Watajoy!

Decades ago I bought this book. It invites delicious speculation.

It is simply a catalogue of the presents received by Princess Elizabeth and Philip Mountbatten on their marriage in 1947.

They are still married as I write, and Elizabeth went on to become Queen of England, which she still is. The presents were put on display; no harm in that, we all do that, perhaps on the table in the living room (as in my own case), or at the back of the Function Room in the Hotel; yes, we all do that. On this ocasion the wedding planners had to hire a hall in which to display the gifts, because there were 2,548 of them, some of them a bit big.

Well, this book lists them all. They tell you who donated the item, and they describe it in neutral language, according equal status to each one, as it is the thought that counts, not the value. After the wedding was all over, I expect that the happy couple sat down to write thank-you letters, and, some weeks later, set off on their honeymoon.

I expect they put their holiday clothes in their Watajoy travelling bag (see 609 above). Some of these presents seem immediately useful, like that one, but others must surely have been put into storage, carefully indexed and labelled so that they could be brought out when the donor planned a visit. When I was in Buckingham Palace a few years ago, in connection with a school thing, I did look around to see if I could spot any of those wedding presents, but the interesting thing is – I did not see a single one of them! HRH, of course, could hardly have expected me to be on the lookout for the presents. The security people would have done their research and found out that I wasn’t even born when the marriage took place, and was unconnected with any of the 2,548 donors. But little did they know how carefully I have studied that catalogue of gifts. I cast my eyes eagerly around, as Prince Philip shook my hand, hoping to catch a glimpse of the Watajoy bags, or the porphyry tazza (surely some kind of coffee mug), but to no avail. I noticed that the Palace was a sizeable building, so I figured that those presents must all be in a cellar or attic, which must have the general appearance of Xanadu at the beginning of Citizen Kane.

Now, I’m going to list a selection of these presents for you. Here they are, with occasional notes added.

44          Miss Doris D. Crockett

One pair of nylon stockings.

54         Miss M. A. Francis

Pair of silver grape scissors.

125      Mr. Rogert Hart

Pair of nylon stockings.

139     Miss Pamela Mungomery

Ten pounds of icing sugar from Queensland.

169    Mrs. C. St. Aubyn Ratcliffe (Margery Hart)

Book, “Furry Folk and Fairies,” Two Editions, by the donor.

272   Albert Richard Sportswear, Milwaukee, U. S. A.

A weather-proof coat interlined with Spun Sun.

We see some patterns emerging. As a matter of fact the royal couple received at least 128 pairs of nylon stockings, including some sent, rather improperly one almost feels, by gentlemen. These stockings must have stood HRH in jolly good stead for many a year. Maybe she even still has a few left today, so long as she has avoided the temptation to use them as ties in the garden, which I know a lot of folk do.

And some people seem to have taken this wedding as a suitable occasion for some self-promotion, or as an advertising opportunity. Certainly many people who had managed to get themselves into print did not hestitate to send in a copy, or more, of their book. So I say to their Highnesses, look, in retirement I work at the Oxfam Bookshop in Southampton, so if you still have some of these books, especially the ones signed by the author, maybe you could just send them down to us here, as you know, you would not get much for them in a car boot sale; it simply isn’t worth it.

294     The Government of Queensland

500 cases of Tinned Pineapples to be distributed as The Princess Elizabeth desires.

312     Captain Stephen Van Neck

Pigskin handbag made entirely by hand and containing 3382 small stitches.

327    Miss Rhoda Chappel Hodge

A Wading Stick.

361    Mrs. A. Wheatley

Pair of hand knitted bedroom slippers.

400   Commander A. Betts-Brown, Royal Navy

Chest of tea.

561   The Misses Jones and Edge

Small bust in biscuit of Queen Victoria, dated 1891.

657   Mrs. Nichol amd Miss Margaret Nichol

A plastic cushion.

721  Mr. Billy Saaiman

An ostrich egg.

727  Miss E. Mosenthal

Book, by the donor, “But Economical – No.”

778 Miss Grace E. MacDonald

Two pairs of bed socks.

807  Miss S. Vaughan Lee

A monumental glass spirit bottle.

906  The Mayor and Citizens of Durham

A carpet.

943  The Aberdovey Branch of The Women’s Institute

Books, “Poor Man’s Tapestry” by Oliver Onions, and “Tomboy in Lace” by Berta Ruck.

985  Mrs. E. Bebb and Miss D. Bebb

Book, “The Man who is Different” by E. D. Bebb.

1026  Miss L. Dickinson

Hand-knitted tea cosy.

1129  Mr. N. Y. Nutt

A hurricane pipe.

1299  The Reverend Robert and Mrs. Hyde

A bath sponge.

1246  Field Marshall The Viscount Alexander of Tunis and the Viscountess Alexander

A porphyry tazza.

1305  Mr. Horace Smith and Miss Sybil Smith

A pigskin case fitted with shoehorns and bootjacks.

1312 Madame Poklewaka-Koziell

A case of cigarette-extinguishers.

1483  The Directors, Staff and Workpeople of Two-way Talkie Limited.

A two-way talkie.

1509  Miss L. Wilson

A bulb bowl and bulbs.

1513  Mr. and Mrs. Cavanagh

An automatic potato peeler.

1587  Miss Alice Bredt

Recording of a duet made by the donor.

1617  Commander W. A. Kosianowski-Lorenz, Royal Navy

An album with photographs of the Polish Navy’s activities.

1680  The Pupils of the State English Grammar School, Prague

A South Moravian peasant girl’s costume.

1743  Monsieur Vincent Locorotendo

Pair of blue suede shoes.

1756  Mr. Reginald Guyler

Brown felt hat made by the donor.

1834  Miss Jill and master Jeremy Cotton

Darts board.

1894  Mrs. H. G. Cronk

A waste-paper basket.

1940  Miss D. L. Amer

Three toy rabbits, stuffed and washable, made by the donor.

2046 Mrs. C. Anderson

A pair of grape scissors.

2071  Mr. and Mrs. G. D. Fenn

Two recordings of “Hear my Prayer” made by Master Michael Fenn.

2147  Mr. H. H. Proctor

A portable wireless and spare batteries.

2154  Miss Julie A. Alloro

A turkey.

2379  Mrs. G. Pratt

A papier-mache jewel case.

2436  Skipper, Mate and Crew, S. R. S. “Upholder,” West Wandsworth

A lanyard.

2480  Hungarian Students of the Law of the University of Budapest

A statue of Santa Claus.

2487  The 1st Ullapool, 4th Ross-shire Girl Guide Company

A water colour drawing of Ullapool.

Do you notice, reader, how well the royal couple were equipped by these presents for almost any exigency? Stuck for an ashtray somewhere, they need have had no concern – they had not one but an entire case of cigarette extinguishers. Similarly, when needing to cut grapes, they had a second, or fall-back, pair of grape scissors. And I haven’t even got one pair of these specialised scissors. It seems so unfair.

Anyway I wish them well of their presents, as I’m sure they still have them, along with many others from other occasions. Just a word to the wise: some of these things might have cult value by now, and it might be worth looking them up on Abe or Ebay. Start with Tomboy in Lace, or the two-way talkie.

What a wonderful world we live in. If anyone (especially anyone from the Palace) wants to buy this book from me, I would consider offers starting in the region of £500. Would consider exchange for a porphyry tazza.

The End.

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2 Responses to Watajoy!

  1. Brian says:

    Hi Bob. I think you are being charmingly sentimental about our dear Royal Family in expecting that they actually keep all their wedding presents. When you visited them, did you hear, or did they mention, a turkey gobbling somewhere in the back garden?
    BJM

    • rhmay says:

      Be fair. That turkey must surely have perished naturally long ago, and there is no record of a second turkey with which the main turkey could have mated. No, as disappointing as it is to hear it, I found no trace whatever of any of the presents. As HRH the Duke of Edinburgh approached me, I scanned him for wading sticks, but he carried none. I looked at his pockets to see the possible bulge of a hurricane pipe or lanyard, but no. He was not carrying a handbag with three thousand small stitches in it. It was as if he had never got married at all.
      When retiring from school, and when moving house, I have had to spend a long time examining collections of objects with a view to discarding some. My hope is that officials at the Palace will recognise my experience in this field, and invite me to come up there to help them sort out the backlog of presents. See, I really want one of those two-way talkies.
      Bob.

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