Derailed

Kensington Palace is undergoing cosmetic architectural surgery and a total facelift to the grounds. The ambitious plan to remove most of the railing to “encourage a more intimate connection with the Palace and the Park itself”, by removing the physical and some might feel mental barrier between the great house and the public. Republicans might rejoice at another barrier being removed between the privileged few and the citizens of England, but what next?

[D]aily I see crowds of tourists, noses pressed against Buckingham Palace’s railings, are these to be removed to provide a more intimate connection?

During the war most of the fashionable houses of London were shorn of their railings, the metal was needed for the war effort, so to retain one’s own was at the very least unpatriotic, in fact very little of this wrought iron was ever used – but hey, there was a war on.

Now cast your mind back to late September of 1997, Tony Blair had recently won a convincing victory for New Labour and the young were optimistic of a brave new world for Britain.

Then tragedy struck the young icon (and that’s not an exaggeration) of their generation – Lady Diana died in a Paris underpass. Within days a sea of flowers had been placed around Kensington Palace, each bearing a note expressing the outpourings of so many lives.

We were living through a seismic moment in our nation’s history, not just in the perception of the English character but also in our attitude to the Monarchy. Britain almost overnight lost its stiff upper lip and we started acting like, and here it pains me to say it – Europeans.

Day after day I would be taking distressed; grieving girls to lay flowers in what had become a very visible break with our staid Victorian post.

And those railings became the focus of the media; every day the field of flowers grew, and the railing began to symbolise the division of Queen and her subjects. The railings became a secular altar as a place to grieve for the loss of the hopes and dreams for England. So those railings are in short history.

We often have to decide what to keep and what to obliterate, only time can judge our decisions which we make today. But I fear that the Simon Schama of future generations when educating our great grandchildren about the late 20th century might say a few words of criticism at the decision to destroy this symbol of England.

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