Price For our pride
It was a cornucopia of colour and pageantry, a glittering ceremony infused with centuries of symbolism and enriched by spine-tingling music. So perhaps it was inevitable that, as the Coronation of King Charles III reached its magnificent climax, I felt a swell of patriotism at the turning of a page in our great national story. I certainly hadn’t expected to. Because, despite being a monarchist, I have felt increasingly conflicted about holding such a lavish bash in the midst of a cost of living crisis.
And it has confirmed my view, one now shared by 73% of Brits, that the Royal Family urgently needs to change and modernise if it has any chance of surviving.
So watching yesterday’s ceremony brought a mixture of emotions.
There was awe at the sight of Westminster Abbey decked out majestically for the 40th coronation held there since William the Conqueror’s in 1066.
There was wonder at the talent of the musicians and performers
– Sir Bryn Terfel’s booming baritone filling the ancient vaulted ceiling and the stirring rendition of
Zadok the Priest at the moment of the
There was the endearing sight of elegant Princess Charlotte and her cheeky brother Louis – and the puzzle over his mysterious disappearance. And it was impossible not to be moved when the Prince of Wales pledged allegiance to his father, touching the crown then kissing him gently on the cheek.
Because it reminded us of the moment 70 years ago when the late Duke of Edinburgh kissed his wife Elizabeth on the cheek after becoming her “liege man of life and limb”.
I almost got misty-eyed at the sight of Charles welling up as Queen Camilla curtseyed gracefully and took her place on the throne beside him.
Because the “third person” in his miserable marriage to Diana was now the anointed first lady of the land – the “most hated woman in Britain” transformed into the most feted.
What an extraordinary journey it had been. And what an extraordinary spectacle it all was.
The emotional atmosphere inside the Abbey must have been incredible.
And, after all the muttering, no one seemed to have any problem at all declaring their allegiance to Charles, his heirs and successors.
God Save The King! And yet… outside the Abbey thousands of protesters were holding up placards declaring: Not My King. Most people under the age of 30 were rolling their eyes at the whole palaver or sharing the Private Eye front page headline: Man In Hat Sits On Chair.
And millions struggling to feed their families were wondering why taxpayers had to cough up £250million for a party for a bloke who’s worth £2billion.
Was it really a display of global Britain at its best – a royal knees-up set to boost the economy by a staggering £8bn?
Was it truly showing the smiling face of modern Britain – a diverse, more tolerant and inclusive nation?
And was it, as Prime Minister Rishi Sunak insists “a proud expression of our history, culture, and traditions – a vivid demonstration of the modern character of our country”?
Because despite the presence of leaders of other faiths, this was an overwhelmingly Christian service.
And while there were ordinary heroes in the congregation – the charity workers, fundraisers and community champions – it was still a celebration of one very privileged individual and an institution built on feudalism.
Amid all the magic and medieval spectacle there was one quirky moment that brought me back down to earth.
The King was presented with The jewelled Sword of Offering by MP Penny Mordaunt, Lord President of the Council and the first woman to be given the honour.
He attached it to his golden girdle for a moment and, after a proclamation by the Archbishop of Canterbury, unclipped the 19th century blade and offered it up to be placed on the altar. But then Ms Mordaunt produced a velvet bag of “redemption money” and bought the sword back for the King.
It was a perfect reminder of the bizarre and complex relationship we have with our monarchy and the questions we urgently need to ask about what we’re prepared to pay for in future.
Yesterday was, without doubt, a spellbinding national occasion.
But wouldn’t it have been a wonderful gesture for Charles to have paid for it himself? And wouldn’t it make a huge difference even now if he volunteered to pay inheritance tax on the fortune left to him by his mother?
That way the monarchy might last a few more chapters in the story of our nation. Before we decide to close the book on it forever.