Like basically every person with a Netflix account and a few hours of free time, I have been watching the new series The Crown, which tells the story of Queen Elizabeth II’s reign. Season 1 Episode 8, “Pride and Joy”, documents Elizabeth and Philip’s 1953 world tour, which included a stop in Jamaica.

This wasn’t the only time a member of the royal family visited Jamaica; most recently, Prince Harry ‘won’ a race against Usain Bolt at the University of the West Indies track. The Queen herself has visited Jamaica several times: her first time on the island was as a small child 1931, then during the aforementioned 1953 world tour, then again in 1966, 1975 and 1983, 1994, and most recently in 2002.

It is surprisingly hard to find information about the visit documented in The Crown.The archives of the Chicago Tribune  include a short story about it, talking of stops in Montego Bay and Spanishtown before coming to Kingston. While in town, they visited King’s House, the home of the Governor (and now Governor General), which is down the street from where I live, and Sabina Park, the professional cricket pitch. Other than these details, it is hard to imagine what their visit might have been like. Few things in Kingston feel very British, or royal, or even old enough to have been visited over 60 years ago.

In general, I find the British influence in Jamaica hard to nail down. Many customs and preferences, such as driving on the left side of the road, wearing uniforms to school, and the preferred sports of soccer/football and cricket, have clear British sensibilities. But other customs that one expects in “the colonies” (and which, I understand, are present in other British Caribbean islands), such as architectural influence, pomp and circumstance, and even habits like tea time, are no where to be found.

While it is likely Netflix won’t be the best source of information, I am hoping to learn more about this aspect of history before I leave.

 

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