Talking of knees-up as I have been, and at the opposite end of the social spectrum to Mrs Stamford in Morpeth Street, here's a knee-up of a different variety as Trooper Campbell of the Queen's Lifeguards hops up on his horse.
The Household Cavalry much in evidence throughout Coronation day, as the bodyguard of the sovereign and the mounted Escort throughout the ceremonial, so a revealing look behind the scenes at Knightsbridge Barracks is provided for the people by Picture Post. I'll admit to being sadly fascinated by the 1953 detail.
The helmets are made from thin German silver which will take a high polish but dent very easily..
The axe traditionally borne by the farrier was originally for killing the horse if wounded in battle.
The Life Guardsman's plume on the helmet is made of whalebone, experiments with nylon so far not entirely satisfactory because it blows about in the wind too much. Other regiments use yak's-hair 'but being from Tibet, this is no longer easily come by.'
Seven hours a day is devoted to kit-cleaning, three hours for the horse's and four hours for the man's own. Each jackboot can take an hour.
Officers are expected to wear dark suits and bowler hats and to carry a rolled umbrella when out in London by day...that's a bit of a relief, imagine getting that plume stuck in the doors of the tube train.
Then there is the 'social exclusiveness' of the Horse Guards. This is 'unashamedly a corps d'elite and its officers are drawn from the same social background that their predecessors have always been drawn from.
All this came to mind as I reached the end of a lovely novella by Paul Gallico fittingly entitled Coronation. I nipped it onto my Kindle and read it this week, and as I did I thought of these pictures, and the notion of the social exclusivity, as young Jonny Clagg whiles away his days wishing he could be an Officer. When he eventually meets and shares that dream with a retired officer it is little wonder that the old man thinks carefully before he replies... keeping the hopes of a schoolboy dreamer alive whilst knowing how impossible that dream may be for a working class lad from Sheffield.
The hard-working Clagg family have hit upon a bargain, five tickets for window seats in a house along the Coronation route, with a champagne lunch thrown in; a steal at £10 each instead of 50 guineas and the family are unanimous... they will happily forgo their two week beach holiday in Morecombe to be in London for the big day. Well almost unanimous, Granny is unlikely to agree to anything but happy to go along for the chance to moan and carp. You or I may happily have seen her off on the wrong train but this is the long-suffering, family-faithful Claggs, and they embark on their big adventure at crack of dawn in the days when trains really did go dickety-clack dickety-clack.
Surely eleven-year old Jonny will see for himself the military might of which he dreams, while his seven-year old sister Gwennie will see a real Princess in a golden carriage. For their mother the chance to have a day off and drink champagne, and for Mr Clagg the sheer pleasure of providing for his family and witnessing their joy. Of course it's all bound to go pear-shaped, even in 1953 there was still no such thing as a free lunch, and I wanted to weep at the successive disappointments that the family endure.
But I wanted to weep even more for their thankfulness at the tiniest of mercies. For their unbounded optimism and resilience in the face of defeat, and for their ability to look on the bright side. Above all for their resistance in not pushing Granny under the nearest London to Edinburgh express.
It's a lovely little story, though predictable and of its time, but a reminder of the respect and reverence for Royalty that existed then, and the resilience and perseverance in the face of adversity that still resonated in those years after the war. But it has plenty to say obliquely about class differences too, about obedience to authority and thwarted attempts to best it.
It was fascinating to watch the original Coronation procession this week and see Sir Winston Churchill, Prime Minister again in 1953, looking formidable and no less redoubtable as he swayed along the aisle of the Abbey, fixing that glare on all he saw. Who would dare be anything but courageous under such leadership, thank goodness history sometimes sends along the right people at the right time.