Filed under: Uncategorized
A smiling grandfather, a pleased mother and a doting father swelled with pride as a 31-year-old woman braved sudden high winds in the first preliminary round in the equestrian category of eventing or cross-country trials in London’s Greenwich Park on July 26.
What makes this flow of familial pride significant is that the rider is Zara Phillips, daughter of the Princess Royal Anne and first granddaughter of the reigning Queen Elizabeth.
Qualifying for the second preliminary round on July 31, in spite of a violent gust of wind, riding High Kingdom, she finished the hilly, winding 5700 meter-course in 9 minutes 56 seconds, with seven seconds to spare, ranking 24 out of 25 in a 75-rider round to qualify for the next eventing round of racing and jumping.
“Considered a backwater of the Olympic Games,” in the words of the “New York Times’” Mary Pilon, Phillips qualifying win won the approval of some 50,000 fans who crowded to see this minor royal ride.
Phillips has taken a leaf out of mother’s book: the Princess Royal is a former Olympian in this equestrian sport and an accomplished horsewoman. Although she was listed as a member of the British team at the 2008 Beijing Summer Games, she had to withdraw owing to a training injury of her horse Toytown.
Interest in Phillips may partially seen in the glamor, pomp and circumstance of 2012 being a Jubilee Year of Elizabeth II 60th year on the throne; partly, too, in heartening nostalgia of the glory that was the far-flung British empire; and, partly, still more, to the all-embracing pride the United Kingdom has, in the face of bad economics times, in staging the Summer Games in shirking off a condition of world weariness, in a renewed vigor and pleasure in “I’m proud to be British” sense of pride and self.
Yet, we cannot lose sight of a horse riding tradition that the Queen herself embodies: a tradition with its codes and conventions that has passed down from the monarch to her daughter and now from her daughter to her own daughter. And, so far, she has done her family proud during eventing’s preliminary round one.
Until 1947, equestrian sports in the Olympics were a military sport. Eventing, jump, and dressage belonged to the Calvary exclusively. This category reflected a centuries-old tradition going back to the Middle Ages; it mirrored a tradition of nobles atop trained steeds that executed well-timed, systematic routines in almost scientific precision. The rise of mechanized warfare in the 20th century opened the equestrian competition to civilians and women.
Phillips, 14th in line to the British throne, has inherited the bearing, the manners and the graceful attitude of this aristocratic art–an art that uses selected styles and routines with judged exactness not only at the Olympics and equestrian competitions.
She was to the saddle born, in other words.
Proud mother Princess Ann said that Zara rode in a sport that the British team is “strongest,” according to Reuters, and her daughter’s performance places her team second behind Germany going into the second round.
Zara admitted, according to Reuters, during her run, “High Kingdom had lost a shoe.” That loss, however, did neither put her nor her thoroughbred off her appointed task of seeking Gold or Silver or Bronze as she and her teammates move towards the medals competition in August.
And for Zara, her ancestor Richard III, in Shakespeare’s play, famously cried out “for want of a nail, a kingdom was lost,” finds no echo in her and High Kingdom’s performance at Greenwood Park.