Friday, March 11, 2011

Supporting the Troops

[First off—our thoughts and prayers are with those affected by the earthquake and tsunami along the Pacific. Parts of my state are evacuating, and I’m thankful to have a mountain range between me and the coast. Wherever you are today, be safe!]
Spring is just around the corner! Can you feel it? The earliest flowers are poking up their heads, the grass is starting to green, and birds are singing. The coming of spring heralded many things for a young lady in nineteenth century London too: the opening of the Season right after Easter, more plays at the various theatres, and new performances at Astley’s Amphitheatre of Equestrian Delights. It also meant military spectacles.

Yes, various troops made a spectacle of themselves on a regular basis in London. Every morning around ten, soldiers marched and cavalry rode on the Horse Guards Parade at one end of St. James’s Park to the stirring beat of martial music. Two or three mornings during the week they invaded Hyde Park for more elaborate reviews, drilling and riding.

Of course, as a proper young lady, you would never ogle the men in uniform. But you could certainly find an excuse to indulge in the national fervor. You might have to take your sword-mad little brother to watch the hunks I mean soldiers drilling. You might have to go wave your handkerchief at a cousin of a dear friend, keeping up his morale and all that. And if you weren’t entirely sure when and where to accost er I mean encourage the troops, you could always send a servant to the offices of the Commander-in-Chief or the Adjutant General in Whitehall, where notices were posted as to when and where the troops would be drilling.

If you were very fortunate, and very well connected, you might be invited to review the troops with the monarch. King George had been famous for his reviews. Prinny, unfortunately, was less constant. For example, if it rained on a review day, he’d stay safe in Carleton House and send one of his underlings in his place, a habit that frustrated his advisors and his military. One of the most famous of his reviews happened after Napoleon was defeated the first time. Over 12,000 troops marshaled in Hyde Park to be reviewed by the Prince, King of Prussia, Czar Alexander I, the Duke of York, General Blucher, General Lord Beresford, and General Hill. Huge crowds turned out to cheer them.

All in the name of patriotism, of course.

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