A Coronation to remember
The coronation of Queen Elizabeth II is still vivid in my mind. I was 20 at the time and I spent the night before it at the Buckingham Palace end of The Mall where my girlfriend and I got a wonderful view of the Gold Coach as it bore the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh to and from Westminster Abbey. It rained. A lot. But nobody cared about the wet weather.
WWII had been over for nearly eight years but the country was still suffering the deprivations of it. Memories of those lost in the fighting and bombing were still sharp and painful. A reason to celebrate the new Queen was more than welcome. The affection for the Queen’s father, who I met when my father was given his CBE, was considerable. Her father was King Charles III’s grandfather. King George VI had been a shy and reluctant monarch who, with his wife, had shown courage, determination and leadership in Britain’s darkest hour.
Seventy years later, a very different coronation ceremony. The old traditions of the crowning service were preserved but the people attending the ceremony came from all over the world and from all walks of life. King Charles wanted diversity – had, in fact, insisted on it. It was a beautifully varied congregation. The front rows of the seats in the Abbey were all occupied by people whose service to others had been recognised, not by people who had been born into aristocratic families. He wanted to be seen as a ‘Defender of Faith’ – of all faith and of none, for not believing in God is a faith as well. He wanted, and got, a wide range of music and choral styles. A ceremony that has lasted a thousand years was refreshed to last another thousand.
The pomp and beauty of this rare event attracted thousands of onlookers to the route between the Palace and the Abbey. The viewing audience around the world must have been hundreds of millions. Such a spectacle must never be missed. It was particularly heartwarming to see so many children not only as audience but also as participants. King Charles likes the young and has always been a great motivator and supporter of them.
The King’s children were there too, of course. They are a family with all the ups and downs of family life and the added responsibility of struggling to bring the monarchy up to date. I hope not so up to date that this lovely old tradition dies, to be replaced by yet another politician.
A tiny vignette of it all will remain in my mind forever. That is when Prince William, who will one day succeed his father, had finished his oath of allegiance. It seemed a surprise to the King when his son gave him a gentle kiss on the cheek.
For a moment the King’s sad eyes lit up at this unexpected gesture of filial love.
I think Prince William’s kiss came from many of us.
GOD SAVE THE KING.
Whether monarchist or not, whether religious or not, a quiet prayer for a King and Queen is a good idea. Don’t you think?
8 May 2023