Standing at attention in blood-red wool, muskets pinned to their sides, the smattering of British soldiers repeated three times into the crowd the familiar refrain:
“Hip hip, hooray! Hip hip hooray! Hip hip hooray!”
The cries came with good reason. Nearby stood the queen of England, her majesty Elizabeth II, a pleasant, if frozen, smile etched on her face, white-gloved hands clasped in front of her in demure approval.
But this was no royal ceremony — rather, a trans-Atlantic fete in her honor.
On the stoop of the Old State House on State Street, from where King George’s governors once ruled Massachusetts and steps from the spot where colonists died in the Boston Massacre, more than 150 Anglophiles and others celebrated the queen’s diamond jubilee, marking 60 years of reign.
“This queen has seen a lot of change since taking the throne,” Dr. Phil Budden, British consul general to New England, said. “She’s been such a point of continuity in British history. I think there is a lot of interest in the monarchy. It goes beyond Britain.”
Indeed, the crowd that gathered was a hodgepodge of expatriates, tourists, officials, and history buffs, who heard readings, songs, and the occasional toodle on a fife to celebrate Britain’s symbolic head of state.
And the queen herself, with that stiff pose? A life-size cardboard cutout that revelers posed with for cheeky photos.
“I brought her over from London,” said Kathy Duffy — an event organizer from the Bostonian Society, the group that looks after the Old State House — of the 5-foot 4-inch leader’s likeness. “I carried her on [the plane] because she’s too big to fit in my luggage.”
Everywhere were Union Jacks — on pennants strung overhead, on jangling jester hats, and festooning the socks of one infant. Even the low, gray cloud cover seemed to be in the British spirit.
“I think [the queen] stands for freedom,” said Daniela Krause, 39, of Newton, who is half-British and half-German, a quixotic mix considering the two nation’s histories, she said. “She brought the country from crumbles. British people, like the Americans and the French, don’t have problems showing their heritage. I think England is actually close to the continental US, in terms of spirit.”
Dr. Jonathan Richmond, 54, a British transplant watching the proceedings quietly, said the practice of holding up icons is universal among societies.
“In Britain the royal family has less constitution significance [than it used to] ... but is still a source of identity and for being British,” Richmond said. “It doesn’t matter if the royal family has power. Symbols have power, the power to bring people together.”