I cannot imagine that anybody is unaware of the marriage of the British Prince Harry to the American actress Meghan Markle, now the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, last weekend.
I love living in beautiful Coastal Georgia, but there are times when I get a little homesick. The British do a great job of uniting around the monarchy and occasionally demonstrating some serious national pride.
It feels a bit strange not to be back in the land of my birth during these celebrations. My husband says that he felt the same when Thanksgiving and July 4th rolled around each year back when we lived in England.
This time I decided to be proactive, so I organized a fullon British experience for the day with British family members, who live in Atlanta and joined us for the weekend.
Obviously, TV broadcasts of the wedding began at 4 a.m., as the U.K. is five hours ahead of the Eastern time zone, so the festivities began in the wee hours for us.
We were up early, kicking off the day watching BBC America to make it just a little more “British.” We drank Earl Grey tea out of our Union Jack (British flag) mugs, while wearing patriotic British PJs.
We could not be prouder of how well the U.K. undertakes the pomp and ceremony of a royal wedding, how American traditions were incorporated, and how the Queen in particular has moved with the times and embraced the choice of her youngest grandson.
I was thrilled that the royal couple chose to marry in Windsor because my husband and I lived there during the early years of our marriage and regularly shopped and dined in view of Windsor castle.
It is a beautiful, traditional English town that benefited on the day from some rare and perfect English weather. Clear blue skies and warm temperatures are not the norm, but I could not be more thrilled that the weather cooperated for this marriage of two wonderful, socially-involved people who come from the two nations I love.
After watching the wedding ceremony, we fortified ourselves with British bacon butties, which is what the British call a bacon sandwich. However, these are a lot different to American BLTs and prepared with imported British “back” bacon, which is a cross between Canadian ham and American bacon, and served on white buttered bread with tomato ketchup or HP brown sauce.
Watching the British celebrate the wedding in a pretty English town decorated with patriotic bunting (as the British always call patriotic flag displays) and good old-fashioned street parties brought back many fond memories.
Street parties in the U.K. started in 1919 as ‘Peace Teas’ after World War I as a treat for children during those times of hardship. They became especially popular at the time of the queen’s silver jubilee in 1977 and for royal weddings and jubilees over subsequent years.
Roads are closed for traffic and huge tables are set up on the street for residents to enjoy classic British tea time fare (visit www.history.co.uk for more information).
While we did not try to encourage my Georgia neighbors to eat British food outside in sweltering humidity and thunderstorms, we did bake and prepare some traditional British food to enjoy before we dressed in pretty dresses and hats – standard dress for British weddings instead of the very American tuxedos and evening dresses.
Our traditional feast included:
• Smoked salmon and cucumber sandwiches daintily prepared and very thin with crusts removed and cut into triangles.
• Plain scones, freshly baked and served with strawberry jam (which is what the British call “jelly” since the word “jelly” is used to describe “jello”) and clotted cream, a thick, heavy cream imported from the U.K. in small glass jars.
• A Victoria sponge cake, which is two layers of plain sponge (the closest American description is angel food cake) with unsweetened whipped cream and raspberry jam sandwiched in between them. This cake was named in honor of Queen Victoria during the second half of the 19th century. A dear American friend living in England sent me a fun gift of cake decorations of the royal family, including crowns and corgis, the Queen’s favorite dog breed, so we put these to good use, as well.
On reflection, I really enjoyed embracing our Britishness for the day, and we had some fun celebrating the royal family and royal wedding.
I say goodbye this week with a quote from Gianni Versace, which I think the new Duchess of Sussex would agree, and which reflects the changing modern British Royal family: “In the past, people were born royal. Nowadays, royalty comes from what you do.”
God bless America, and as we say in the British Isles, God save the Queen!