot Guards. Looking back over the years, I have been terribly fortunate to have been educated about the many vast intricacies of our system of government and more so about the vital role the Crown plays in not only our system of government, but our daily lives. To truly understand what the crown means to the nation, one must possess the proper knowledge in regard to the complexity and deep rooted nature of who we are as a people and our institution of Monarchy that serves no political party, but the people of our united nation as a whole.

The education I have received was not part of the national curriculum, but more importantly from a member of the Queen’s Guard who has had years of devoted service under his belt. It was due to his life experiences, dealings with the Palace, close proximity to Her Majesty and the Royal family, along with the trying and grueling process of being a Guardsman that afforded him the knowledge and expertise, which has been instilled within me.  For all of the years I have stood by my Grandfather, I have been given a top notch education without even knowing it. I have been ever so fortunate to witness such annual ceremonies as Trooping the Colour, the Garter Ceremony and Procession, the Beating Retreat and many other Royal events on an yearly basis, but it has never crossed my mind until recently that the constant explanations of these aforementioned ceremonies and stories of old, have been the foundations of the very education that my Grandfather has bestowed upon me. Today as I stand on the Victoria Monument watching the marching of the guard and the throngs of tourists hoping to catch a glimpse of our Queen, one of the most important men in my life stands beside me...my teacher...my Grandfather.

It is not just because he is my Grandfather that I say how special he is, but the fact that he is a living component to over 60 years of Royal history. Everything I have come to know of our great nation has stemmed from the stories and experiences that he has shared with me, and this past June was a reminder of just how important his role in the Guard was. It is evident that his devotion to his regiment and loyalty to the Crown is just as strong now as it was when he signed up to defend and protect Her Majesty decades ago. He took an oath of allegiance to the Queen, something he has never forgotten and has always stood by, no matter how long he has been retired. He gave his word to fight for and protect our nation, just like when the Queen gave her word to our people in 1952, when she stated that her whole life would be dedicated to our service. To see a man so dedicated and devoted to our nation as he wears his colours and Grenadier markings with pride and honour, continues to show me the true meaning of the saying “For Crown and Country”.  Standing alongside each other on the mall in front of Buckingham Palace (complete with cuppa in hand) on a cool, but sunny day in June, we began to reminisce about Troopings past as we watched the large Royal Standard unfurl and the crowds start to line the parade route. As the flags decorating the mall swayed in the breeze and the aroma from the freshly planted flowers greeted us with a pleasantly sweet aroma, it was not long before “God Save The Queen” was playing and Her Majesty resplendent in Robins egg blue departed the palace for Horse Guards Parade with all of the pomp and pageantry that one expects on a day such as Trooping the Colour 2011.

The crowds were 12 deep in areas, and were filled with excitement. Children waved Union Jack, St. George, Scottish, Canadian, Welsh, Australian, and other flags while their faces lit up with great excitement, and their eyes popped open with delight at the first sound of the Regimental Marching Bands. For those who had arrived early enough to witness the morning preparation for this Royal event, they had chosen to wait for the Queen to appear closely to a man smartly dressed man in a sports coat and dress slacks with matching vest, which was complete with a Grenadier tie, badges of medals, and regimental colours, while a Regimental cap and badge evened out his look. As other similarly dressed men would pass, a cordial nod of the head or a salute would take place, denoting that they too were ex-guardsmen. Throughout the day, all it would take to spark a conversation between these men would be the smallest little badge or colour that identified their regiment, and before long a great conversation had taken place which produced smiles from both men who were perfect strangers at the beginning, but said goodbye as friends. As explained to me by my Grandfather, it does not matter which regiment a soldier belongs to, as all guardsmen belong to one family with one common goal. They are a brotherhood of men devoted to the protection of their most Sovereign Lady, the Queen. It is a bond that today is not commonly understood by the masses, a bond of true devotion of loyalty to Crown and our nation that our younger generations have not been taught.

In the distance, the sound from the strength of the drums along with the light and airy tunes of the Marching Band’s brass grew louder and more prevalent as they neared the Palace. As those around us watched my Grandfather speak with other guardsmen and took note of his cap and colours, they began to ask questions as to the events of the day. They were happy to listen to his commentary as to the guards, their regiment, and the history associated with each passing guard. They asked to take photos of him with their children so they would have an item for “show and tell” when they returned to school, as well as a very personal experience that they would remember forever. Standing next to us was an older couple who had brought their grandchildren to see Trooping the Colour for the first time ever. The experience for them to be standing next to a guardsman was the highlight of their day. The little children asked question after question and continuously asked when the Queen would be coming. All the little ones wanted to see was Her Majesty, and knowing that simply put the greatest smile on my Grandfathers face. The fact that such young children were being brought to witness and learn about the Troop really touched me, as it is the younger generations that really need to experience and understand what events of this magnitude mean, along with the reasons why we are so unique as a country, due to the existence of our Monarchy.

As each division of the Foot Guards passed there was no doubt as to the regiment I was naming off to a group of Dutch and Australian onlookers who were astonished as to the knowledge I possessed of each regiment, as I had been taught many years before by a man who was once one of the soldiers we were watching on parade. As the regiments passed the people around us started asking more questions as to which regiment they were, what their plumes, stripes and medals meant, and why the buttons on their scarlet tunics were different.  Certain regiments have embroidered collars, whilst other guards have taller bearskins, which denote rank. People from all over the Kingdom as well as the world had gathered on this day to witness the Queen’s Birthday Parade, in which my Grandfather and I were the narrators to one of the greatest shows ever produced. As the Guards lined the mall, and the household cavalry began its procession, the Life Guards and Blues and Royals formed the escort for Her Majesty, which signaled the beginning of the Queen’s Birthday Parade. All of the Royal family were on parade to the sounds of the Massed Bands, but it is when Her Majesty leaves the Palace that the excitement turns into something more.

As she exits the Palace to the national anthem and circles the Victoria Monument, the first glimpse of her evokes not only cheers from the crowds, but heartfelt emotions which are released from deep within. With the backdrop of Buckingham Palace all decorated in its finery with a larger than life Royal Standard mixed together with the Union Jacks lining the mall, the soldiers in formation with their arms offering the Royal Salute, the time seems to stand still as Her Majesty drives down the mall. The personification of the state in the being of our Sovereign who just happens to materialise and be amongst her people on this very special day, is enough to bring a lump to our throats and a tear to our eye, as I know it does every time I feel sentimental pride in regard to the greatness of our nation which is put on show for all the world to see during the events of this day. As Her Majesty passed, a bow from the neck by both my Grandfather and me showed our respect not only to our Queen, but to the Sovereign of the United Kingdom.  The time progressed quickly after Her Majesty passed to Horse Guards Parade, where my Grandfather was again in full detail of the many stories he had to tell of his service under not only the Queen, but her father King George VI.

He regaled not only children and adults alike, but those from the Metropolitan Police who were also lining the parade route near us. He told the stories that I have enjoyed for many years and have even told myself so many times. His favoured stories were when he was on Palace duty before the guard was brought behind the gates to their present positions. It was a hot summer day many years ago, when a child passed him with an ice creme cone, to which my Grandfather thought would be a refreshing treat. Sweating in his bearskin and trying not to think of the cool flavourful ice creme, the child who was inspecting him with the sweet cone suddenly shoved it in my Grandfathers face to his unexpected delight. Unable to lick the ice creme from his face, let alone move to wipe it off, a police officer quickly came round to clean him up and send the little one on his way. This story has always deserved a chuckle from our family, but those who were around listening and hung on every word, laughed excitedly at the correct times as if it was all scripted. In all of my years I have never seen anything like this. It was terribly interesting to me as to just how interested the general public was to hear of how life was like for the Guards on duty, as well as for the guards that they saw not only thirty minutes before marching in front of Her Majesty.

As he finished his last segment of stories including the traditional and most efficient way to spit shine his black patent-leather shoes, his participation in the funeral cortege of King George VI from the train platform at Windsor to St. Georges Hall in Windsor Castle, and his interactions with Princess Margaret and the Queen Mother, the sound of the massed bands returning from Horse Guards Parade grew louder, signaling that Her Majesty was returning to the palace. As the excitement for the arrival of the Queen and what was to come heightened, the people surrounding my Grandfather and I returned to their cameras and video cameras, as the little ones nudged their way between our legs to press their noses up against the barricades that they were not yet tall enough to see over.  The massed bands all together marching up the mall was a sight to see, as the sounds of “Captain Nichols” and “Back to Camp” cleared the way for the royal procession. As Her Majesty passed us and entered into the forecourt of the Palace, the crowd welcomed the Queen with lively shouts and cheers while waving their flags in a sea of multi-national unity. The Mall was again alive with the magic of spectacle, the Massed Bands, the Guards, the Horses and carriages, along with the Royal family, all in a spectacular scene of British pomp and pageantry that happens to be the most defining British icon we have.

Once Her Majesty was safely back inside the gates of the Palace, she took the salute as all of her Guards marched and rode past her. The sounds of the Massed Bands again were for everyone to hear as a familiar addition from the Kings Troop Royal Horse Artillery sounded a 41 gun salute. The crowds were tightly packed coming up the mall from Horse Guards Parade as the throngs of people who lined the mall scrambled to take their place in front of the Palace for the best photo opportunity of the famed balcony appearance by Her Majesty and the Royal family. As the guns sounded, the bands played, and Her Majesty emerged onto the balcony, the crowd went into a thunderous frenzy of applause and cheer in honour of Her Majesty’s Birthday. Suddenly, the Queen and Prince Philip were joined by the rest of the Royal family as the fly past of aircraft from the Royal Air Force formed the spectacular finale to the day’s celebrations. The Red Arrows illuminated the sky with trails of red white and blue over Buckingham Palace before flying out of site. As the Queen retreated into the Palace and the Guard regiments filed back to Wellington Barracks, the crowds lingered in amasement from the show they had just witnessed. As I stood with my Grandfather observing the crowd, I could not help but think just how important and symbolic this event is to our nation, and just how special it was for me to be there watching the very duty that my Grandfather himself had taken part in decades ago.

Reflecting on not just the day’s events, but the quality of time spent with my Grandfather, it is now that I have come to realise that I have been tremendously blessed in favour of being spoiled, as the education and experiences I have been afforded can only be provided by the experiences and knowledge of those who have been so close to the heart of this grand show. A show that is only possible by an elite, brave and small loyal group of our population, where their efforts, hard work, and dedication to Queen and country, make the mystique and majesty of the Crown an experience unparalleled by any other. To me Trooping the Colour is not just another parade, or another show being aired on the BBC. It is a national celebration of who we are as a people, which combines our history, traditions, and culture into a spectacular production of what is great about our nation. It is a display of our military culture, and the devotion and loyalty of our men in uniform to our nation, that is represented by our Head of State: our Queen. It is an event that holds generations of my family’s history as my Grandfather’s father, and his before him, and so on were also Grenadier Guardsmen. I have been taught history, continuity, and devotion by such events as this, and being able to sit on the sidelines of history with my Grandfather, a man who was once marching history himself, is truly an honour and an experience that I am both fortunate and blessed to have in my life.

As the day ended and we started to walk towards Wellington Barracks, I stopped to capture a memory that I have captured every year since I was young. However something was different, something had changed inside of me. Every year, the Palace is resplendent in its decoration, always complete with balcony decorations of red and gold swags, and topped with one of the largest flags I have ever seen. To most people, a flag is a flag, but to me, my family and all of those who serve or have served under these colours, the Royal Standard is more than just a flag. It is a symbol of the unity of our nation in which our people have sacrificed, pledged allegiance to, and have served to defend and protect. When I looked at that beautiful standard (which I have done for many years on this day) something within me changed. I not only saw the Arms of Her Majesty, but the flowing history of not only my own family, but countless others that now belong to the same club that my Grandfather and I do. I stopped to capture the Palace, but instead I posed together with my Grandfather to capture something greater. The portrait of a Guardsman yes, but more importantly a photograph of a Grandfather and Grandson together united in history, culture, and tradition, under one banner of greatness and unity. The day was perfect, the weather splendid, and the memories captured will always remain near and dear to my heart for as long as I am alive, and for as long as we sing together in one united voice “God Save the Queen”. 
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