There are certain things we all know about our country’s ways. You grow up knowing them, like the National Anthem. Or, in the US, how to salute the flag. You can’t even remember where you first learned them.
When you move to live in another country, it takes a bit longer to catch up with these matters known to everyone else around you.
In England, one tradition I learned early on was that when you reached age 100, you were sent a telegram by the Queen (now, the King, of course). When a woman is in her 90s and seems healthy, friends will say, “She’s going to get the telegram” and everyone knows what they mean.
But I have recently discovered a long-standing tradition that is less well known.
It seems that couples who reach their 60th wedding anniversary receive a card from the Palace to congratulate them. I learned this only a year ago.
I am delighted to report that my husband and I have been happily married for 60 years. The actual anniversary was June 8th, and I have written about this elsewhere. As a result, we knew we were eligible to get this card.
It turns out, however, that you don’t just get it automatically. You have to apply. But you (the couple) are not allowed to apply, so someone needs to do so on your behalf. Very English! Rules within rules.
So, some time ago, I asked my daughter to look into this for me. It didn’t require much research (she put her teenage son on the case) to find a link to the appropriate website (anything to do with the Palace sounds hugely grand, but the office may be a cubby-hole for all I know) to make the application.
Our situation was complicated because we married in the US, so she had to submit not only our marriage certificate but also our passports to prove we qualified. But we passed all tests, and she received an email from the Palace assuring her that our card was despatched at the appropriate time.
But even the Palace has no control over the Royal Mail (although it sounds like it should) and our card seemed to have got stuck in the post. Didn’t come Thursday, which was our anniversary. Nor Friday.
But finally, on Tuesday afternoon, there was our card on the front mat. The envelope was labelled ‘to be signed for’ but the postman clearly didn’t care, as he put it through our letterbox, where it lay hidden underneath a bank statement and a lot of catalogues.
I immediately took a photo and sent it to my daughter, my daughter-in-law and a couple of friends. The front of the card has a photo of King Charles and Queen Camilla in formal dinner wear and properly bejewelled.
Inside was the statement:
“My wife and I were so pleased to hear that you are celebrating your Diamond Wedding anniversary on 8th June 2023. This brings you our warmest congratulations and heartfelt good wishes on this happy occasion.’
Charles R and Camilla R.
And there you see it. A real British tradition in action.
Somewhere along the way, I became curious about how many people were celebrating their 60th wedding anniversary in the United Kingdom. What with frequent divorces, not to mention deaths among two people at least in their late 70s, this might not be such a big group.
Much to my surprise, that there was a website with exactly this information. This set out the cumulative numbers of people who had received either the famous telegram or our anniversary card from the Queen in the 70 years 1952-2022 she had been on the throne.
I learned that 927,000 couples had received the card (and 307,000 centenarians had received the telegram) over this period. Divided over the 70 years, this makes roughly 13,200 couples per year or roughly 36 a day. Not all that many, but more than a handful.
Of course, not all couples would know about the tradition or go to the trouble of asking a friend or relative to apply on their behalf, so there may be many more people in the broad category.
And my arithmetic makes it 12 people reaching 100 each day.
I can’t leave this discussion without a brief mention of the fact that the 60th anniversary is for diamonds. In all our married life, we have never followed the ‘official’ gifts expected at any anniversary, some of which in any case are bizarre.
Did you know that the 10th anniversary is supposed to be celebrated with tin?
By this stage in life, I would think that most of us are trying to divest ourselves of ‘stuff’, but perhaps some people feel diamonds are different.
Personally, I have never liked jewellery and would rather have a good laugh with my husband of so many years than a diamond ring, brooch or necklace. But I guess I am a bit odd – in more ways than that.
And we do have a laugh or two every day. I do recommend it for a long marriage.
What anniversary have you reached? Do you honour the traditional methods of celebrating? What has been your best anniversary present?
Tags Marriage After 60