OPINION: Life was so different when Queen and Prince Philip began public life

Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh (formerly Lt Philip Mountbatten, RN) as they leave West

Princess Elizabeth and the Duke of Edinburgh on their wedding day in 1947. James has been looking back to the early 1950s at life in East Anglia when the royal couple began their public life - Credit: PA

Sad about Prince Philip wasn’t it?

I know he was 99 but as my grandmother used to say: “It’s always a shock at the end,” and I can’t help feeling for our Queen – what a woman – and her family.

It has been interesting to see the reaction to the prince’s death, suddenly we recognise how much he did and how much he meant to us – added to which the Royal family is once again holding up a mirror to us all, by following the rules and living through and sharing the grief of so many in these difficult times.

We can be thankful for Prince Philip’s life not least because he stood for standards of duty and service, and even selflessness, that are so easily dismissed and forgotten in today’s world.

Perhaps Prince Philip has once again reminded us, in death, that these standards do still mean something and are still highly valued after all. At least that’s how it seems to me.

But as we wait for the funeral on Saturday I thought this week it might be interesting to look back not on the prince’s life – but what life was like in our region all those decades ago when he and the Queen first began public life, the 1950s.


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I came across recently some copies of the East Anglian Magazine – which sold for one and ninepence – dating from that time. Inside is an insight to how we lived back then – at least the things we bought and sold and the types of articles that which interested readers.

The first thing that strikes me is how agricultural our focus as a region was – it seems people kept livestock far more than they do now. Back then I suspect far more of us were involved in farming and associated industries.

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The April 1958 edition, opens with an advertising feature – an advertorial we call them in the trade – informing readers of the new premises of the Norwich Union in St Stephen’s Street Norwich, describing among other things “a spacious basement which necessitated the excavation of hundreds of tons of soil, resulting in a valuable amenity.”.

The issue goes on to advertise Horsford Iron Works, The Ford Prefect, available at Mann Egerton dealers in Suffolk and Norfolk, the fine and well paid careers offered in the Royal Air Force, proprietress Mrs Hallidie’s boutique in Bures which offers 'London fashions at Country prices', and the yacht supply company at Oulton Broad with phone number 7.

Alongside these adverts are letters to the editor, including one from the Rev C.O.F. Hodges who recalled speaking to someone who watched the hanging of William Corder in 1828.

A Nigel MacCulloch of Wetherden Rectory near Stowmarket, writes to tell readers of a memorial in the churchyard of Old Newton of a lady called Delia Jane Wilding who died in 1869 and was present with her husband at the battles of Alma, Balaclava and Inkerman and the siege of Sebastopol in the Crimean war.

A Mrs Ida Catchpole of New Plymouth, New Zealand, writes to ask how old her long case clock made by Rich-Simpson of Great Yarmouth might be.

A Mr F.R. Low of Chilver House Lane, Bawsey, near King's Lynn, writes to confirm if a Norfolk wagon is distinguishable from a Suffolk one by the width of the iron tyres – one three inch the other four.

And a Miss R.I. Clarke of College Road, Norwich, writes to ask about the 'Walberswick Ghost' and if anyone else has seen a mysterious man and boy.

There are articles on Streatham Old Engine, wildfowling in the Fens, and Felixstowe’s flying boats as well as the dovecotes of Norfolk and the custom of beating the bounds in Mendlesham, Suffolk which says the beaters wore homemade boots and leather buskins and 'ash sticks were used to cut out the hedges, and very useful they were too'.

The December 1959 issue has articles on East Anglian Shepherd families as well as, alongside adverts for the Christmas wine list of Castle and Co Ltd including rich and fruity Sauternes for 9/6 a bottle, and a fascinating look at the archaeology of the round towers of Suffolk and Norfolk.

And for those who fancied a 'care-free holiday' with 'modern drainage' and 'electric light' why not try The Tudor Guest House in Cavendish, Suffolk.

The past might be a foreign country where they do things differently, yet The Queen and Prince Philip have together served us and ensured the monarchy remains as relevant now to our public life as it was back then. And long may she reign.

What do you think? Do you enjoy looking back into the past? Write to James at james.marston@archant.co.uk

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