London Notes

Feb. 6 2002 2:59 PM

London Notes

Suburban chic.

Today is the 50th anniversary of the death of King George VI and the accession of his daughter, Elizabeth, to the British throne. In a message posted on the official Web site to mark the Golden Jubilee celebrations, the Queen says: "I hope also that this time of celebration in the United Kingdom and across the Commonwealth will not simply be an occasion to be nostalgic about the past. I believe that, young or old, we have as much to look forward to with confidence and hope as we have to look back on with pride. I send my warmest good wishes to you all, ELIZABETH R." It's nice that she is so optimistic, given the latest opinion poll published in the Daily Telegraph,which shows that only a minority of the British people thinks that the monarchy will still exist at the end of the 21st century and that seven out of 10 claim to have little or no interest in her present Jubilee.

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To commemorate the occasion, Buckingham Palace has released new photographs of Elizabeth II, and several include her husband, Prince Philip. The photographs, which can be viewed and downloaded from Buckingham Palace's Web site, are not nostalgic, although several show the royal couple in traditional regal poses. One of the Jubilee photographers is Prince Andrew, whose four portraits of his mother could be mistaken for an attempt to imitate the art of Andy Warhol (a large Warhol exhibition at the Tate Modern opens tomorrow).

Other photographs released by Buckingham Palace include one by Bryan Adams, the Canadian pop star. It shows the royal couple standing on a worn carpet in a dusty-looking room. Immediately behind them is an open door leading into the Palace garden. Queen Elizabeth and the Prince seem like a well-preserved elderly couple scouting a property, their happy expressions suggesting they've finally seen something they like and want to make an offer for. The Queen, dressed in a light grey suit with a matching hat, is carrying a large black handbag, while a stiff Prince Philip, in a dark suit, stands beside her. The Evening Standard's art critic Brian Sewell says that in Adams's photograph "the Queen looks vaguely shapeless, baggy, stoutish … for all the world like an ageing suburban housewife in what passes for her Sunday best." To be described as suburban would once have been considered a very cutting remark, but now that the centre of London has become so relentlessly "cool" and crime-infested, suburbia is beginning to seem refreshingly "chic" and safe.

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