Sunday People

Charles must be King for all of us



In the end it rained, which was fitting. It’s hard to carry out a ceremony that stretches back a thousand years in beaming sunlight. You need a bit of gloom, makes the light shine brighter.

We got this weather last time we had a Charles. Samuel Pepys wrote on the Coronation of Charles II: “…and then it fell a-raining and thundering and lightning as I have not seen it do for some years…”

That was 1661. Nothing changes. Interestin­g to know what Pepys would have made of yesterday. Not really a TV man. He would have probably been live-blogging it somewhere.

We would have snapped him up. Some great lines: “…so glorious was the show with gold and silver, that we were not able to look at it…”

Summed up yesterday perfectly. All our finery on display. Whatever else we do, we do things like this well.

My own views on this stuff have appeared here before but what can you do? It is designed to impress and it does. The scale of it, the finery, the pomp and circumstan­ce. Personally,

I would take the majority of it from them. But this is about the ceremony. The rite.

And at the very heart of it, that most sacred of sacred mysteries. The monarch making a pledge before God to serve the country, and in return receiving our loyalty.

The first recorded coronation was a thousand years ago but its roots stretch back further. The head of the tribe, the leader of the nation.

King Charles III became ruler the moment his mother died but the pact with the country deepened yesterday.

And the responsibi­lity is incredible. Heavy is the head that wears the crown, as Shakespear­e observed. And, you know, Stormzy.

It was never more true.

The challenges facing the monarchy in the coming years are immense.

Issues of the Commonweal­th, issues facing the country, issues in his family. The King will have to tackle them all.

At the same time, he will have to rule over a changing institutio­n.

The monarchy needs reform. He will have to combine the stoicism of his late mother with the informal approach of his heir.

It is a difficult challenge. One he must rise to. Because the monarchy is sewn into the fabric of the country. For good or ill, it makes us who we are. The light in the darkness, a fixed point for the nation – so often torn and squabbling. True as the North Star.

We saw it with the late Queen Elizabeth. In the heart of the pandemic – a generation­al tragedy – it was her the country turned to.

“We will meet again,” she told a battered nation that took solace in her calm, her optimism and her strength. The new King must provide the same. At 74, he is the oldest to take the throne, and there is a lot to do.

We know he has causes close to his heart, and will continue to speak on climate change.

He will voice opinions that cause controvers­y but he must be a King for all of us.

Politician­s come and go. Wars end. Crises fade. The events, even the happy ones, that hold us together all pass.

Whatever your stance – and people, being people, will always take a different view – it is vital to have a touchstone. Something we all share, that unites us.

That’s the monarchy. Everywhere.

Of course it’s in the crown and the flags and the jewels and the ceremony.

It’s in the OBES and MBES and CBES. It’s in knighthood­s and damehoods and the Order of the Bath.

It’s at the Cup Final, Ascot, the Olympics. Trooping the Colour, the Christmas message, the variety show.

It’s at Sandringha­m and Balmoral, Windsor, Clarence House, Buckingham Palace.

What’s important is what it means to us. Each of us. Even those of us who don’t agree. For some, it’s in the crackling of wartime radio, the words drifting out across the Commonweal­th that held us all together.

For countless more, it’s in the corners of forgotten fields where the brave lay, who sacrificed everything for the monarch.

It’s painted on the hull of the great ships, the aeroplanes and the lifeboats.

The coins in your pocket, the stamps. The telegram at 100.

The cities and towns and villages that come to life when a visit is announced. That unfurl the bunting and fly the flag.

It’s in the childhood dreams of knights and princesses, palaces of gold and silver. It’s on the pride-swelled chests passing the Cenotaph. It’s for all of us.

Our Royal Family. Our King. Our Country.

‘‘ Whatever your stance, monarchy is something that unites us

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