On Michelle’s first weekend with us were two of the biggest things we did while she was here (aside from watch QI get recorded) – Trooping the Colour and The Lion King!
Trooping the Colour is now basically a parade for the Queen’s birthday, held in June because the weather is likely to be better than on her real birthday in April. It was traditionally an exercise for the soldiers to learn their colours and standards so they could find them easily in battle. Something like 1000 soldiers participate in the parade. If you want tickets to watch the actual thing at Horse Guards Parade, you need to get in a ballot which is drawn in March. It’s a pretty fancy to-do with fascinators, suits, ties and even a top hat or two thrown in. However for those of us without tickets, you can just stand by the Mall to watch the procession move up to Horse Guards Parade at the beginning, then from Horse Guards Parade down to the Palace at the end – along with the royal family!
We managed to find a place on the corner of the Mall and Horse Guards Parade, behind only one row of people, some of whom were sitting in chairs. However once the action began we found they spent a lot of time standing up and every time there was a photo op, two of them had iPads they were waving around getting in the way of other people taking photos. If you have an iPad, please don’t use it as a camera replacement. The photo quality is mediocre and you make everyone around you hate you because you’re sticking your huge iPad in the way of their camera.
As the procession made their way up the mall we saw Prince Harry and the Duchess of Cornwall in one carriage, and glimpsed the Duchess of Cambridge sitting on the other side of the Duchess of Cornwall. A few other carriages passed by carrying other royals such as Princess Eugenie, Prince Andrew, Prince Edward and at first I mistakenly thought Princess Alexandra was the Queen because she had a rather large hat on and I couldn’t see her face well. However when the Queen and Prince Philip finally came past there was definitely no mistaking her! Although with Prince Philip wearing his bearskin hat, at first I wondered who the guard sitting beside the Queen was, and why Prince Philip wasn’t with her!
I thought we would have a long wait in the middle while the actual parade happened at Horse Guards Parade, but because there were SO MANY troops and bands taking part, they just kept on coming and we only had about 45 minutes in the middle of just waiting. A lot of people moved closer to Horse Guards Parade after the procession finished, so we managed to snap up a recently vacated spot about 20m away, a bit closer to the fence with fewer trees and poles in the way.
At one point shortly before we expected the procession to start coming back, three or four cops moved in front of our spot, shoulder to shoulder. When people objected, they assured us they weren’t going to be there long, then grinned and struck a pose or jumped around as if intentionally trying to block people’s photos. I wish we’d thought to get a few shots of them messing around! Sure enough after about ten minutes they moved on and we had our good view back.
We got better photos of most of the royals coming back the other way as their carriages came down closer to our side of the street. However, we didn’t positively identify Prince Charles or Prince William throughout the entire procession, as neither of them were in the carriage with their wives. We assumed they must have been on horseback although we were not sure which they were (as everyone on horseback was in full uniform). If I’d been paying more attention though, I would have recognised Princess Anne on horseback and realised the other two beside her would have been Princes Charles and William, but fortunately we realised later we had reasonable photos of them anyway!
After the procession passed by, we headed down the Mall towards Buckingham Palace to watch several aircraft formations fly over, and to try and get some shots of the royal family on the balcony. I didn’t think we did too badly!
After Trooping the Colour we left straight away to get some lunch before going to the theatre to see The Lion King. The performance was fantastic – the music and singing was excellent (sound quality better than in Wicked) and the masks, costumes and puppets were spectacular – I can kind of understand why it’s the most expensive show on West End! The acting of the young Simba was a little lacking, particularly in the scene where Mufasa died (although that might have been the director’s decision too), and Andre was a bit distracted by the adult Simba’s accent (very British compared to many of the other accents that had African influences), but those were our only real criticisms. I found the female Rafiki a bit odd but she did an excellent job. It’s a very kid-friendly show and is very, very similar to the movie. As always with the theatre, no photos, although we got a photo of me & Michelle outside the theatre afterwards – on Michelle’s camera!