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The Royal Birthday (Language level B1-C1)

Aprile 2016
È la più cool dell’intera famiglia reale, mai uno scandalo, mai una caduta di stile, sempre la parola giusta in ogni occasione. Mitica Elizabeth, 90 anni e non sentirli! Ma cosa ne pensano i suoi sudditi? Ascoltate la registrazione!

di Jonathan Cameron

File audio:

Queen Elizabeth II
Queen Elizabeth II

Queen Elizabeth II celebrates her 90th birthday on April 21st. She was born on that day in 1926, a few weeks before Norma Jeane Mortenson, who later become Marilyn Monroe.

the king’s speech

Princess Elizabeth was never meant to become Queen. Her grandfather, George V, was on the throne at the time of her birth. George’s son, the Prince of Wales, who Elizabeth knew as “Uncle David,” was the heir apparent. David’s younger brother (and Elizabeth’s father), Albert or “Bertie,” the Duke of York, was destined for a life as a “minor royal.” But that all changed when George V died – and “Uncle David” became King Edward VIII – in 1936. The new King abdicated a year later when he fell in love with an American divorcee, and Bertie became King George VI. He was unprepared for the role and his heroic efforts to overcome his stutter were later chronicled in the film The King’s Speech, for which Colin Firth won an Oscar. The stress of becoming monarch – and the Second World War – doubtless took their toll and he died in 1952, at the age of 56. His daughter, then aged 25, became Queen.

the republicans

The popularity of the Royal Family seems to have fluctuated during the course of Elizabeth’s life. The Abdication Crisis of 1937 was a low point, but the War restored public faith in the monarchy. The 1969 investiture of the Queen’s son, Prince Charles, as Prince of Wales, boosted the institution’s popularity, as did Charles’ “fairy tale wedding” to Lady Diana Spencer in 1981. But, when that ended in divorce, the Royals were once again the subject of criticism. The Republican movement grew in strength in the 1990s and Diana’s death, in a mysterious car crash in Paris in 1997, probably added to that. In recent years the Royals have regained their popularity: another “fairy tale wedding,” namely that of Charles and Diana’s son, Prince William, to Kate Middleton, is the main reason. 

well liked

But even as the monarchy’s popularity has gone up and down, that of the Queen has remained constant. Her husband, Prince Philip, seems to offend someone every time he opens his mouth in public. Her eldest son, Charles, is considered a sad case, and his younger siblings’ private lives, as well those of their ex partners, are a source of embarrassment, as is the behaviour of Charles’s younger son, Harry. Yet the Queen herself seems to be above criticism. Of course what will happen to the monarchy when she dies is another matter. But that probably won’t be happening soon: her father and sister, Princess Margaret, both died relatively young, but her mother (played by Helena Bonham Carter in The King’s Speech) lived to the age of 101.  

INTERVIEW

the queen and i

LANGUAGE LEVEL C1 (ADVANCED)

Speaker: Mark Worden (Standard British accent)

On April 21st Elizabeth II, Queen of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and head of the Commonwealth, will celebrate her 90th birthday. She became Queen in 1952 and last year she overtook Queen Victoria as England’s longest reigning monarch. But she is only number 45 on the world’s list of longest reigning monarchs. The King of Thailand has been on the throne since 1946  while top of the list is Sobhuza II of Swaziland, who reigned from 1899 to 1982.
But what do the British think of their Queen? We took to the streets of London to find out. The first person to speak is Charles Cecil. He creates video games:

Charles Cecil (Standard British accent)

I admire her enormously. The Royal Family probably has less relevance than it did, you know, a generation ago, but the Queen herself is magnificent. She works very hard and she keeps the Commonwealth together. I admire her enormously.

Charles’s mother, Veronica Cecil, is a retired journalist who wrote a book of memoirs called Drums on the Night Air: A Woman’s Flight from Africa’s Heart of Darkness:

Veronica Cecil (Standard British accent)

I’m a bit sceptical about the Royal Family. I’m not a Republican, but I can’t honestly take it all that seriously, I have to say.

Sue Smart is also retired:

Sue Smart (Standard British accent)

I think it’s a great event, it’s probably something we should be celebrating. Yeah, I’m a real monarchist. Unlike all the sort of younger generation, she upholds values, yeah!

Johnny Fenton is homeless:

Johnny Fenton (London “Cockney” accent)

I’ve always been proud of being English. I’m not proud of the Royal Family for one reason: taxes, taxes and taxes. I would say this: Queen, I love you, Charles, I love you, the Royal Family, I love you. You’ve got to stop living off the country, you’ve got to live off of sponsorships, people who want you. The country needs new, fresh blood, a new person who really, really has the people of the country at heart.

Sue Luxton is a housewife:

Sue Luxton (Standard British/London accent)

She’s an amazing person, she works hard. Most people her age would have retired a long, long time ago. Yeah, she still visits around, goes and visits places, she’s just amazing.

Her son Dan recently graduated from university with a degree in Drama and Creative Writing:

Dan Luxton (Standard British accent)

I think it’s a great thing that we’ve got a royal family, I think it’s really good that we’ve got someone politically neutral who other nations can respect, and that we can respect, and a lot of people, me included, do respect her, and it’s incredible that she’s still doing so much work at 90 years old.

Kathryn Renowden is Australian. She runs a bookshop and arts centre in Melbourne, but was visiting Europe when we met her:

Kathryn Renowden (Australian accent)

I wouldn’t say I’m a royalist. I’m glad she’s made it to 90, but I don’t feel strongly about it, I suppose.

And Roy Butcher is between jobs in London’s financial district, “The City”:

Roy Butcher (Standard British/London accent)

I think it’s fantastic. It’s such an achievement. She’s a great ambassador for the country and I love her greatly. 


BIRTHDAY EVENTS

Fashioning a Reign: 90 Years of Style from The Queen’s Wardrobe will celebrate the Queen’s reign through three exhibitions of more than 150 of her clothes. The exhibitions will be staged at Her Majesty’s official residences. London’s Buckingham Palace will cover fashions from the 1920s to the 2010s (August - September).

The Queen has two birthdays; her “real” birthday on April 21st and her “official” birthday on a Saturday in June.  This year it will be on Saturday 11th. There will be a Thanksgiving service at St Paul’s Cathedral on June 10th, and the traditional Trooping the Colour ceremony on June 11th. There will be a series of street parties across the country the following day. Many people will gather in Green Park and St James’s Park (near Buckingham Palace) to watch proceedings on big screens.


DID YOU KNOW...

On paper, the Queen is one of the world’s most powerful rulers. She is head of state,  head of the armed forces, of the judicial system and of the Church. Even the national anthem (“God Save the Queen”) is about her and not about the country.  Fortunately, Britain is a “constitutional monarchy,” which means that the Queen is unable to use these powers. She has to do what the Prime Minister tells her, and not vice-versa.

The Queen never went to school. She received her education at home. When her children (Charles, Anne, Andrew and Edward) went to school, she modestly asked their teachers to explain the system to her as “I never went to school.”  

She did, however, serve in the armed forces. In 1945, during the later stages of the Second World War, she joined the “Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service” and became a truck mechanic. But she didn’t see action: she was based in Camberley in Surrey and returned to her home (Windsor Castle) every night. 


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Explains

Took their toll. Hanno avuto il loro effetto. Il sostantivo toll è una vecchia parola per una tassa, un costo: si sente ancora del termine toll booth, la casella dove si paga il pedaggio sulle autostrade americane. Da non confondere con il verbo to toll che vuol dire suonare (si dice di una campana).

Won’t be happening soon. Non succederà presto. Qui si usa the future continuous e non il simple future (it won’t happen soon). Tecnicamente si potrebbe anche usare il simple future ma  il continuous dà più l’idea dell’azione. Ad esempio quando Sting canta I’ll be watching you sembra una minaccia.