Monday, January 31, 2011

Gone for a soldier

I took the boy up to The Mall on Sunday to watch the annual march of civil war re-enactors. No, not the civil war that I grew up with, but that older one - Cavaliers v. Roundheads. I've been living in London for over a decade - but I'd never heard of this gathering (fourth Sunday of every January) which commemorates the execution of King Charles and the brief establishment of republican government in England. I couldn't tell if they were celebrating or commiserating (though some of them were laying a wreath) - but since I suppose there were some for both camps, they'd chosen to draw a veil over the old rivalries.

Buddy loves his knights, so I assumed he'd like some of these 17th century blokes who stand somewhere in between knights of old and modern soldiers in terms of uniforms. And since I'd been away for work for a couple of days, I thought I'd take him into town for a bit of treat.

When we arrived at Green Park station, it seemed a little more crowded than I'd anticipated and as we walked through the park I could see hordes of people around Buckingham Palace. Turns out it was changing of the guard time (I didn't even know they did it in the winter, but they do - every other day instead of daily in the warmer months). We hit The Mall just in time to see the guards arriving in all good pomp and playing a suitably militaristic tune.

The boy was enthralled.

Watching the guards

And although he enjoyed it when one of the re-enactors showed him how a match lock worked, he wasn't as excited by the civil war stuff as I thought he might be.

Learning how to fire a match lock

We followed the march all the way down to Horse Guards Parade, but he lost interest as they milled around before ostensibly forming a square. (Inadvertently, and despite the steward's advice we managed to line up between opposing armies).

Form up

But he got excited again when he dashed into the museum of the household cavalry. I refused to pay for entry, as I've already had more than a lifetime's share of regimental museums touring around with his father and I wouldn't have wanted the Vol-in-Law to miss out on the opportunity. I had to literally drag him away from the displays.

He was intrigued by those standing guard as well, though he didn't want to pose with the sentry as many tourists do.

Household cavalry

I couldn't quite understand why he was so interested a couple of bored squaddies, when there was a whole history parade going on outside with many of the members of the civil war society ready - eager even - to be nice and explain stuff.

But then I thought - even a three year old can tell the difference between a serving soldier and some middle aged, slightly nerdy, history buffs. And those household cavalry types are pretty intriguing. We saw some at the Wimbledon stables open day a few months ago - and those tall young fellows with their polished breastplates, snug uniforms and their thigh-high shiny boots...the boy could hardly tear his eyes away and to be honest, I had trouble looking elsewhere, too. Those uniforms were designed to make the girls swoon and the boys sign up.

Household Cavalry Helmet

And it looks like they've found a potential recruit.


Anonymous said...

A humorless soldier for a grandson????? Surely not.

Minnie said...

Fascinating that B could tell the difference between the real and the re-enactor: good for him!
Although that particular civil war (we had others, you know!) resulted in a protectorate rather than a republic, with Cromwell overall in charge + his (not especially appreciated) major-generals supposedly overseeing the regions. The m-gs did such things as ride around with their entourages closing down taverns - which latter promptly re-opened as soon as the offending parties had ridden away a safe distance!

Lived in Wimbledon for years, although left more than a decade ago: do give it my love.