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Coronation Street

The British Royal family is something of a national treasure. There is a joke that goes with that opening statement, but I will not repeat it here. Like a great many things British we borrowed it from another country, not the joke, the family you understand.

Prince Charles has been waiting in the wings for his chance to become King Charles I I I. Given the track record of the previous two I am in no hurry to see a crown on his head, nothing personal Charles.

The amount of detail on the reverse of the cards has to be read to be believed

If history has taught us anything it should have signalled the end of the Monarchy. Interesting idea but probably an example of the limits of historical association. The situation we presently find ourselves in is quite similar to the end of the 19th century with Queen Victoria. That situation probably has more to teach us than the English Civil War.

The last King was George VI and his coronation was accompanied by a mountain of cigarette card issues. It is easy to suggest England was more pro-royal at this period but such Royal events tend to bring out the tea-towel buying brigade.

The Royal family call themselves ' The Firm' in private. Quite possibly they represent what a firm would look like if it existed for 1000 years without any real need to change business practice. Windsor castle was seriously damaged by fire a few years back and it was discovered not to be insured. With a tug of the forelock the taxpayer footed the bill. Nice business to be in.

The abdication of Edward VIII meant that Wills had a set of cards which were not really worth the card they were printed on. So the set, The Life of H.M King Edward VIII was pulped. Like so often a few sets escaped this process and are now one of the cigarette card rarities.

Anyway I am going a little off track here as I want to poke fun at the coronation ceremony. No better opportunity is given me than Players, Coronation series, ceremonial dress [1937]. The set itself being part of the mountain of cards produced for the Coronation.

For this reason card 1 has King George VI on it. It explains quickly the abdication of his brother due to falling in love with the wrong sort of person. Amazingly Prince Charles has a very similar situation brewing. The card ends with GOD SAVE THE KING. The next card gives a taste of what delights there are to come.

Queen Elizabeth (which I suppose could be classified as Queen Elizabeth 1.5), now the Queen Mother, the nations favorite grandmother.

Born August 4, 1900 as Lady Elizabeth Angela Marguerite Bowes-Lyon. She is also Lady of the Garter, a Member of the Imperial Order of the Crown of India and a Dame Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire. You really get the idea they have spent 1000 years making these things up.

I am not sure what happens to the Queen Mother title if the Queen abdicates, it might well be part of the reason Queen Elizabeth has remained so firmly attached to the throne. I suppose she would become the King Mother and the Queen Mother becomes the King Grandmother, perhaps not.

Tweedle dum and Tweedle dee

What follows is 48 cards which would constitute one of the greatest fancy dress parties going, although if I had to go as HM's Bargemaster and a waterman I would feel rather cheated as the card makes these esteemed gentleman look more village idiots.

Perhaps it is some form of punishment as the Royal State Barge is no longer used. Before I rip into them, a vaguely serious point. The dress often constitutes a gown made of some of the heaviest material going. On top of that it is usually rendered stiff with embroidery and then draped over the shoulders of some very old people.

These people are then given the opportunity to stand about for hours in all weather. Some like the Archbishops [cards 5 and 6] have staffs which might help or hinder them. Either way it cannot be considered a method of improving life expectancy.

The amount of detail on the reverse of the cards has to be read to be believed, although perhaps not understood.

Details from Card
The Archbishop of York.
The Archbishopric of York dates from the 7th century, when England was divided into two archiepiscopal provinces. On Easter Day, A.D.627, King Edwin of Northumberland was baptized in a small wooden church on the site of which the magnificent edifice of York Minster now stands, the ceremony being performed by Paulinus, who a few years later was consecrated first Archbishop of York. The present Archbishop [the 90th in succession] is the Most Rev. William Temple D.D, D.Litt, who was appointed in 1929. The Archbishop of York assists the Archbishop of Canterbury at the Coronation Ceremony; in 1911 the then Archbishop of York preached the Coronation Sermon.

Let's face it, it is going to take 1000 years to work out that the Dean of Westminster is the man who holds the Eagle Ampulla containing the Anointing oil and has the job of putting the Coronation vestments on the King. Is it just me or is there a lot of capital letters involved in the Coronation.

I am pretty bad at remembering names so it is probably fortunate I am not part of the Peerage. Card 14 is a case in point, Court of Claims. Appointed by an Order of Council it sits in the Privy Council Chamber. If you were there on Oct.25, 1936 you would have seen the Earl of Cromer [Lord Chamberlain], the Duke of Norfolk [Earl Marshall], Lord Thankerton [Lord of Appeal in Ordinary], Lord Hewart [Lord Chief Justice] and you might have said to yourself where is Lord Chancellor, Lord Wright [Master of the Rolls] and if you were particularly on form you might have asked where the Earl of Onslow [Chairman of Committees, House of Lords] was. Alternatively you might, like me, nod your head a few times say " hello mate " to the person you knew you really should know the name of and sit down uncomfortably.

Card 13, Earl Marshall of England, a very important position and someone who is responsible for all questions of Arms, dignities, precedence and honour, would not be my ideal job.

Despite this importance Players have managed to make him look like a wax works dummy. Card 17, Lord Lyon King of Arms, seems to do a similar job in Scotland [although I am probably wrong.] he also looks like a wax dummy.

Card 18 has a change of pace partly because the chap is on a horse. Bluemantle Pursuivant is his title. The horse probably is used as a quick getaway if people start taking the rise out of his name.

Next up are the orders of this and that. They are fairly easy to recognize as they appear to be wearing the living-room curtains. The rules and regulations governing the wearing of curtains is mind-numbing, so let's leave it at that. It should be noted there is plenty of comedy value in many of the names. Card 24 is ' The Most Honorable Order of The Bath (G.C.B)' plenty of comedy potential in that.

Unfortunately the reverse of the card rather ruins the fun as it says the origin of the order is unknown but it evidently came from an initiatory ceremony of bathing. Having ruined a good school boy joke it tries to make amends by suggesting George I placed the Order on a solid foundation.

The card does not mention how you become one of the Order but at the time of the sets production there were 1400 of them. The Order was split into civil and military with each of those divided into three classes. To think I worry about how I am going to sort out all the files on my hard-disk.

You might well be knee deep in G.C.B, K.C.B, C.B's etc at the time but if you bumped into a K.T all or The Most Ancient and Noble Order of The Thistle, as depicted on card 22 apologize quickly, membership was limited to 16.

If card 24 robbed me of some comic potential then card 25 redresses the balance. There is an Indian restaurant nearby called ' The Star of India' most people in Britain will have such an establishment nearby. Get on those telephones now and order some take-away.

When you get there to pick up your order announce, " this is the most exalted order of The Star of India " just to make sure they get the joke wear your living room curtains. How they will laugh at your jest about colonial rule. I am sure service with a smile will be guaranteed after reminding them the order was set up to reward Ruling Princes and Chiefs of India for their loyalty and support of the British Empire.

The Order of the Star of India

Queen Victoria was very keen on all this order business and card 28 is The Royal Victorian Order, instituted in 1896 it was designed as recognition of personal services rendered to Queen Victoria. Obviously this cannot be the full story because the numbers in this order increased dramatically after the death of Queen Victoria, people in the Order now were not even born when Victoria died.

Although a lot of the ceremony, pomp and circumstance is very old in origin some is not as old as you would think. Card 29 is The Most Excellent Order of The British Empire (G.B.E) which was instituted on June 4, 1917 to primarily recognize the services rendered by all classes of people to the Empire during the Great War. No disrespect to the Order and its intentions but what a shame to arrive at the party just as the coffee is being served.

This brings us to the fact that due to developments over time some offices have become slightly less important than when first instituted.

Card 30 shows Master of the Horse. His role seems to have declined to the extent that he does not even have a horse on the cigarette card. At least he does have horses to look after, the Royal Company of Archers is depicted on card 34 in field dress compete with bow and arrows. George IV gave them the additional duty of being his body-guard for Scotland. This makes the Captain-General Gold Stick for Scotland.

These might be on the decline but,' Speaker of the House of Commons' has seen considerable growth in power since 1376.

Card 40, has the Lord Mayor of London who must be feeling a bit put out as he gets top billing at the annual Lord Mayor show. The last 10 cards concern themselves with lesser lights of the occasion and I am sure they would not like me for saying so.

I have had a bit of fun at the expense of the Royal family and the curtain wearing establishment which might not be entirely fair but life isn't and even royalty must have a use in the modern world. The actual set of cigarette cards is very colorful and well produced as you would expect for such a subject matter.

Produced in considerable numbers and collected and treasured they are inexpensive to purchase today. The only downside of the set is that Players decided to issue it as sticky-back.