Friday, June 8, 2012

Public Spectacles, Amusements, and Objects Deserving Notice, June

June was the middle of the Season in London during the nineteenth century. Everyone who was anyone was in town, enjoying weather that tended to be more often on the pleasant side. And they had many choices for outdoor entertainments. For example, Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens generally opened in early June in the earlier part of the century, horse races popped up around the country, and the Thames was full of rowing matches and sailing regattas.

But the big event for most of the first two decades of the century was His Majesty’s birthday celebration, centered around June 4th. Even though George III was growing stranger and his son would end up the Regent and later king, every major city in England, many small hamlets, and every territory and embassy world-wide held events on the King’s birthday.

In London, tradesmen with royal warrants illuminated their shops in the evening. Special illuminations (painted panels with lanterns behind and between them) glowed in public places as well. Mail coaches paraded from the Post Office to the St. James’s Palace and back. Famous composers and musicians held concerts. The King’s Master of Music on occasion even composed a new Ode for the celebration (although that was falling out of favor). Those of particularly high rank and favor were invited to a grand drawing room at the palace.

On the Thames, rowing matches and regattas brought out the boats. Areas of the country where garrisons were stationed held military reviews; ports held naval maneuvers. Church bells rang throughout the nation. Can you tell it was a party? The English loved their “Farmer George”!

Now, more than 200 years later, one organization still celebrates. The students at Eton commemorate the birthday of George III with special lectures, cricket
matches, and a procession of boats on the river. According to the school, no monarch except the Founder (Henry VI) was more involved and took more pride in the school. Eton is located near Windsor Castle, and apparently George III invited students to visit from time to time and was known to pop into the school for a visit whenever he was passing nearby.

May your June be as memorable!

P.S.—I will be taking a short break next week, so look for a post from Marissa on Tuesday, but no post from me until June 22.

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