Friday, March 18, 2011

We Are British Citizens!

I am now a British citizen. In case you're wondering, I'm still an American one, too.

After two months of filling out applications, taking the Life in the U.K. test and waiting for an answer from the U.K. Border Agency, it finally happened. We all took our oaths yesterday to become British citizens.

It was all very exciting. The boys got the afternoon off from school. I even wore a new dress for the occasion. We made our way to Woolwich Town Hall for the ceremony, which in many ways felt like a marriage.

Before we left, a witty friend of mine asked, "Have you done the basic irony course or the extended course that includes mild sarcasm with resigned indifference?" No, I haven't. Nor have taken any courses on making a good cup of tea, forming an orderly queue or keeping a stiff upper lip.

It seemed right and not at all surprising that the notoriously unreliable Southeastern train would stall on the way there, but we got there in time. We even had time to stop in the U.K.'s first-ever McDonald's on Woolwich High Street. Everything seemed significant in its own way yesterday.

We passed by a very large statue of Queen Victoria on our way to Greenwich Council Chambers, where the ceremony was held. Given that they do this weekly, the process was a well-oiled machine. You waited in the queue (perhaps this was a secret British citizenship test?) showed your papers, and then signed the register, with a picture of the benevolent Queen smiling over your right shoulder.

While you waited for everyone else to do the same, they piped in music which reminded us all of the music they play at the Legoland Windsor entrance, another great British institution. At least we felt that way until they started to play the music of naturalised British citizen George Frideric Handel. Believe me, they NEVER play Handel at Legoland.

The ceremony itself was surprisingly short. You had a choice to do either a "God" or "No God" Oath to the Queen, and then you had to make a pledge to be a good citizen of the U.K. After, they handed out the certificates individually to the new citizens.

It was humbling and fascinating to hear all the places our fellow new citizens had been born. Nigeria was far and away the most called, but the new citizens also came from Zimbabwe, China, Nepal, Pakistan, Kosovo, Hong Kong, Australia, Albania, Kazakhstan, Barundi, Sri Lanka, Ghana, Vietnam and the United States (that was us). It was literally an A to Z of world countries.

We then sang the National Anthem, "God Save the Queen", which uses the same tune as "My Country 'Tis a Thee." Before we left, I had looked up "God Save the Queen" on YouTube so I could at least be familiar with the tune. I was glad I did; did you know you have to wait out the first stanza? I do now.

Greenwich Council had given us all our very own British Passport holder, which certainly will come in handy. They also invited us to stay to have our first cup of tea as a British citizen, which was nice of them. However, I was disappointed they didn't offer any Marmite sandwiches. Times are tough, I suppose.

On our way home, I couldn't stop singing "My Country 'Tis a Thee". Old habits die hard. But at least now I can legitimately sing both songs.


Anonymous said...


Kirstin said...

I love this Maureen! Congratulations!

Dewi said...

Congratulations Maureen! When I was reading your list of countries it reminded me of my ceremony and when they called out the country first I didn't realise it was me...because they called out 'And from New Zealand...'. I was born in NZ, so they obviously go on birth place!! I wanted to protest and say 'No, no, I'm Australian'...but that would have been terribly inappropriate having just sworn allegiance to Britain wouldn't it!!

Kelley said...

So proud..look at you go! You have always been a trailblazer and it is with tremendous joy that I watch you undertake this next adventure. What will be next???

M.A. Stapleton said...

Thanks for all the nice comments everybody. It was a very exciting day. It's too bad I have to photos of my picture with a picture of the Queen, but you can't have everything.