I knew from the map it was at the end of St. James Park, and indeed, I could see it in the distance. So I headed over to visit for the first time since 1981. I didn’t have the courage to ring the doorbell though.
In 1981 I don’t remember the street in front of Buckingham Palace being closed, but as I have observed from time to time, my memory can be inaccurate. I do know that back then there were no tours of the palace, as I gather you can arrange now if you are willing to part with $50 for the privilege. Her Majesty may be almost as rich as J.K. Rowling, but it is a property richness. She needs the income from the tours to maintain the buildings. Plus, these days she pays income tax.
I didn’t have a tour planned, and it turns out they are only offered in the summer anyway. The Queen must take a vacation then. We have some mutual acquaintances, so I really did think about ringing the doorbell to see if she was home and saying “hi.” but figured there was no way they would let me through the gates to where I think the bell is located. That’s the sort of thing you have to arrange in advance.
Being royal is a straitjacket. I told my children they could be and do whatever they wanted when they grew up. Subject to their abilities of course. My six-foot-three son isn’t going to be a thoroughbred horse jockey. My daughter isn’t going to win the NHL scoring title. But there are few restrictions on their future.
Elizabeth II really couldn’t tell her children that. They had no option, they are part of the family business; they were born to be royal.
Which is why I have sympathy for Prince Charles. He’s 68-years-old and has spent his life training and waiting to do one particular job. It’s a job he won’t get to do until his mother dies.
What sort of life is that? Most of us ascend to the pinnacle of our careers long before retirement age. And we don’t have to hope for our mother’s death so we can show our skills. Some days he must be emotionally conflicted.
It is not as if he really has a choice. I suppose he could at some point have taken himself out of the line of succession and gone off to do his own thing. His uncle Edward did that. But there is a tradition in that family, dare I say a calling, to public service. Edward was an exception. Charles is a traditionalist. If his mother lives to the same age as her mother did, Charles will become King at about age 80. He’s got money and prestige, but I don’t think I’d want to trade places with him.
Those thoughts were running through my mind as I looked through the fence at the palace. As someone raised on the image of medieval castles, Buckingham Palace is a bit of a disappointment. I’m sure it is beautiful inside, but the exterior doesn’t seem very interesting to me. I guess palaces don’t need moats and things like that.
Like so much of history, it is what it represents that is more important than the building itself. As the monarch’s home it is a symbol of England, and a reminder of a past that has not yet vanished, though perhaps the memory of it is starting to fade.
That might be a discussion for another day. Or did I talk about that already here?