The Queen comes to UEA

Not a title I can say everyday on my blog is it? In fact, the last time the Queen was here at UEA was, according to UEA’s website, in 1994 when she opened The Queens’ Building in the School of Health Sciences. For the occasion today she had come to see an exhibition about Fiji at the Sainsbury Centre. This exhibition “Fiji: Art & Life in the Pacific” has been getting quite the press, being “the most comprehensive exhibition about Fiji ever assembled” and was even opened by the President of Fiji, Jioji Konousi Konrote, in October. My hero David Attenborough also made a visit last semester (unfortunately it was less advertised, so I didn’t hear about his attendance until afterwards, and so I didn’t go to see him)!

Luke and I walked from the house and arrived around 10.30 in the morning by the centre. People were just starting to gather, but we got in 30 minutes before official sources had suggested for people to gather (they didn’t want to give a specific time for her arrival). Emily and David had gone a good hour before us, the eager bunnies, but I didn’t fancy waking up that early in the morning to get a good spot. Turns out I got to have a lie in and still manage to stand pretty much next to them in the crowd. I did enjoy making fun of them and pointing out the irony of the situation of us rocking up so much later and still scoring the same view. Another hour flew by, and we watched security and officials walk around and make things ready for the big welcome. As some cute primary schools got guided to the front lines by the red carpet and Fijian warriors lined up ready for the greet, we knew she must be around the corner. Sure enough the range rover pulled up and she stepped out. The crowds cheered, the kids waves their Fiji-British flags especially made for the day and the Queen received some flowers before she walked inside and greeted more representatives of the university and the exhibition. After she walked in, the camera crews started filming the buzzing audience, and Sky news even interviewed David and Emily! I took a picture of their moment of fame. They both ended up on Sky News later that evening for their thoughts on the Queen’s work ethics, but turns out Luke also had an (unvoluntary) moment to shine on Mustard TV (local news channel) as a guy next to us got interviewed too and Luke stood in the background. All very exciting!!

 

After 30 minutes we understood a subtle hint by one of the nice security men (despite him saying he would not be allowed to comment), when asked by a guy we stood next to in the crowd, to maybe consider relocating for her exit if we wished to catch another glimpse of her as she left. We realised some people had gathered around the front of the Sainsbury centre’s glass facade and headed over in that direction. We caught her unveiling a plaque before exiting through the suddenly opening glass door (I always thought it was all windows) into her Range Rover as a choir comprised of Fijians currently settled locally in the UK performed.

Watching this tiny Lady get into her car was quite intense actually. This seemingly ordinary human putting her bag and flowers on the middle seat before stepping in with her lady-in-waiting. How ordinary, yet how iconic this person is. Literally the most famous person in the world. The symbol of the British Monarch, one of the most historical and most influential institutions in human history. The monarch is pretty much tied up in every culture and countries’ history at some point or another (for better and for worse). To see this phenomena in the flesh is sort of an experience I can’t quite put my finger on. I felt close to history in a way that I have never felt before. It felt strange as I feel like in my lifetime I might just see both an iconic reigning Queen descendant from a line of power holders that once ruthlessly ruled an empire across the globe, to perhaps seeing an end to it all and it all being abolished. It does feel like an end to an era right? I can’t see monarchies having a role much longer in contemporary western society. I do like the Queen as a person though, she seems like a dignified, intelligent, hard- working woman, and I can respect that immensely. My selfish feminist side quite enjoys the thought that one of the most politically respected people in the world is a woman, it makes a change from the pretty “masculine” depiction of authority!

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I didn’t bother taking any pictures of The Queen herself, as I actually wanted to enjoy the experience with my own eyes and not through a screen. It was such a brief moment anyway, I was quite far away and I only have my phone with me, so I thought what’s the point trying to take a crappy photo of her and missing the moment, when hundreds of others around me were going to do it for me anyway (embarrassingly so actually), including professionals. I did take a little picture of the car and red carpet though, after she had walked inside. 

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I dare you to spot all the people in the background not on their phone during the big moment. 

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A picture I grabbed off ITV’s website. Can you see Emily on the left in the front row in a red scarf? And Luke under the hammer (??)  Honestly, I was so close to being in frame, I’m next to the girl in a purple hat and in front of Luke, but I’m being masked my the Fijian warrior”s shoulder. Haha, oh well! 

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