The queue…

I had the chance, many years ago, to queue up and pass under the dome of the U.S. Capitol while Ronald Reagan lay in state. That line stretched through switchbacks down the Mall from the foot of the West Front stairs down towards the Washington Monument. The wait lasted 8 or 9 hours through the night. Coming out of the darkened and muted Capitol just as the sun was rising will be something I remember for the rest of my life.

That long ago queue was nothing compared to the lines now formed for those waiting to file into Westminster Hall and past the coffin of Queen Elizabeth II. It’s the queue to end all queues. As I write this, the line stands somewhere around five miles long and has as estimated 14 hour through time from end to end. The Government attempted to pause new entries on Friday morning, but people kept coming on in a volume that almost implies there will need to a queue for those waiting to join the queue. It will certainly grow even longer as the weekend gets properly underway.

The queue, in all of its absurdist five mile glory, is almost the apotheosis of Britishness. It’s a sight to see, something to behold in its own right – the last mark of tribute to the late Sovereign from the people she served so long and so well.

I don’t tend to be someone who lives in regret, but I already know not jumping on a flight to London earlier this week and sorting out the rest of the details in transit will be a lingering regret of a lifetime. Timing, finances, and assorted personal responsibilities conspired to make that an impossible lift. Although my body remains firmly here in Cecil County today, my heart is most assuredly in the queue. 

In triumph shall wave…

20060809101028Today we celebrate the 200th anniversary of American victory at the Battle of Baltimore. At dawn on September 14th, 1814 a 30×42 foot flag was raised over the embattled Ft. McHenry. After 25 hours of bombardment by a numerically superior British force the American Army held it’s position, securing the entrance to Baltimore’s harbor and denying the British invaders a second major victory following their sack of Washington.

At seeing this massive flag flying over the fort’s battlements, a Maryland lawyer, Francis Scott Key, was so moved that he noted his thoughts in the form of a poem – Defence of Fort M’Henry – that would serve as the lyrical basis for America’s national anthem.

If the American Revolution gave birth to our republic, the War of 1812 – and the Battle of Baltimore – confirmed that the new nation would be preserved and not restored to the dominion of a far away monarch.