Royal wedding isn't just for mugs

29th April 2011 at 01:00

Today is the day when William and Catherine make it legal. It's kind of them to choose today, because it's my birthday and for the first time in my career I won't have to spend it in school. I have already had a word with the missus and ordered breakfast in bed, and I'm toying with the idea of watching a bit of the royal wedding to say thank you to the happy couple for giving me the day off.

I wonder what children make of royalty these days. I was brought up in the 1950s, a time of far greater deference, and my mother was an ardent royalist. I remember her writing to the Queen when my sister was born, letting her know she had named her daughter Elizabeth. Shortly afterwards she received a letter from a lady-in-waiting, stating that the Queen was indeed delighted to learn of my mother's decision and wished her daughter much health and happiness. My mother placed the letter at the centre of the mantelpiece and proudly read it to everyone who visited.

I was very young when King George VI died, and I remember little about it other than the neighbours being in a sombre mood. But I have the sharpest memories of the coronation and all the preparations for it. Special coronation flower beds in our local parks, parties and exciting local celebratory events. On the big day, half our street crowded into Mrs Jones's lounge to watch her rented telly, and we peered at the fuzzy screen trying to make out what was happening. The rain didn't help, but the adults in the room seemed to find it all very exciting. After an hour, I had had enough and I went into the garden with my mates to play English against the Germans, which was much more fun.

At school, every child was given a special book with photos of the new queen and her duke. Even more exciting, we were also given a coronation propelling pencil. This seemed beautifully made to me - shining red metal with a tiny golden crown on the top. My new friend Neville declared that the Queen had personally decreed that the crowns were to be made from real gold, and I treasured the pencil until I found that Neville was rather prone to telling porkies.

Since the royal couple were rarely out of the news, and often journeyed around the Commonwealth, our teachers capitalised on their travels after the coronation. We were instructed to follow the royal tour across Canada and create a detailed scrapbook. There would be a prize for the one judged the best. I remember many hours spent scouring the newspapers for photos and information, enthusiastically assisted by my mother and a pot of flour-and-water paste. I didn't win, probably because my father, a talented artist, had designed the cover of my scrapbook and the teacher didn't believe me when I said my art had suddenly improved.

Interestingly, my outstanding memory of the tour is a photo of the Queen returning, stepping down from the plane and greeting her little son by shaking his hand instead of giving him a hug. My mother thought it a very odd thing to do, adding, darkly, that he might grow into a very strange adult if he was starved of affection as a little boy.

And now, many disastrous royal weddings later, we have Will and Kate and my birthday. I hope my family will give me some appropriate gifts. What I really wish for, of course, is one of those mugs made in China that sported a picture of Harry and Kate by mistake. In years to come they will be worth a fortune on eBay.

Mike Kent is headteacher at Comber Grove Primary, Camberwell, south London. Email:

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