St. Louis, Missouri, is in the middle of the United States, and the metro area has more than 2.8 million residents, making it the 15th largest in the US and almost as populous as Wales. This fully American city, settled by the French, and sitting on the banks of the Mississippi is a welcoming city, a city of business and culture, and a great place to raise a family. It is also a city that loves British culture, with British stores, restaurants, and events and even has special screenings of Monty Python at local movie houses and plays Fawlty Towers on the local television.
And here, in the middle of the US fly-over country you should make plans to visit, I am constantly amazed by the profound love and affection the American public have for the British Royal Family. Pleasantly surprised, but surprised nonetheless.
Two years ago, I joined with a few hundred people, including my young daughter, at a local tea room run by a family of British ex-pats, appropriately named the London Tea Rom, at 4am to “take part” in the Royal Wedding from 4,000 miles away. Did you get that? At 4am, people of all ages, in their finest dress, were up, drinking tea, eating scones, and watching the Royal Wedding. The ladies were dressed the part, as if they themselves were at the wedding, and top hats and kilts were also present. Local television and radio covered the festivities, live, along with the numerous other celebrations taking place at pubs and homes around the St. Louis area. People all over the region were up, way too early, celebrating, enjoying, and basking in British-ness.
Last year, I joined another large gathering of Americans and Brits back at the London Tea Room, this time celebrating Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee. The Mayor of St. Louis issued a proclamation declaring June 5th as Queen Elizabeth II Day in St. Louis, Buckingham Palace responded, as did the UK Ambassador to the US, bagpipes played God Save the Queen, Branston Pickle sandwiches were consumed, tea was enjoyed and Her Majesty The Queen graced the big screen. This event was soon followed by the Olympics, and the eyes of St. Louis, along with the rest of the world, were on the UK and on the Royal Family.
And then, back in December, St. Louis once again turned their eyes towards Britain, and celebrated, a Royal baby. Yes, even here, in the center of the US, surrounded by corn fields, and under the shade of a huge steel Arch, affection for the British Royal Family and the future King or Queen was spoken, tweeted, shared, broadcast and yelled on live television and radio. Concern for the health of the Duchess of Cambridge was voiced, speculation about twins hit the airwaves, and every TV and radio station rushed to get some local British person on the air to discuss the nuances of royalty, pregnancy and succession to the throne.
And then there’s social media, which went quite shrill as thousands of Americans went apoplectic with excitement over a baby who will never be part of their lives, who will never influence the future of their country, who will never sit on a throne they have any allegiance to. But yet, they already love and already celebrate.
And then there are the events that happen every year.
In January, the St. Louis community once again raises their glasses, and puts on British attire, this time with a decidedly northern influence, as Scotland and Scotland’s poet are honored. The Scottish Arms and the Schlafly Tap Room host hundreds, if not thousands, in a toast to Rabbie Burns and his gifts to the world. Bagpipes ring out. Immortal Memories are recited. Scotch is consumed in vast amounts. And kilts are the normal attire. The week of Robert Burns, or so it seems, culminates in a formal shindig where business leaders, community influencers, politicians and hundreds of the rest of us come together in a formal Robert Burns dinner, where many a bottle of Scotch is opened, never to be closed again, and many a tribute to Scotland and Her Majesty is heard.
In April, thousands head to Frontier Park, in nearby St. Charles, the launching place of the famous Lewis and Clark Expedition, to celebrate Scotland Week and Tartan Day. Parades take place, beer, haggis and Scotch flow, Scottish athletes compete, and bagpipes play. And British culture is once again embraced and celebrated.
In September, thousands of people gather in St. Louis’ Forest Park, similar to Central Park in New York City to celebrate British culture, with an emphasis on Scotland at the Annual Scottish Games and Cultural Festival. The event features bagpipes, of course, highland dancing, British cars, folk music, Scottish heavy athletics, haggis, Scottish Ale from Schlafly, a local brewery with an affinity for delicious British-style brews, and more.
And thinking back to the drastic renovation of the White House us Brits did in 1812, or the slight disagreement we had in 1776, it still amazes me. It amazes me that the hearts of the American people are such that once bitter enemies are now the closest of friends. That the ancestors of those that fought each other to the death, now celebrate a new life together.
They really like Britain around here. And from a brief survey of the global platform afforded by social media it seems most of America is the same way. They like the romantic idea of Britain and our monarchy. And they like the reality of it also. And this affection, appreciation and love permeates the American culture on a pretty regular basis.
So, fellow Brits, be proud of your country and your Royal Family, because the Americans around here certainly are. And we mustn’t be shown up by the Yanks. That just wouldn’t be proper.