Sunday, 5 July 2015

A day of history

Later this year, the Queen will become the longest reigning monarch in British history. Her time on the throne began in 1952 and many of the images from one of the centrepiece events in the year in which she makes history looked as if they might have come from that very same time themselves. As Princess Charlotte of Cambridge was christened, if someone had said it was the 1950s then quite a lot of people might have believed them. This was a day of history in more ways than one.

The christening of Charlotte Elizabeth Diana of Cambridge
Jul 5th 2015, the Church of St Mary Magdalene, Sandringham, Norfolk

Maybe it was the vintage pram that first put the past in mind. As Kate appeared on the path to St Mary Magdalene church pushing her daughter in a stunner of a Silver Cross, it was like we were all being taken back in time to another world. The pram had been used by the Queen for her younger sons, Andrew and Edward, and it gave a vintage feel to proceedings before they even really began.

Kate's outfit also had a fifties vibe. Her elegant coat was longer than we're used to and the neckline was evoking memories of Audrey Hepburn that made the 21st century seem a long time away.

But it was George in his retro romper suit, a new creation that paid homage to the famous red and white look his dad had worn when taken to meet Prince Harry for the first time, that made sure we were all suddenly transported to another time.

Set it all at a country church and the whole scene was reminiscent of a time long gone, a rural way of life that dominated England for centuries but which now is rare and remembered fondly.

But there were reminders of the 21st century. As Kate, William and George walked to the Church of St Mary Magdalene they were surrounded by phones, tablets and cameras. The paddock next to the church had been opened to wellwishers and was filled with thousands of people eager to catch sight of Princess Charlotte who was just visible in her heirloom pram wearing an heirloom gown of her own.

As the family approached the church, George shook hands with one of the officiating ministers and Kate swerved her pram up the slope which meant we didn't get a chance to see the Cambridges' version of the parents not getting angry with one another as they try and get a pram up the steps routine. Maybe next time.

But as Kate held her daughter in her arms just before they all headed in we were back in time again. Soft summer sunlight, ancient stone church walls that have witnessed thousands of christenings and a mother and daughter in cream preparing for one of the biggest moments in both their lives.

The scene outside the church following the private ceremony, conducted by the Archbishop of Canterbuery, was just as pretty and might equally have happened sixty three years ago rather than in the middle of 2015. The Queen stopped to talk to Prince George who was standing by his sister's pram while his nanny, Maria, helped with the baby. And nanny in her uniform and George in his romper suit and the Queen in pink all came together to make an image for posterity that might have come to us from the past but was very much happening in the here and now.

And then the guests - just very close family, godparents and their partners - began the short walk back to Sandringham House for another very English and very fifties event, a christening tea. Just as in days of old, Charlotte in her pram would have her baptism celebrated with the clinking of china cups and slices of a tier of her parents' wedding cake.

The sun, beginning its slow decline to the horizon, burst into a flurry of gold as the family walked away. George, getting tired, looked back on things wistfully and the christening of Charlotte Elizabeth Diana of Cambridge disappeared from public view and into the history books looking just like it might have walked out of them before it even started on a sunny, picture perfect day.


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