The picture above once again features my great Aunt Maud, of 'Where Was Maud?' fame, and last week's 'Two Shades of Blue'. You'll remember her as my mother's kindly spinster aunt with the photography hobby. She also taught at her local Sunday School in Nottingham and the picture above appears to be connected in some way with this association. I'm not sure of the event being celebrated, but it could be Empire Day. Maud is seated in the centre of the group, dressed as Britannia, a figure which always fascinated me as a child, because she appeared on the pennies in my pocket money.
Empire Day was popular from 1902 until the 1950s, by which time Britain's relationship with the diminishing Empire began to change. It later became Commonwealth Day, after going through several metamorphoses. Listen to this short clip of a twenty year old Princess Elizabeth on Empire Day 1946 commending the common ideals of 'freedom, justice and humanity' to be found in every corner of the Empire. These days The Queen still sends a radio message to the youth of the Commonwealth. As a former Primary School Headteacher I can attest to the fact that the average schoolboy or girl today wouldn't even know what the word Commonwealth means, let alone anything about its history. Next year a new National Curriculum for History comes into force, after much fierce debate, but I don't think schoolchildren and students will be any wiser about the notion of empire, other than that of the Romans, who after all were our conquerors, and gave 'Britannia' her name in the second century AD, when she was personified as a goddess, with armour and a Corinthian helmet. When schools have festivals and dressing-up days, children usually go as their favourite sporting or pop star, or dress as a character from a book; any little lady dressing in a flag and a helmet and wielding a trident would be met with quizzical looks. What a pity as it's a great costume.
This Pathe news clip from 1933, when my mother was a girl, gives a flavour of some of the ceremony and fun they had on Empire Day.
This week's Sepia Saturday prompt was of a young lady dressed as 'Boadecia, or Mother England', an image that is close enough to Britannia I think. She is wearing a breastplate, shield and helmet and wielding a large stick, rather than a trident, and there is no Union Flag, but she certainly looks as though she means business. Why not visit us there to see what other Sepians have made of the prompt?