One of the more remarked upon contents of The Queen’s Speech, during the State Opening of Parliament this week, was not so much what Her Madge said… as who was sitting on her right hand side.
Yes, for the first time in 17 years, HRH attended the State Opening alongside his mama, and alongside him was the Duchess, looking really rather splendid. You may have heard the news that the Queen is planning to do a little less this year. While this will doubtless be a disappointment it does rather make sense. We certainly don’t do abdications Dutch style but it’s rather nice, and quite right, as your parents get older, to be able to help share the load, is it not?
Anyway, I was reflecting on all this as I was cycling down the Mall the other day. You will of course be familiar with the stony grey hulk of Buckingham Palace at its western end, simultaneously one of the most famous and most ugly of the London landmarks; and you will of course know that Prince Charles lives at Clarence House, the Queen Mother’s old house, just next door, which is rather more beautiful being designed by Nash (like the back of Buckingham Palace, before it got refaced by Blore and then in that heavy Edwardian dress by Aston Webb a year before the First World War).
But I wonder if you’ve spotted a quiet revolution that’s been going on in the Mall for a few years now? Yes, it’s the least revolutionary address in Britain, I suppose – but this is real.
I can’t quite remember when it was that I first noticed the wonderful wildflower meadows that now stretch all along the tall brick walls of Clarence House and Marlborough House Gardens. Certainly three years ago, maybe a couple more. It was a sight of quiet beauty back then, and year after year it’s just been getting better and better.
Regular readers of this blog will know that I’ve got a thing about Cow Parsley… let’s face it – probably the most beautiful flower on earth (May 2011, May 2010, and lots of other posts around about the same time of year)… So it is with particular fascination that I’ve been watching what I am sure were once neatly mown regimental lawns… turn in to this:
The camassias are perfect touch, a counterpoint to the paler blue…
But the black and purple tulips are even more spectacular
Queen of the Night tulips are like jewels against the light. The trick, I think, is to plant the bulbs very deep if you want to naturalise them in grass. Of course Prince Charles is rather a master at creating tulip meadows, as we know, with the famous wildflower meadows at Highgrove, so none of this should be any surprise to anyone at all.
If you’ve been drinking in the quiet beauty of the Clarence House planting, it’s all the more of a shock to turn the corner in to the flowerbeds surrounding the giant Victoria Memorial, that fronts Buckingham Palace.
See what I mean?!
Now we all know that I’ve got nothing against tulips. I love them. And I’ve got nothing against wallflowers. I adore them as much if not more. Let’s face it, I even love tasteless flower colours – my ever-too-slightly-salmon-orange tulips at the Parsonage being a fairly good case in point. I don’t want to be the pot calling the kettle black.
But I am afraid try as I might I do have something against that planting combo. I’d actually be quite interested to see the scarlet tulips and the forget-me-nots growing out of the dark red wallflowers; and the yellow tulips out of the lemon wallflowers, perhaps with a bit of darker yellow wrapped in there… but HELLO!?!?!?! This is bonkers.
But I somehow suspect The Queen finds it very very cheery to look down upon such a display. I bet she peers out of the tall windows of Buckingham Palace just before David Cameron is coming for tea and feels, well, a little less gloomy. Better, after all, to be looking at some riotous tulips than riotous subjects.
Well, my hunch tells me – than in time to come these beds will subtly change. Or even radically. Yes… if I was those vivid tulips and wallflowers I’d be feeling a trifle nervous seeing Prince Charles sitting at the right hand of The Queen at the State Opening of Parliament. And taking a little more role in the life of the nation…
I’d be even more nervous if I was this bit of desolate lawn to the South of Buckingham Palace and Victoria Memorial. Can it be so very long before this is a glorious, beautiful, soft, mixed meadow grassland? I think that I’m rather looking forward to the future.