by Lady Michelle-Jennifer Santos, Founder & Publisher, Political Strategist, and Strategy/Peace Negotiator with the UN Security Council Special Envoy to the Arab Nations
June 4, 2012 (TSR) – The “Big Ben” that has become one of the best-known symbols of London and the United Kingdom around the world will be renamed The Queen Elizabeth II Tower as tribute by the British Parliament for 60th year of ascension to the throne.
The second of the towers of the Palace of Westminster, originally known as the King’s Tower, already is named after another sovereign, Queen Victoria, great-grandmother of Queen Elizabeth II. This mirrors that tribute of Queen Victoria’s who also overcame the six decades on the throne since 1860.
This is unpredecented since senior ministers and shadow ministers do not traditionally support backbench campaigns, and since March are being encouraged to sign up to this cross-party proposal.
American born British Tory MP Tobias Ellwood , the appointed PPS (parliamentary private secretary) to the Minister for Europe The Rt. Hon David Liddington MP in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, proposed the idea in March. The campaign proposal is to have the clock – formally referred to as The Clock Tower – renamed Elizabeth Tower in June.
This has been endorsed by the leaders of the three main parties and by 331 of 650 members, so Ellwood wrote to House of Commons leader Sir George Young and urged him to raise the matter with the House of Commons Commission for formal consideration later this month.
David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband are among senior figures from all parties who have backed the proposal to call it the Elizabeth Tower. Other MPs backing the idea include Tories William Hague, Theresa May and Iain Duncan Smith; Labour’s David Blunkett, Jack Straw and Ed Balls; and Lib Dems Danny Alexander, David Laws and Chris Huhne.
The House of Commons Commission, Parliament’s governing body, will meet by the end of this month and, given the degree of cross-party support, is expected to agree that the 316ft Clock Tower should be renamed. MPs accept it will continue to be known colloquially as Big Ben, the name of the bell it houses, but say the the iconic tower itself which looms over the 19-century Gothic revival parliament should carry the present Queen’s name in perpetuity.
Both the Cabinet Office and Buckingham Palace are understood to support the proposal.
Subject to commission approval, the proposal will then be formally presented to the Palace. A renaming ceremony would then be expected, which the Queen would be invited to attend.
THE QUEEN’S ROLE AND POWERS IN BRIEF
Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II is a constitutional monarch. This means: She is Britain’s head of state, but her executive powers are limited by constitutional rules. Her role is mostly symbolic. She represents Britain on state visits and on ceremonial occasions. According to the royal website, her primary role is as a “focus of national unity”. She is simply that stabilizing factor and the symbol of continuity for Britain.
She is queen of 16 former British colonies, including Australia, Canada and New Zealand; and head of the Commonwealth, a multinational body created after the dissolution of the British empire. This is about 135 million people around the world.
As for powers, the Queen has the right to rule. The people of Britain are not citizens, but subjects of the monarch. Most public servants must swear an oath of loyalty, or make an affirmation of their loyalty, to the Crown.
Although the Queen is politically neutral, she has the right to be consulted and to “advise and warn” ministers. Otherwise, her residual powers – the “royal prerogative” – are mostly exercised through the government of the day. These include the power to enact legislation, to award honors (on the advice of the prime minister), to sign treaties and to declare war.
But royal prerogative is the subject of controversy, because it confers on governments the power to make major decisions without recourse to parliament. When Edward Heath brought Britain into the EEC in 1972, parliament was not consulted until afterwards. Similarly, Margaret Thatcher used royal prerogative to go to war in the Falklands in 1982.
The Queen has two individual powers that could cause a political crisis if they were ever exercised. She may refuse a government’s request to dissolve parliament and call an election, if she believes a government can legitimately be formed. She also has the right to choose the prime minister. This is a formality in the case of a clear majority, but potentially controversial after an inconclusive general election. This almost happened in February 1974, when Labor Party failed to win an overall majority but the Conservatives considered power-sharing with the Liberals.
Overall, the Queen does not use all her “technical” powers because she does not overstep her boundaries. They will only be exercised on critical situations when absolutely needed.
OPPOSITIONS TO THE “BIG BETH”
There were oppositions regarding the decision particularly from the anti-monarchy groups and other MPs. One was the Labour MP for Blyth Valley in Northumberland, who condemned the move and launched a campaign to stop renaming the east tower of the Houses of the Parliament after the second longest reigning monarch. Supported by 24 MPs, Ronnie Campbell stressed that he resented being “ruled over by fifth-generation Germans who changed their name from Battenberg to Windsor.”
“Every socialist bone in my body tells me we should abolish the Monarchy as an outdated institution that nurtures a class system based on birth, not worth,” Campbell said.
According to YouGov poll, but the survey had slight problems since did not specifically say that the Clock Tower is usually known as ‘Big Ben’:
- 44% of the British public would oppose changing the name of the Clock Tower
- 30% would support changing the name of the Clock Tower
- 26% don’t know if they would welcome a name change or not
- Older people (60+; 46%) are slightly more likely than younger (18-24s; 37%) to oppose the idea
- And people in London are also more opposed to a change (53%) compared to those in the rest of England, Wales (41-46%) or especially Scotland (39%)
BACKGROUND OF THE TOWERS RENAMED
Majority on the planet and even many Britons think the whole edifice, tower and clock, is called Big Ben whenever they are shown of the tower in any postcard or photos. They do not even know the “official name” until this year, or even after I am telling you now. Thus, let us do a little historical background.
The Neo-gothic style Palace of Westminster features three main towers. Of these, the largest and tallest is the 98.5-metre (323 ft) Victoria Tower, which occupies the south-western corner of the Palace. It was called “King’s Tower” at the time to honor of the then-reigning monarch, William IV, which was an integral part of Barry’s original design. He intended it to be the most memorable element. The architect conceived the great square tower as the keep of a legislative “castle” (echoing his selection of the portcullis as his identifying mark in the planning competition), and used it as the royal entrance to the Palace and as a fireproof repository for the archives of Parliament. The Victoria Tower was re-designed several times, and its height increased progressively; upon its completion in 1858, it was the tallest secular building in the world.
At the base of the tower is the Sovereign’s Entrance, used by the monarch whenever entering the Palace to open Parliament or for other state occasions. The 15 m (50 ft) high archway is richly decorated with sculptures, including statues of Saints George, Andrew and Patrick, as well as of Queen Victoria herself. The main body of the Victoria Tower houses the three million documents of the Parliamentary Archives in 8.8 kilometres (5.5 mi) of steel shelves spread over 12 floors; these include the master copies of all Acts of Parliament since 1497, and important manuscripts such as the original Bill of Rights and the death warrant of King Charles I. At the top of the cast-iron pyramidal roof is a 22 m (73 ft) flagstaff, from which flies the Royal Standard (the monarch’s personal flag) when the Sovereign is present in the Palace. On the days when either House of Parliament is sitting and on designated flag days, the Union Flag flies from the mast.
At the north end of the Palace rises the most famous of the towers, the Clock Tower – metonymically referred to as Big Ben, and historically confused with St Stephen’s Tower – was raised as a part of Charles Barry’s design for a new palace, after the old Palace of Westminster was largely destroyed by fire on the night of 16 October 1834.
I need to correct The Daily Mail since they don’t seem to distinguish the difference between towers: The St. Stephen’s Tower is positioned in the middle of the west front of the Palace, between Westminster Hall and Old Palace Yard, and houses the public entrance to the Houses of Parliament, known as St. Stephen’s Entrance.
The 153-year old, 96-metre (316-foot) tower was completed in 1859 and the Great Clock started on 31 May, with the Great Bell’s strikes heard for the first time on 11 July and the quarter bells first chimed on 7 September. It is only slightly shorter than the Victoria Tower but much slimmer. It houses the Great Clock of Westminster, built by Edward John Dent on designs by amateur horologist Edmund Beckett Denison.
This great clock which stands today in the Houses of Parliament holds the largest four-faced chiming clock in the world and is famous for keeping impeccable time (using a system of pennies, among other technology), even during the Blitzkrieg, the sustained strategic bombing of Britain and Northern Ireland by Nazi Germany between 7 September 1940 and 10 May 1941 during the Second World War.
Striking the hour to within a second of the time, the Great Clock achieved standards of accuracy considered impossible by 19th-century clockmakers, and it has remained consistently reliable since it entered service in 1859. The time is shown on four dials 7 metres (23 ft) in diameter, which are made of milk glassand are lit from behind at night; the hour hand is 2.7 metres (8 ft 10 in) long and the minute hand 4.3 metres (14 ft).
Five bells hang in the belfry above the clock. The four quarter bells strike the Westminster Chimes every quarter hour. The largest bell strikes the hours; officially called The Great Bell of Westminster, it is generally referred to as Big Ben. The first bell to bear this name cracked during testing and was recast; the present bell later developed a crack of its own, which gives it a distinctive sound. It is the third-heaviest bell in Britain, weighing 13.8 tonnes.
The dials are set in an iron frame that measures 23ft across, with a Latin inscription at the base of each reading ‘domine salvam fac reginam nostram victoriam primam’. It means ‘Lord, keep safe our Queen Victoria the First’.
In the lantern at the top of the Clock Tower is the Ayrton Light, which is lit when either House of Parliament is sitting after dark. It was installed in 1885 at the request of Queen Victoria—so that she could see from Buckingham Palace whether the members were “at work”—and named after Acton Smee Ayrton, who was First Commissioner of Works in the 1870s.
THE “BIG BEN” NICKNAME
There are two theories for this name’s origin.
When the bells of the Great Clock of Westmister rang across London for the first time on 31st May 1859, and Parliament had a special sitting to decide on a suitable name for the great hour bell. During the course of the debate, and amid the many suggestions that were made, Chief Lord of the Woods and Forests of 1855-1858, Sir Benjamin Hall, a large and ponderous man known affectionately in the House as “Big Ben”, rose and gave an impressively long speech on the subject. When, at the end of this oratorical marathon, Sir Benjamin sank back into his seat, a wag in the chamber shouted out: “Why not call him Big Ben and have done with it?” The house erupted in laughter; Big Ben had been named.
However, according to the booklet written for the old Ministry of Works by Alan Phillips:
“Like other nice stories, this has no documentary support; Hansard failed to record the interjection. The Times had been alluding to ‘Big Ben of Westminster’ since 1856. Probably, the derivation must be sought more remotely. The current champion of the prize ring was Benjamin Caunt, who had fought terrific battles with Bendigo, and who in 1857 lasted sixty rounds of a drawn contest in his final appearance at the age of 42. As Caunt at one period scaled 17 stone (238 lbs, or 108 kilogrammes), his nickname was Big Ben, and that was readily bestowed by the populace on any object the heaviest of its class. So the anonymous MP may have snatched at what was already a catchphrase.”
Ben Caunt was a champion heavyweight boxer of the 1850s.
But the former theory is the much more acceptable one that everyone uses.
Big Ben was in the news in January this year when the commission discussed how to manage a tilt affecting the tower.
The tilt is 0.26 degrees to the North West and has increased very slightly since 2003, although an expert study found it was unlikely to be a problem for 10,000 years.
THE ROYAL RIVER PAGEANT: THE CLIMAX OF THE QUEEN’S DIAMOND JUBILEE CELEBRATIONS
Britain is holding four days of celebrations that began on Saturday to mark Queen Elizabeth II’s jubilee including a 1,000-boat river pageant and a star-studded concert to show their gratitude and appreciation to the second longest reigning monarch in their history.
Unfortunately, HRH Prince Phillip, the Duke of Edinburgh, 90, had been taken to the King Edward VII Hospital in London from Windsor Castle as a “precautionary measure” due to a bladder infection and will miss the rest of the Diamond Jubilee celebrations. He will remain in the hospital under observation for a few days.
But the Queen still attended the Diamond Jubilee Concert to light the national beacon by placing a diamond crystal crafted for the event. It was the last of 4,200 flames lit around the world. The 6 meter high flame that is now outside signals that the Diamond Jubilee is celebrated fully and formally beyond the Buckingham Palace. Tomorrow is the formal celebration with the Queen riding the golden carriage to and from the Palace.
Described in centuries past as London’s “grandest street”, the Thames was for hundreds of years the first choice for displays of grandeur and ceremony, from coronations to celebrations of military conquests. It was back in 1662 when King Charles II introduced the country to his Queen – Catherine of Braganza – on the waters of the Thames. The river thronged with lavishly adorned boats and barges, and the King’s wife was saluted with music and cannon fire.
So the organizers, inspired by Turner’s series of atmospheric images and Canaletto’s revealing look at a Lord Mayor’s Day in the 1700s, worked for three years to make the royal river extravaganza.
The floating procession was divided into 10 parts, with more than 30,000 members of the public joined on passenger boats. Up to two million lined the banks.
The procession’s centerpiece was the Royal Barge, the Spirit of Chartwell, which carried the Queen, Prince Philip, the Duke and Duchess of Cornwall, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry.
The Thames barrier was lowered to slow the river’s flow. Some 20,000 people were in the boats of the flotilla, which travelled at 4 knots (4.6 miles) an hour. A steady stream of rowing and paddle boats headed up to the front of the flotilla.
The Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant involved a flotilla of 1,000 ships with more than 20,000 people on the boats and the Queen herself on the leading boat that was decorated with almost 10,000 cut flowers.
This flotilla included dragon boats, steamers, oyster smacks and even a kaimana – a Hawaiian war canoe. But the lead vessel was a 60-metre-long, 12-tonne floating belfry with a set of eight church bells cast at the Whitechapel Bell Foundry, in East London. The 8 bells represented each main member of the Royal Family.
The event also included 7,000 stewards and festivities planned in Battersea Park as the flotilla was to travel from Battersea Bridge to Dispersal.
A cross between a gondola and a Viking longboat, the 90ft $1.5 million vessel is a recreation of the luxury boats that ferried royalty in medieval and Georgian times. Among its 18 oarsmen are Olympic gold medallists Sir Steve Redgrave and Sir Matthew Pinsent, and soldiers injured in Iraq and Afghanistan.
A boat carrying eight specially cast Jubilee bells lead the water-borne procession, and churches along the river bank returned the peal as it passed. There were 10 musical barges that carried choirs and orchestras. Each of the bell represented the core Royal family members.
Other boats that took part were the St Michael’s Mount State Barge – built in 1740 and possibly the oldest vessel in the world still afloat – and The Amazon, which took part in Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee 1897.
Havengore, the boat which carried Sir Winston Churchill’s coffin during his 1965 state funeral, hosted the Duke of York, Princesses Beatrice and Eugenie, the Earl and Countess of Wessex, the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, Prince and Princess Michael of Kent, the Mayor of London Boris Johnson and former Prime Minister Sir John Major and his wife Norma.
The organizers of the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant had to approach non-British companies to pay for the costs as British businesses were unwilling to contribute to the event by raising necessary funds. The £10m ($15.4 m) cost of the event has been met by private donations but the security costs were paid for by the taxpayers.
A Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant spokesperson said there are “a considerable number of contributors who have made donations and do not wish to be named.” Among the listed donors were the American oil company Chevron and the Mayor of London.
The route along the river Thames for the Diamond Jubilee pageant. The full route, including mustering and dispersal areas, stretches from Hammersmith to the Old Greenwich Royal Naval College and is approximately 14 miles (22km) long. The official pageant route was about seven miles (11km).
The Queen passed under all 13 of central London’s river crossings from Battersea Bridge to Tower Bridge, and when the royal barge travelled past this last landmark at around 4.15pm it stopped to allow her to watch the flotilla sail past, which took about an hour. The event closed when the final music barge, carrying members of the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the Royal College of Music Chamber Choir created a Last Night of the Proms-style atmosphere, played Land of Hope and Glory, Rule Britannia and finally the national anthem, God Save the Queen.
If you want to get all the official news, just go to the Official Diamond Jubilee website.
6000 police officers, alongside 7,000 stewards, were responsible for carrying out what the British press have described “one of the largest-ever security operations”.
Royal Navy vessels, marines and armed police in speed boats, all of 21 patrol craft from Scotland Yard alongside two other from Essex Police, and Special Air Service (SAS) teams were deployed to protect the Queen and her family. Those who participated in the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee Flotilla have been subject to more than 30,000 individual security checks.
Only about hundred anti-monarchists republicans were causing commotion outside the City Hall.
However, the rainy weather was not enough to deter hundreds of people who camped out overnight along the Thames to claim the best spots to view the historical flotilla designed after the centuries old Canello painting.
A collection of small ships used to rescue stranded troops from the beaches of Dunkirk in 1940 also took part, led by the Motor Torpedo boat 102, the flagship of the officer who co-ordinated the evacuation.
Has anyone asked Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II think of all this? The Queen is known to be thrifty, responsible and doesn’t like to waste money according to royal confidantes. The people who makes her royal court shoes, for instance, usually supply one or two pairs a year and occasionally renew the tops and re-heel them. Handbags, one or two a year. Her “guilty” fashion pleasure? A variety of see-through umbrellas that have different colored bands on the edge to match her outfits. Cost? $25.
Peter Hill of The Express expressed it aptly, “Queen must be totally bewildered by the scale of celebrations to mark her diamond jubilee and the millions being spent on it.” I would too. But it is SO great and inspiring.
WHAT DO I THINK ABOUT ALL THIS TRIBUTE? When it comes to the renaming of the tower, I’m a purist so it’s about time! The tower has long had a history of confusing names and nicknames and maybe this simplies it via proper education of people. Nothing is more annoying than too much confusion. The Clock Tower, though an official term used within the Palace and its communications, is too ambiguous a term to gain popular currency. Besides, there are many clock towers in London, let alone the world, and calling it the Clock Tower of the Palace of Westminster is just boring to have in an important building. Now that everyone knows about the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, with 80% of the people who favor the monarchy, and the world knows who she is, people can learn to call things properly. I personally am a little surprise that at this point of history since its existence, that they only called it “Clock”. How original, right? Even I name my plants.
This should also correct, clarify and teach the difference between St Stephen’s Tower and the new Elizabeth Tower since the former is regularly used in newspapers like The Daily Mail, guide books and by drunk people at pubs who can’t give good directions. While it may sound more official than Big Ben, it’s completely incorrect. St Stephen’s is another (smaller) tower over the main public entrance. Read my notes above again if you missed that. I even included a photo.
This name-change should definitely help the BBC news, Guardian and Telegraph calling Big Ben as the East Tower, presumably pasted in from the same media release. They are so confused that they choose to avoid the whole name problem by using a geographic term. This confusion makes the mainstream media directionally-challenged as well, because Big Ben is at the northern end of the complex, not the east, and there are a few smaller towers more easterly than Big Ben.
The proposed new name is very appropriate because it adds harmony in nominally pairing the edifice with the Victoria Tower at the southern end of the building. The anti-royalist republicans will be irked of course, so I suppose if we want to please everyone of these groups, we can use ALL the names: St Elizabeth Stephen’s Big East Clock Ben. Yes, it is long, but it is shorter than many Hollywood celebrity baby names, right?
As for the entire celebrations, no one has ever held a job or any monarch that long, at least since I was born. Thus, Britain and the Commonwealth nations strongly feel that these are all well-deserved tribute as a salute to the most hardworking monarch known today. I am all for it. It is honoring a very hardworking woman who has become a symbol of strength and role model to many, both male and female, young and old. Goodness, she is 86 years old and she refuse to retire because she loves her people.
Here’s Big Ben’s distinctive “bongs”. Enjoy it because by end of this month, the catchy and similarly alliterative ‘Big Beth’ may serve as the new nickname. The universal popular name, Big Ben, that is repeated around the world will soon become feminine “bongs”. And I like that very much. Hipp hipp hurrah to Her Majesty the Queen!
AUTHOR: Lady Michelle-Jennifer Santos
Lady Michelle-Jennifer Santos is the Founder & Publisher of The Santos Republic. She is also political strategist and analyst, investment consultant and advisor, and the Strategy/Peace Negotiator with the UN Security Council Special Envoy to the Arab Nations involved in brokering peace in the Middle East since 2011. She is also the Principal of MJS Global Group whose core competency is strategy, image/media, branding, geopolitics, international trade and development, communications, intelligence and security, aerospace, technology, entertainment, wealth management, mining, energy, infrastructure, commodities (gold, diamonds, oil and gas, sugar, cement, edible oils, rice, et al), and capital markets. also serves as a Senior Consulting Advisor for DeMatteo Monness LLC, a specialized agency brokerage with equity trading operations in New York and Boston and a member firm of the NASD and clears trades through Goldman Sachs Execution; Clearing LLC. With a background in working for international political campaigns, she is also a public speaker and lecturer on politics and motivational topics. Lady MJ has appeared and been featured in international media outlets (radio, television, print and internet) in Europe and USA such as Fox Business News, NRK, CNBC, CBS and AOL News. You can follow her on Facebook and on Twitter (@mj_santos). You can read more about her here.