Queen launches Diamond Jubilee tour in multicultural Leicester

Note: This article is from the Guardian.


Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article titled “Queen launches diamond jubilee tour in multicultural Leicester” was written by Caroline Davies, for The Guardian on Thursday 8th March 2012 19.12 UTC

In 60 years of public appearances, the Queen’s itineraries have always been meticulously planned to subtly impart the desired message.

So her decision to launch her diamond jubilee tour in Leicester today surely conveyed the wish to spotlight the multicultural Britain that has evolved since she acceded to the throne in 1952.

Sikh dhol drummers, a Zimbabwean women’s choir, the Kibworth brass band, Chinese dancers and a Hindu Holi festival dance number were all part of the mix as the monarch, Prince Philip and the Duchess of Cambridge visited what is set to become Britain’s first plural city, where no ethnic group will form a majority, by 2019.

In another sign of changing times, the royal party swapped the royal train for a scheduled service – first-class seats on the 10.15 from St Pancras – for the day trip, though they did fly back by helicopter.

Thousands turned out, supplied with some 10,000 union flags by the city council, to showcase Leicester’s patriotism. This is something of a golden period for the city, with news of local crooner Engelbert Humperdinck’s planned assault on Eurovision, and the excitement was palpable.

Outside De Montfort University, a short walkabout by the royals prompted a Mexican wave of digital cameras and cameraphones as a 4,000-strong crowd – many of them students – strained to capture the moment. “Everyone is so excited and screaming loudly,” Rozita Kiralova, a student, said.

Inside, the Queen, 85, in cerise cashmere, and the 30-year-old duchess, in a teal LK Bennett suit, watched a fashion show of designs by graduates. “I’ve been to a fashion show before,” Kate told the university chancellor, Lord Waheed Alli, the multimillionaire media entrepreneur and chairman of the fashion website Asos.

“I told her, I know, I saw it on the news this morning,” said Alli, later, referring to the photograph of the student duchess in the see-through slip dress in which she first, apparently, caught Prince William’s eye on a catwalk at St Andrews University a decade ago.

Shoes were something of a theme to the day. The Queen got to look at a pair of old boots, made in 1895 by a Leicester cobbler and given to a previous royal, Princess May of Teck, later Queen Mary.

The duchess will get a handmade pair designed for her, which she chose from six designs submitted by students at the university. “Overwhelmed,” gasped a near-tearful Becka Hunt, 20, whose royal blue, suede-embroidered, four-inch heels won.

Meanwhile, Prince Philip, 90, was observing robot wars in another part of the campus.

For the duchess, there at Buckingham Palace’s suggestion, it was another chance to watch a pro at work, and throughout the day she seemed happily relaxed chatting away to Her Majesty.

The four-hour visit included royal staples: a multi-faith cathedral service, plaque unveilings, gathering posies from small children. The impressively-titled Queen’s Supplier of Nosegays, Leicester florist Rosemary Mason, had provided flowers for the occasion.

There was lunch for the great and good at St Martin’s House, where guests were served local lamb, prepared by chefs at the city’s Maiyango restaurant. It was selected by royal testers from a sample menu and the Queen’s preference was for “medium to well done, with no blood”, chef Phil Sharpe revealed ahead of the visit. The others, he confided to the local paper, would get it “a bit pinker”.

Jubilee business has been brisk, with Fenwick of Leicester on its third order of £5.25 diamond jubilee tea towels, while cake cases and stands at a gift shop bore images of the Queen’s face.

It was the first of 20 such UK awaydays to be conducted by the Queen, Britain’s oldest and second longest-reigning monarch.

The campaign group Republic staged a small protest in the city as part of a programme of planned protests to “question and challenge the record of our head of state”, its chief executive, Graham Smith, said. Failure by the BBC to feature the protest in its coverage prompted the group to accuse the corporation of “suppressing republican views” and to announce a protest outside its London HQ.

The main focus of the jubilee celebrations will be over the weekend of 2-5 June, which will see a flotilla of 1,000 vessels on the Thames in London and an open-air concert at Buckingham Palace. So far, 3,500 applications for street parties have been made to councils.

guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010

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