This weekend, Diamond Jubilee festivities marking Queen Elizabeth II’s 60th year as ruling monarch will take place across the United Kingdom and the greater British Commonwealth. A momentous occasion, yes, but the timing is pretty artificial: some clever, climate-conscious Brits planned the events in sync with the Queen’s official “state birthday” — not her actual one, that’s in April — in hopes of having good weather so people can actually, you know, go outside. (Recent weather in the U.K. has been extremely pleasant, for the most part. But who would’ve expected that?)
Celebrations begin in the U.K. with a four-day holiday weekend that starts tomorrow and runs through Tuesday. Ever the well-behaved royal, Queen Elizabeth won’t celebrate the occasion with whipped cream and/or fruity flavored vodka shots licked off a toned palace guard’s stomach like you and I know deep down we would. Instead she’ll spend the time waving politely at fervent monarchists who are probably camped out already along various parade routes. That sort of magnanimous attitude is why she’s Queen (aside from that whole birth right deal, of course).
Naturally this is an event American royal lovers should celebrate with a fun theme party! Here’s a guide to planning yours.
THE QUEEN’S JUBILEE ITINERARY, SO YOU CAN SCHEDULE APPROPRIATELY
This is important — you don’t want your guests to be distracted by the pro-republic protestor-shaped pinata while the Queen’s doing something interesting.
Queen Elizabeth meeting “regular folk” during her Silver Jubilee celebrations back in 1977, when dresses made out of floral tablecloths were all the rage.
On Saturday she’ll attend a day at the races, then on Sunday she’ll ride the royal barge (which — providing a necessary touch of glamour considering it’s, well, a barge — is named Gloriana) as part of a special “Jubilee Pageant” procession along London’s River Thames. On Monday Paul McCartney and Elton John among others will perform a special concert. The grand finale comes on Tuesday with a service at St. Paul’s Cathedral, a quintessentially royal carriage procession back to Buckingham Palace, sure to be followed by more waving from the palace’s balcony. (Presumably, royal wedding flower girl Grace Van Cutsem will not be invited to that photo op, after stealing the show with her frowns at last year’s Royal Wedding, which is a shame.)
So the best time for Americans to throw a Jubilee party is probably Sunday at lunchtime, unless you’re really hardcore and can take Tuesday off for the big ceremony, which is what I advocate.
If you happen to have a big castle or stately home, great — use the great hall or the grand ballroom, and just cover it in Union Jack flags. Or, rather, have the servants do it. In fact, regardless of your party space’s grandeur, flags and matching bunting work anywhere, even if you must string it up yourself. Emblazon everything possible with Union Jack patterns — table cloths, napkins, your lips, etc.
And why not cover your walls with cute pictures of Queen Liz and other royals too? You’ll feel like a part of the family. A picture collage is a decorative touch that could well come in handy for party games too. (See: “Fun & Games” below.)
Don’t worry about buying any Jubilee-themed merchandise, because t’s too late for international shipping at this point. Sad faces all around. As it happens though, any/all of your elderly British relatives will have stocked up on enough tea towels, mugs (but not the ones featuring the Queen Mother instead of the Queen herself), teapots, and terrible commemorative guidebooks to pass on to you as gifts for the next few years, or until the next big Royal hoedown. If you don’t have British relatives, well, sucks to be you — but take solace in knowing most of the memorabilia is crap.
Clearly, this is the only acceptable option:
But fine, if you don’t feel that daring, just dress smart — it’s a serious occasion after all; perhaps enforce a strictly pastels-only color scheme for your guests in honor of the Queen’s ever-reserved wardrobe. As always, Union Jack-themed accessories or trimmings constitute an acceptable bending of this rule. And human party-goers would be gauche if they dressed up royal-like, pets are allowed — I mean, this is too cute:
Oh, and did I mention HATS? Big, extravagant, nonsensical hats are an absolute must. It’s what Her Majesty would expect want. Make a crafty competition out of the headwear stakes even, and let the winning maddest hatter switch his/her fascinator for a replica crown. (In my wildest dreams the Royals actually play this game after their Christmas dinner each year, except with a real crown for the champ, natch. Poor Camilla Parker-Bowles never wins.)
FOOD & DRINK
Avoid greasy foods at all costs, and sadly, yes, that means no fish’n’chips (here’s why). Instead, serve platters of garden party-worthy nibbles, most of which are as easy to prepare as the obligatory cucumber sandwiches. How to make: thinly slice cucumbers and place between two pieces of buttered bread — but only just before serving or else the cucumber gets soggy. Make sure to cut off any bread crusts or you’ll look like a pauper.
So, to review, this is right:
This is wrong:
Other demure sandwich fillings include egg salad, tuna salad, slices of those horrid wet-looking processed meats from a supermarket deli counter, or corned beef. On the side, coronation chicken is a must (the lightly-spiced dish was designed for Queen Elizabeth’s coronation back in ’53), as are sausage rolls. Also, just skewer things on cocktail sticks — British people love that shit. Cocktail weiners, cheese and pineapple, anything goes.
CUPCAKE QUEEN. Now THIS is how you eat a queen — but be polite and start with the blue background.
For dessert, patriotic cupcakes must be consumed. Other traditional options include jellies and trifle, Victoria sponges (named after Queen Victoria, the only other monarch enthroned long enough for a Diamond Jubilee), and novelty biscuits with pictures of the Royal family on them. Artsy types could even ice them by hand, and if your frosting skills leave the Queen looking a bit messy, just cite this classic (and controversial) portrait painted by Lucian Freud as inspiration.
As for beverages, just drink tea: regular tea, green tea, iced tea, Long Island iced tea, sweet tea, sweet tea-flavored vodka — it all counts. (The best choice would be Twinings brand, as that’s the Queen’s favorite.) For variety’s sake though, break out some Pimm’s — it’s a gin-based liquor and the landed gentry’s tipple-of-choice, at least stereotypically.
BREATHLESS MEDIA COVERAGE TO FOLLOW
While there will be next to nothing on British TV other than coverage of these events (and soap operas, which never stop) for the whole four days, in the U.S. you’ll have to settle for streaming on BBC America, which offers the following Jubilee programming:
• The big boat procession live on Sunday at 8:30 a.m. EST
• Tuesday’s full program of events from 4:15 a.m. through 7:45 a.m. and 9 a.m. to 11 a.m.
Everyone knows you got up ass early to watch the Royal Wedding, so you can obviously set another alarm for this.
Also expect hysterical morning show coverage from CBS and NBC over the weekend into Tuesday; Piers Morgan is doing something for CNN, if he’s more your speed. The only event that won’t air live Stateside in some form is Monday night’s concert, which ABC landed the rights to — their 2-hour special, featuring interviews with Prince William and Prince Harry, airs on Tuesday night at 9/8c, so perhaps consider planning your party date/time to coincide with that. You can play a drinking game and take a shot (of Pimm’s!) every time Katie Couric gets flirty, or better yet, when Price Harry does.
For times when royal things aren’t happening on TV, stream quality films about British royalty — The King’s Speech, The Queen, Spice World: the Movie, etc. If nothing else, a good Queen Latifah movie will do, because, wait for it, she “rules” too. I recommend Taxi, or Last Holiday. (Be warned, the latter will make you cry and/or develop awkward lusty feelings for a frumpy-looking LL Cool J.)
If you need some music, just play the British national anthem on repeat. Or cheat, and play some One Direction, just pretend they’re singing “What Makes You Beautiful” to the Queen herself.
FUN & GAMES
It’s time for Jubilee bingo! Yay!
Make up your own bingo cards full of events that are likely/unlikely to occur during the festivities, and then check them off as they happen. Above is one I’ve started for you, because I’m nice like that.
And another a good party game: make all your guests stick the name of a royal family member on their forehead. By getting obtuse hints from other players, they’ll have to work out which blue-blood they are! Almost as much fun as shooting
peasants pheasants. Sample hints: “just a little bit racist” (Prince Phillip), “sucked some guy’s toes” (Sarah Ferguson), “dead now” (Henry VIII — tough clue, but there you go, some people get competitive like that).
Pick them all up from Party Pieces, the company owned by future Queen Kate Middleton’s parents. You never know, she may have breathed on or even touched one of those tacky little novelties.
PARTY-PLANNING GUIDE BONUS: A HANGOVER CURE
Since your party will inevitably end with guests looking like this, you’ll need a good ol’ fashioned fry-up the next morning.