Poppies Everywhere

Remembrance Day has been observed in the United Kingdom, and throughout the Commonwealth, since 1919. It was originally intended to honor those killed in the Great War, and has since been expanded to recognize British and other Commonwealth soldiers who have died in subsequent conflicts. Armistice Day is November 11, but in England, the main observance takes place on Remembrance Sunday, the Sunday closest to November 11. Which was today.

This year the Tower of London put on an extraordinary display: 888,246 ceramic poppies, one for each Commonwealth soldier killed in World War I, filled the moat surrounding the Tower. Each evening during the weeks leading up to Remembrance Sunday, someone would read a list of some of the World War I dead. This is what the Tower looks like:

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Today the main Remembrance ceremony was scheduled to take place at the Cenotaph monument at Whitehall. Queen Elizabeth was to lay the first wreath at the Cenotaph, following two minutes of nationwide silence. She was to be accompanied by her husband, the Duke of Edinburgh, her son the Prince of Wales and grandson the Duke of Cambridge, and others, including the current leaders of the U.K.’s major parties and several former prime ministers. But British intelligence got word of an assassination plot: a group of British Muslims were planning to stab the Queen to death at the Cenotaph. Four Muslims alleged to be involved in the plot were arrested yesterday.

Today, Queen Elizabeth went forward with the Cenotaph ceremony, surrounded by the Royal Family and other dignitaries. As she left the monument to Britain’s war dead, she received an unprecedented round of applause from the crowd, in recognition of her braving the Islamic threats.

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This was not surprising. The British Royal Family has only occasionally been intelligent, but it has consistently been brave. I am not sure whether there will always be an England, but if that long island story should come to an end, it will not be due to any fault, or any lack of courage, on the part of Elizabeth II.

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