Pomp and Circumstance

The red-faced, middle-aged man with the bullhorn standing in London’s Oxford Street cut straight to the chase.  “If,” he shouted, “Oliver Cromwell had been here today and had seen us all bowing and scraping to this ridiculous old woman and her bloody kids, he would have started another civil war . . . Wake up!” the man bawled, his voice rising in counterpoint to the hoot of a passing black cab.  “It’s like if Charles I turned around while he was on the scaffold and said, ‘Nearly 400 years from now you’ll still all be paying to keep my family in the lap of luxury.’  ‘Meanwhile, we’re going to cut your head off, though,’ says Cromwell.  ‘Yeah, maybe, but the last laugh will be on you, mate . . . ’”

The man with the megaphone was alluding to the fact of Her Majesty the Queen’s official 90th birthday this past June.  It may have been Britain’s once-fabled reputation for good manners, or merely a disinclination of pedestrians nearby to engage in a public debate with a heavily amplified lunatic, but during the ten minutes or so I watched no one bothered to stop and remonstrate.  Perhaps some of the passersby were simply bored by the whole subject.  As a nation, Britain has become accustomed to marking milestones in the reign of Elizabeth II.  Her Silver, Golden, and Diamond Jubilees generated an outpouring of affection from...

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