Last week Windsor is at the centre of the social calendar. On Sunday we witnessed the celebrations for the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta.
On the 15 th of June 1315 King John acquiesced to the will of the Barons who presented him with a bill of rights that form the foundation of modern democracy the world over. This all occurred at Runnymede, just down river from Windsor and as luck would have it the flotilla of 200 vessels including the Queens barge Gloriana passed the garden of my sister who lives on Ham Island on route. It was a spectacular sight and made me stop to think how a single moment eons ago, birthed from a cry for freedom resonates so powerfully through our lives today.
The following day on Monday was Garter day and the knights of the order process through the castle precincts from the middle ward down to St George’s Chapel for a service of commemoration.
The Queen is of course the head of the order and she is accompanied by 22 knights of her choosing and much of Her Court including heralds and anciently titled officers with names like ‘Bluemantle Persuivant of Arms in Ordinary’ , the service is short but the medieval costumes and sheer numbers of magnificently dressed soldiers is a feast for the eyes and a double shot of wonder for a patriotic soul.
The rest of the week is also centred around the Queen and her delight and passion for horses with racing at Royal Ascot. It is a quintessentially British affair that offers a perfect snapshot of 21st century Britain at play.
Walking from Car Park 1, possibly the poshest car park in the world, where name badges glimpsed will include Dukes, Princes and scions of great dynastic families through the Royal Enclosure where cut glass accents mingle with those of the less affected entrepreneurial class and so on through to the Grandstand and even better the Bandstand where after the racing everyone gathers all suited and sloshed to guzzle the most expensive champagne in the country and sing with gusto the great old tunes from the east end and marching songs of the Great War.
It seemed to me yesterday that the appetite for drinking, having good old fashioned fun and spending money is not the preserve of any particular class or geography. In 21st century Britain a good time is accessible to more people than ever before and apart from accents, taste in fashion and attitude the social and particularly economic landscape of the country seems indeed to have become less defined.