This morning is the final parade of the King’s Troop through St John’s Wood, where the kids’ school is located, and where this horse troop been barracked for, some accounts say, over 200 years. As you know, we Hesketts have only been quartered in the general vicinity for 5 months, but I’ve grown very fond of this troop in that time. Often they take the entire troop of horses, as well as the wheeled artillery, through the streets for exercises on weekday mornings. You hear them before you see them, of course, and what a sight and sound! Anyone who likes horses AT ALL should love this. They are gorgeous animals, ridden sometimes 2×2 in a long line with the cannons at back, and sometimes 3 abreast with only one rider in the middle leading the other two close to them by the reins (or whatever… you know I don’t know horse terms!). It is such an impressive sight, we always just stop what we’re doing and watch them, glad for tradition and a chance to take in such a thing. Sometimes they even come by Belsize Park, and I can hear them clomping from inside the flat– yes, I drop what I’m doing and run outside to watch, though they’re usually about past by the time I get out there.
The King’s Troop was (re)named after the last King George (yes, Colin Firth, to most of us Americans!), who was fond of them and rather brought them back to prominence after WWII, giving them an increasing role in official British pomp and pageantry. They were part of his funeral, as well as part of the Queen Mother’s more recently. Queen Elizabeth 2 decided to continue the “King’s Troop” name when she became the sovereign, in honor of her father’s affection for the unit. I just think the whole little story– an itty bitty little shard of a story in a great tapestry– is charming and wonderful and all disappearing too fast.
That’s another reason I think it’s so sad that the Troop is moving out of central London, besides the fact that I simply won’t get to see the horses anymore. I’ve heard that the reason they’re leaving is that the government received an astronomical offer for the barracks land here in St John’s Wood– a high rent district even by London standards. So this great old tradition will likely be replaced by some developer’s vision of upscale housing to make a premium on his investment. Hugely depressing. In current economic times, when austerity is the word, I guess you have to credit the gov’t for thinking of budgetary gains. But then you start to wonder which parts of the Royal Parks will be sold off next.
In a recent momversation on the playground, a friend commented that the only time her child had ever been late for school was the day his dad took him and they stopped to watch the horses. The group all shook their heads– ‘isn’t that just like a Dad?’ But my thought was– ‘of course you stop to watch the horses!’ In my book, five or ten minutes lost at the beginning of the day is well worth the tradeoff of seeing a small bit of history parade by– especially when that history is disappearing before our eyes.
I’m happy to say the lower school classes will all be out to send off the King’s Troop today. They march by on the St John’s Wood High Street in about an hour, and I’m in a cafe waiting to watch. Claire and Quinn have been talking about it for weeks. The school has been rehearsing a song to serenade them with:
(to the tune of “It’s a Long Way to Tipperary”)
It’s a long way to Woolwich Arsenal,
it’s a long way to go.
It’s a long way to Woolwich Arsenal,
for the sweetest Troop I know.
Farewell Leicester Square,
it’s a long way to Woolwich Arsenal,
but our hearts are there!
I’ll be singing along.
(P.S.– A little cheat here… I had to wait until I got home to post this anyway, so I uploaded my iPhone pictures to add. Hope you like them!)