Sunday, March 11, 2012

UK -- Cowboys and Cowgirls to Perform for Queen Elizabeth's Jubilee

By Ruth Ellen Gruber

A group of cowboys and cowgirls from California will take part in celebrations in May to mark Britain's Queen Elizabeth's Diamond Jubilee, performing a 6-minute wild west show at Windsor Castle.

Reports the Visalia Times-Delta:

Queen Elizabeth II will celebrate her Diamond Jubilee — 60 years of reign — with a 90-minute show focusing on equestrianism throughout the world. And representing North America is a group of cowboys and cowgirls who will look to impress the queen with an entertaining, yet authentic look at the American West. "The queen was specific, she wants real cowboys at her party," said Clay Maier, who is organizing the North America portion of the show. "We've been working on this for two years to get it right. We want to be authentic."

The article says that to "ensure authenticity" the group performing May 13 will include 12 Native Americans, five cowboys, four Texas longhorn cattle, four trick ropers, an Abbot-Downing Concord stagecoach and four pinto horses.

The performance will hark back to Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West show's command performance before Queen Victoria  on May 11,  1887, during celebrations that year marking Victoria's Golden Jubilee.

Buffalo Bill's Wild West, including his full crew of 97 American Indians, 180 horses, 18 buffalo, and, of course, Chief Sitting Bull, Geronimo, and the sharpshooter Annie Oakley, was the central attraction in London's American Exhibition in Earl's Court. Two days after its opening, Queen Victoria visited the exhibition for a private showing of the Wild West.

That the event did not take place in Windsor Castle, requiring Her Majesty to travel to see it, was remarkable. Cody thusly explained in a press release: This show "was altogether too big a thing to take to Windsor Castle, and as in the case of Mahomet and the mountains, as the Wild West Show could not go to the Queen it became absolutely necessary for the Queen to go to the Wild West Show if she desired to see it, and it was evident that she did."

As Robert Rydell and Rob Kroes put it in their 2005 book Buffalo Bill in Bologna: the Americanization of the World, 1869-1922, it was the first time since her husband Prince Albert had died 25 years earlier that Victoria had appeared at a public event.

Her attendance at the Wild West show was news everywhere in the English-speaking world, and the fact that she made her apperance in the context of the celebrations that marked the Jubilee Year of her reign only added more weight to the occasion. And what an occasion it was. When the show began and a rider entered the arena carrying the American flag, Queen Victoria stood and bowed. The rest of the audience followed suit, while British soldiers and officers saluted. As Cody described the moment:
"All present were constratined to feel that here was an outward and visible sign of the extinction of that mutual prejudice, amounting sometimes almost to race hatred, that had severed two nations from the times of Wahsington and George the Third to the present day. We felt that the hatchet was buried at last and the Wild West had been at the funeral."

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