Watching History In Great Britain

We didn’t own a television set in 1953 when Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation was to be aired; a new experience for everyone, including the BBC. So we participated by lining the streets to see her procession on her way to Buckingham Palace before the Coronation at Westminster Abbey. We stood in the cold, for what seemed like hours for the benefit of a split-second glimpse as she passed by.

Newspaper clippings took the place of television replays or recordings to remember the splendor. I’m in England as I write this; the trip having been planned long before the date of King Charles III’s Coronation was announced. I have to say that the sentiments shared by people at street parties to banquets have been supportive and even joyous.

Media coverage has been going on for weeks and has ranged from exhortations of the monarchy to rants of republican rejection. If today’s divisive politics are anything to go by, a rather benign monarchy looks to be quite appealing, taking a back-seat position on frontline issues; the monarchy does not embroil itself in political issues. The family is kept up to date during a weekly audience with the King and Prime Minister. At the same time, King Charles III has, for many years taken a strong lead role in affairs related to environmental issues.

He was considered a bit of a nerd years ago when he first postulated that we were treating the environment badly. Today his words are proving to be on point. As a financial model, the Royal Family (insiders refer to it as The Firm), is self-sustaining, even paying taxes on their holdings and revenues, which go toward funding the Privy Purse, paying for their public activities. Tourism related to the royals brings enormous income to many involved in its promotion.

All that said, whether one is attracted to the rather dour presence of the new King and Queen, the excuse to hold a weekend-long party to celebrate what is, to most, a once-in-a-lifetime event, was taken very seriously indeed. Flags and bunting of the Union Jack are strewn in every direction and on anything that would support a length of string. Streets full of people held parties on the bank holiday weekend following the Coronation, despite the typically British inclement weather. Trestle tables ran down the middle of the street, laden with sandwiches, pies, cakes and ice cream. Clowns and entertainers performed for the kids and grown-ups, alike. And music of every stripe added to the fun-filled cacophony. While some celebrations were boozy affairs, no one made headline news getting out of order. The following morning would bring its own reward! 

A few demonstrators were dealt with early on before the start of the procession, being whisked away by the police. They don’t look like “Bobbies” anymore; the haughty figure in dark blue, armed only with a truncheon, is a thing of the past.  The processions to and from Westminster Abbey went off without a hitch and proved to the world that the Brits can do pomp and ceremony better than anyone. The whole thing, from start to finish is planned and orchestrated by the Duke of Norfolk, a role and responsibility of master of ceremonies that has been bestowed upon that dukedom for centuries. Impeccable down-to-the-second timing ensured that thousands of troops and horses, carriages and people were in their places at the right time.

The whole thing took about five hours and I was gladly glued to the telly for the duration.

Last modified on Tuesday, 16 May 2023 14:12