When I arrived at King’s Cross and waited for the tube, King Charles’s voice suddenly could be heard wishing us a good journey and “please mind the gap “. It was so unreal! We had already been offered horrible paper yellow crowns while boarding the Eurostar in Paris and a delightful young Finnish girl had offered me a sweet in the shape of a mini hamburger on the train. Was I living a fairy tale? Was life actually becoming nice again on the eve of the first British coronation in seventy years? When we walked back from watching the very long celebration, it was drizzling and then pouring, and everyone seemed relieved there had not been any incident (except the arrest of 52 pacific demonstrators in London and elsewhere). So was the coronation as extraordinary an event as we all hoped?
The major surprise was definitely the sword bearer, 50 year old Leader of the House of Commons, Penny Mordaunt who had trained her muscles to carry the weight for months. Her stunning behavior, calm and composed, was compared to Pippa Middleton’s coup at her sister, the Duchess of Cornwall’s wedding. A former minister of Defense she is now said to be a possible contender for the job of Prime minister…
While the first guests arrived at 7.15 am at Westminster Abbey, they were entertained by 80 year old John Eliot Gardiner conducting the Monteverdi Choir and the delightful South African Soprano Pretty Yende singing from the balcony in a Stéphane Rolland dress and Graff yellow and white diamond necklace. Then Welsh bass barytone Bryn Terfel sang in the choir while the arrival of world leaders and former Prime ministers were being commented on the BBC. I was not impressed by famous cook Jamie Oliver‘s comments on King Charles’s love for healthy Cornish food but later India Hicks, the King’s goddaughter, was superb in a pale grey dress inspired by Christian Dior’s new look and very daring when she recounted being a flower girl at Princess Diana’s wedding. Probably the only mention that William and Harry’s mother received all day. (Elton John declined to sing or to attend the ceremony).
Many historical details were fascinating and showed the great care which was put into planning this ceremony. The Scottish coronation chair on which the King sat, dates back from Edward I in 1296, and the Stone of Scone on which Scottish monarchs traditionaly sat is included in it. The Bible on which he swore, was a 6 th century illuminated manuscript, the carriages, the uniforms, all matched the history of Westminster Abbey, where King Charles was the 40 th monarch to be crowned since Harold II in 1066, as depicted in the Bayeux tapestry. I loved that Princess Ann slipped out of church and went on to ride her horse as chief of security for the king while he went back to Buckingham Palace. Her riding uniform saved her form having to pick a new dress!
The general consensus among my friends was that Camilla was suffering from Imposter’s syndrome… She brought in four of her relatives as King’s pages (along Prince George) and had her sister and best friend as Ladies in waiting… Her coronation was totally unjustified and her appearance in a very elaborate Bruce Oldfield gown was bland. Her cleavage did not work with her necklace and she looked unhappy (or scared?) during the whole ceremony. While Charles seemed to be on a celestial cloud. The only truly moving moment was when his son Prince William kissed him. And the fresh air really came from his children, George, Charlotte (a true star dressed like her mother by Alexander Mc Queen) and Louis.
How did all these guests stay in their seats without eating for five hours is a mystery? But the music was certainly magical all along and the outstanding children’s choirs, which included girls for the first time at a coronation, were composed of singers from Westminster Abbey, His Majesty’s Chapel Royal in St James, the Methodist College Belfast and Truro Cathedral in Cornwall. The only sad moments were to see how two of the Kings relatives, Prince Andrew and Prince Harry were almost entirely banned from the cameras. The BBC had obviously received strict orders and were not to film celebrities. I learned the next day in the Journal du Dimanche that former Prime Minister Tony Blair was celebrating his 70 th birthday on Coronation day… what a destiny!
I was very disappointed by the coronation’s merchandising and could not really find anything special either at the V & A nor at the Royal Academy. Fortnum’s had the most refined cups and teapots but only one tea and one coffee… Ladurée did a special packaging for their macarons on Burlington Arcade, and the British Museum had eggcups and mugs. But the real stuff was to be found on the web site of the Royal Collection. I suspect that they were the only ones to have copyright!
It was a pity that the weather was so wet and that the air show could not take place, but the lawn at Buckingham palace looked superb with the 4 000 soldiers lined up on it. There were spectacular images of the 1 600 street liners standing for security and there was no visible incident (no horse guard fainting in the heat) except for a few undisciplined horses… Were the young generations impressed? Not sure, but the King showed how much he care about women and diversity in religions and races and saluted the heads of all religions while exiting. They were prominently put forward in Westminster Abbey during the whole service and the Commonwealth was celebrated many times in colorful ways.
King Charles III came out very well after these three days of celebration and he was praised for his environmental visionary ideas and his respect for minorities and women. The omnipresence of Camilla’s family on the balcony and in church was a bit worrying and the absence of the MP’s (who had not been invited) shocking, for some. At Queen Elizabeth’s coronation, which included many more guests (only 2300 were invited this time), no coronated kings and no foreign dignitaries were included outside the Commonwealth… Today, the importance of International ties was put forward many Queens and Kings were seated in the Abbey.
The coronation was a great excuse to go to London and visit the “Donatello, sculpting the Renaissance” exhibition at the V & A until June 11 and the “Luxury and Power, Persia and Greece” at the British Museum which is stunning thanks to the recent discovery of 8 gold vessels in Bulgaria, the Panagyurishte treasure (until August 13). The highlight of my stay was celebrating an important friend’s birthday at Brasseria, in Notting Hill where animals AND small children are welcome… The Dover sole was delicious.
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