Big Ben will soon be no more. Or at least that’s the plan. In order to celebrate Queen Elizabeth’s Diamond Jubilee of 60 years on the throne, which has precedent only in Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee back in 1897, when her name was hoisted on a tower at the west end of parliament, Britons are renaming their iconic landmark as “Elizabeth tower.”
“The renaming of the Clock Tower to the Elizabeth Tower is a fitting recognition of the Queen’s 60 years of service,” said Prime Minister David Cameron. “This is an exceptional tribute to an exceptional monarch.”
But will it stick? After all, the tower isn’t even officially named “Big Ben.” How it acquired that peculiar name remains a mystery, although the top two theories attribute the name either to Benjamin Hall, the engineer whose name is inscribed on the bell, or to heavyweight boxing champion Ben Caunt. So if the vernacular made it what it is today, can an official mandate eradicate it? Can Big Ben be given a sex change?
The idea came from Conservative Party lawmaker Tobias Ellwood, who got it accepted at parliament. “The House of Commons (parliament) Commission welcomed the proposal to rename the Clock Tower Elizabeth Tower in recognition of Her Majesty the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and will arrange for this decision to be implemented in an appropriate manner in due course,” said a House of Commons spokesman.
Though the Britons have been enthusiastic about their Queen lately, stacking tradition against tradition doesn’t always sit well. Last month’s YouGov poll revealed that half of them opposed the Clock Tower’s renaming, and only 30 percent supported it. And if it doesn’t catch on and stick, there will be the awkwardness of a double-named tower – sure to confuse tourists. Can politics tamper with tradition and succeed? We will soon see.