Tuesday, November 3, 2009

where's the palace guard?

Not long ago, one of my favorite artist bloggers, Marja-Leena Rathje, posted some beautiful photographs of small, frequently unnoticed details among the larger and more obvious charms of Paris. Her incredible eye for detail is one of the many reasons I like to visit her site often. One of those pictures reminded me of a little story of my own that I mentioned to her in a comment. She asked me to show her the result so this picture is first of all for her but I'll tell you the story too.

When I was still quite young back in 1958, my mother took me for a three month trip to England to visit the family. We stayed for a couple of weeks with an aunt and uncle who lived in London and while there it was of course necessary to go to Buckingham Palace to see the changing of the Guard. After one group of equal sized soldiers wearing bright red coats, black trousers and tall bear skin hats had replaced the last batch I left the grownups so I could get a closer look at the palace through the tall iron railings of the main gate. I was also hoping to get a glimpse of the golden Coronation Carriage I'd seen so often in pictures or perhaps the Queen would come out for a stroll with Prince Charles and they would recognize my royal qualities and invite us all in for tea. I was a very romantic and imaginative child.

What happened instead was that I noticed a gold plated lion's head about the size of an adult's fist that was part of the gate and reached up and touched it. I swear it was just a gentle touch with one finger but the next thing I knew it had fallen and I caught it. I was terrified one of those Guards would clamp his hand on my shoulder and lock me away in the Tower of London for the rest of my life. I turned in shock to look where my mother was standing with my aunt and uncle and never in my short life had I felt so far from safety. Then my uncle, a quick thinking man, ran over, grabbed the little lion's head and wrapped it in his raincoat before the nearest Guard had turned for his return trip marching up and down the square.

I brought it home nicely packed in my suitcase and I've had it ever since. If you look at the back it's easy to see it had been hanging on the gate by only one rusted out screw. I wonder if I mailed it back if the Queen might be so grateful she'd invite us for tea? It seems I'm still a romantic even after all this time.

But please don't mention this to anyone since I still worry about the Tower.


  1. YOU STOLE FROM THE QUEEN!!!!! Off with your head!!!

  2. Some guards!
    I'd send it back and tell the story. After all, it's real. You just might get that invite for royal tea.


  3. What a charming story. The universe gave the lion's head to you so you should keep it and tell everyone the story of how came to you. Smiling and waving goodbye...

  4. Wow... Buckingham Palace seems to have needed some work...kinda like a certain ballpark in Chicago. Maybe if they had some ivy to help hold the place up like Wrigley Field, things like that wouldn't happen.

    I'm glad you weren't arrested and that is a very very cool souvenir! Thanks for sharing that story with us. :-)

  5. It's true after all, filthy hippies are the real thieves! Who knows, if you hadn't stolen that magical lions head, perhaps the British Empire wouldn't have fallen.

  6. What a magical story to carry with you since childhood, like those old fairytales that have a touch of fear in them. Thanks for sharing it. Don't you think it's time the lion's head be put on display? I doubt the Queen or Prince Charles will find out...

  7. okjimm - `Nonsense!' said susan, and the Queen was silent :-)

    spadoman - Tea with the Queen and the Prince doesn't sound like as much fun as it once did. I think I'll keep him ;-)

    liberality - The universe is very generous, isn't it :-)

    nunly - Yeah, the damn place must be falling down around their ears by now. Maybe I'll mail them an ivy plant and keep the lion's head :-)

    randal - I needed the magical lion's head more than the British Empire did. Next thing you know I'll be taking it back to Canada and then let's see what happens to the American Empire. Hah!

    marja-leena - It's nice to have something solid from a fairytale now and again, isn't it? I like to just unwrap it once in a while..

  8. things like that don't happen by accident. you were meant to have that gold-plated lion's head.
    and for proof, look at all the magical animals that wander through your art.
    so send it back to the queen if that feels right, with your story. after 50 years, she might like to have it back.

  9. there's no one-upping that souvenier !!! yes!! bring the magical lion to Canuck land.

  10. i'm in Kansas looking for the Ruby Slippers

  11. LOL! I feel sure that the Queen wouldn't send you to the Tower. But to my mind tea with the Queen might be just as bad. She kind of scared me. I feel sure I would mess up the curtsies and rules and regulations one has to follow when in HRM's presence.

  12. Great story! LOL!! Maybe Scotland Yard has you in their data banks and are just waiting for you to step foot back on the the Queen's land! :-)

  13. sera - I was meant to have and keep it too - for a little while longer, anyway. I'm sure the Queen has more than enough old bits hanging about the place but I was the one lucky enough to find the magic :-)

    g-fid - Yes, it's on its way back probably next summer :-) Meanwhile, you'll be able to fly anywhere you like once you have those slippers. Crow will be pleased :-)

    belette - You're right - the protocol would defeat me too. What if I toppled over while curtsying? It might mean a real trip to the Tower :-)

    nancy - I already stepped back there a number of times but now that the Yard doesn't have Holmes to call on I was just too tricky for them to catch ;-)

  14. well there you go. it's much mor eimportant that you keep it then. just don't be surprised, one cold and blustery night, when those guys in the tall hats come a-knocking at your door looking to take it back.
    maybe you could disguise it as a hairbrush and deny it ever happened?

  15. sera - I don't think the guys in the busbies would make it through the tsa checkpoints :-) You know they really did make those silly hats out of Canadian black bear skins. If homeland security didn't get them, peta would :-)

    I think I'm safe.

  16. Oooooooh. That is so cool. There are so many stories in you, Susan.

  17. lisa - That's because I'm very, very old :-) You'll be amazed yourself about what you're still digging up 20 years from now.