How well I remember the coronation of Princess Elizabeth II on June 2, 1953. Then resident in Scotland, I was four years and seven months old and had just finished reading Das Kapital and was moving on to The Condition of the Working Class in England. I had also asked for Stories,Tales and Fables by the Marquis de Sade but faither said ‘Nae bairn should be reading that’ and offered instead ‘Noddy on the Runaway Train’.
Memories can be unreliable, as we know, certainly for people of my age, recounting the glory days of bygone youth. Just don’t ask me what I had for breakfast yesterday.
But I digress, as the world awaits tomorrow’s pageant involving the coronation of King Charles III and Queen Camilla. Charles officially ascended to the throne after the death of Queen Elizabeth. eight months ago. Now the official ceremony begins, just as many of us ask, will this ancient ritual then finally be consigned to the dustbin of history.
Charles has requested a lower-key affair than his mother’s coronation. For example, the guest list is capped at 2000 dignitaries, well below the 8000+ who attended Lizzie’s crowning at Westminster Abbey in 1953.
There’s a goodly scattering of Australians and expats among the invitees; including, of course, the Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese and the Governor-General, David Hurley. I should observe that the invitation goes to whoever is Head of State at the time, so it could just as easily have been that back bench bloke.
Mr Albanese was then asked to nominate a certain number of Australians and expats to attend. No doubt Dame Edna Everage would have been on the list, had she and her alter-ego not so recently died.
Rock singer Nick Cave’s fans were perplexed by his decision to accept the invitation. It should be noted that Cave, though Australian, has not lived here since 1980 and usually resides in England.
On his quirky blog, The Red Right Hand Files, Cave answered fans who wanted to know if the young Nick Cave would have been so inclined.
Cave answered that the young Nick Cave, like so many younger selves, was ‘young and mostly demented’. Cave, who says he is no monarchist, nor a republican, is nevertheless fascinated by the royals.
“I guess what I am trying to say is that, beyond the interminable but necessary debates about the abolition of the monarchy, I hold an inexplicable emotional attachment to the Royals,” he wrote in his blog.
Cave is not listed as one of the performers at the ‘Coronation Concert’ to be held in the grounds of Windsor Castle the day after the ceremony. Lead performers include Kate Perry, Lionel Ritchie, Take That and Andrea Bocelli. The Coronation Choir, whose members include refugee choirs, NHS choirs, LGBTQ+ choirs, and deaf signing choirs, will also perform. Ten thousand tickets were issued free via public ballot. We’ll get to watch it free via the BBC, which is producing and broadcasting the concert on Sunday.
Rolling Stone, while delving into the Nick Cave controversy, named musicians who were reportedly asked to perform but declined, including Sir Elton John, Harry Styles, Adele and Robbie Williams. Gone are the days, it seems, of being ‘commanded’ to perform.
Australia’s entertainment world will be well represented at the coronation ceremony, with invitees including ballet dancer Leanne Benjamin, soprano Yvonne Kelly and comedian Adam Hills.
The Prime Minister’s selection includes indigenous artist Wiradjuri, and expats British gallery owner Jasmine Coe, Barbican Centre CEO Claire Spencer, NHS nurse Emily Regan and Oxford vaccinologist Merryn Voysey.
The Australian Financial Review reported that Mr Albanese and UK High Commissioner Stephen Smith this week hosted a function for the Australian group at the envoy’s Kensington residence. Smith, if you’ll recall, served as a Minister in the Rudd and Gillard governments from 1993 to 2013.
Charles and Camilla have invited foreign royals to Saturday’s ceremony, as reported by People magazine. They include Denmark’s Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary, Spain’s King Felipe and Queen Letizia, and Monaco’s Princess Charlene and Prince Albert.
After much speculation to the contrary, it is confirmed that Charles’s sons, Princes Harry and William, will attend.
Our friends in the folk music world may be pleased (or displeased) to see the motif of the Green Man used in the official invitation (see above) by heraldic illustrator Andrew Jamieson. The Royals interpret this as “The Green Man (being) an ancient figure from British folklore, symbolic of spring and rebirth, to celebrate the new reign”. We’ll take that as a win.
While Buckingham Palace is talking up the Coronation as an income-producing tourism event, economists are dubious. Bloomberg’s Tom Rees notes that the extra bank holiday is set to drag down what otherwise may be gathering momentum in the UK economy.
Forecasters warned that the additional day off on May 8 will help trigger a 0.7% slide in GDP in May and could tip the economy into a minor contraction in the second quarter.
It will be the second time in a year that royal events have weighed on growth, but analysis suggests the impact of those events is declining.
The Centre for Economics and Business Research estimates that extra tourism and spending in pubs, (which are allowed to stay open later over the weekend), will provide a £337 million boost to the economy.
Britain’s GDP was down 0.1% in the three months through September, after an extra day off at the end of the period for the funeral of Queen Elizabeth II.
There has been inevitable criticism of the cost of the coronation (upwards of £100 million). It comes at a time when Britons are battling a cost of living spiral (inflation of 10%), a nurses’ strike for higher wages and other dramas.
Despite a budget dramatically lower than the equivalent spent in 1953, there is still the largesse of the gold carriage.
After the coronation, the couple will take part in the Coronation Procession, seated in the Gold State Coach. The coach is 260 years old and used at every coronation since William IV in 1831. According to Yahoo News, which should know, the coach was commissioned in 1762 for a then cost of £7,562. Today it is worth over £3.5m.
Comparisons are odious, I know, but last year the Trussell Trust, which administers Britain’s biggest food bank, spent £7.5m, £4.5m more than in the previous year, replenishing food bank stocks for the needy. The Guardian explained that this is due to food donations from individuals and local charity food drives failing to keep pace with demand.
The coronation is undoubtedly an historic occasion and should be rightfully observed as such, even as members of the Commonwealth such as Australia may soon consider a referendum on whether we should become a Republic. Charles had reportedly asked that the coronation budget be a modest one, in light of tough economic times. Not that Charles will have to put his hand in his purse* – the coronation is funded by the British taxpayer.
As British songwriter Leon Rosselson said in his sarcastic 1979 song, On her Silver Jubilee:
‘Oh, the magic of the monarchy, the mystery sublime
Growing gracefully and effortlessly richer all the time’.
*King Charles inherited $500 million in assets from his mother and is overseer of a vast portfolio worth $46 billion. (Forbes magazine).