Buckingham Palace may be an ocean away, but that isn’t stopping Delaware Valley residents from celebrating Queen Elizabeth II’s extraordinary Platinum Jubilee. She is Great Britain’s longest-reigning monarch, with 70 years on the throne.
The Daughters of the British Empire is preparing to celebrate the landmark occasion. The celebrations on the weekend of June 4-5 will follow traditions established by the queen herself.
“I declare before you all that my whole life, whether it be long or short, shall be devoted to your service,” Queen Elizabeth said in a speech on her 21st birthday (when she was still Princess Elizabeth).
Susan J. Gerrity, national president of the Daughters of the British Empire (DBE), grew up in Manchester, U.K., and immigrated to the U.S. in the 1970s as part of the “brain drain,” when countless British citizens left in search of better jobs. The Wayne resident has been with the DBE for 40 years and was involved in a variety of roles throughout the years.
“The Daughters of the British Empire was started in about 1909, and that’s why it was called Daughters of the British Empire because at that time, indeed there was a British Empire,” Gerrity told Delaware Valley Journal. “Of course, there is no British Empire now. We have the Commonwealth of Nations.”
It includes 54 countries with Queen Elizabeth being the Titular Head of the Commonwealth. A charitable organization, the DBE’s main goal is to help the elderly. There are eight Chapters in Pennsylvania, with one in Delaware County.
“One of the Chapters which is in Delaware County is called Crown Chapter, and they’re having a very fancy tea on Saturday,” Gerrity said. “That’s June the 4. That will be at St. John’s Church in Glen Mills. It’s open to the public, but it’s totally booked.”
The state DBE is having another event on June 5 that is still open to the public, especially to families and children. It is something that was requested by the queen in a statement.
“We’re following the queen’s guidelines, because she said that June the 4 should be more posh, more formal events,” Gerrity explained. “But June 5 should be for families and neighborhoods and should have informal events. So in England, they’re having street parties. They’re having big long tables and balloons. Everybody will bring a plate of food and they’ll all enjoy things together or they’ll have backyard barbecues.”
The $25 fee will help cover the cost of the various English drinks that will be served during the tea party, such as Pimms, sherry, champagne, gin and tonic, and of course, tea. In addition to great food and beverages, there will be live music.
“We’ll have a sing-song,” Gerrity added. “I’ve put a bunch of British songs together. It’s a British tradition that we sing songs. We sing a mixture of songs… and we’ll have a band. We have a small band and we have people who will be leading the sing-song. It will be about 45 minutes. It’s just a tradition that English people like to sing. More like a pub sing-song.”
The celebration will be held at the Ormiston Mansion in Fairmount Park in Philadelphia at 2:30 p.m.
“What the DBE has often done, or what I’ve encouraged them to do, is partner with other 501(c)(3) ‘s who have ties with the Commonwealth of Nations,” Gerrity said. “On Saturday we partnered with the Royal Heritage Society who maintain and manage a home in Fairmount Park. It’s one of the old Fairmount mansions and they lease it from the city and they maintain it… They often host British events there. Our DBE in Pennsylvania state board decided to partner with the Royal Heritage Society and have a joint tea but the good thing about partnering with Royal Heritage is that we can have the tea on their lawn. They have several acres around the house in Fairmount Park and they’ve been working on the garden. So we’re going to have tea in the garden on Sunday.”
While the event’s page has been closed, there are still spots available for the tea party on Sunday, June 5. If you’re interested, email Susan Gerrity to reserve your spot.