By Fiona Walker
WHAT a joy to have a weekend of celebrations, a few days when good news and upbeat stories took over from reports of doom and gloom, when politics, interest rates and price hikes took second place to street parties, patriotic singing and traditions reaching back over the centuries.
This was a weekend that brought together all backgrounds, creeds, and colours, and united people in a celebration that bound Brits together as a nation. Even the typically British weather failed to dampen any spirits.
Despite anticipating a familiarity with the occasion from seeing footage from Queen Elizabeth’s coronation almost 71 years ago, nothing had truly prepared me for the dignity, gravity and sheer magnificence of the crowning of her successor. In the company of others up and down the country and across the entire world, we witnessed the carriage ride from Buckingham Palace to Westminster Abbey, the solemn procession down that long, long aisle, the choirboy’s welcome and the ancient and symbolic ceremony that culminated in the coronation of King Charles III (notre Duc).
I can’t help but wonder what was going through the monarch’s head as he was anointed, hidden from view to all except the Archbishops of Canterbury and York, and the Dean of Westminster. Together they administered the symbolic scented oils, pressed from fruit grown on the Mount of Olives and consecrated in Jerusalem. Among all the pomp and ceremony, it must have been an intensely private and powerful moment and one that bound him spiritually and inextricably to the reigns of all his predecessors stretching back over the centuries. As the screens were removed and the King was once again on view to the public and the cameras, the solemnity of that secluded moment was clearly visible in his expression.
Congratulations must surely go to the Lord President of the Council, Penny Mordaunt, for her epic feat in carrying the Sword of Offering throughout the service, weighing eight pounds and probably feeling far heavier as each minute crawled past. Her face showed none of the colossal effort it must have taken to hold the sword upright and unwavering, and her stoic performance was outstanding.
Nobody deserved to soak in a hot Radox bath at the end of the day more than Ms Mourdant!
Despite Camilla’s regal performance during the Coronation, I still find it difficult to think of her as Queen Camilla. When Queen Elizabeth gave her blessing last year to the title Queen Consort for the future King’s wife, it seemed the matter was settled. But Charles made it clear that he had other intentions, and Coronation invitations referred simply to ‘Queen Camilla’.
His decision suggests that he has decided to put his own wishes before those of his subjects, unlike his mother who always subjugated her own aspirations for the good of the nation. Still, I am glad he has the woman he loves by his side as he starts the greatest undertaking of his life.
The most majestic lady in the Abbey was surely Queen-in-waiting, Catherine. There’s a woman who knows how to rock the regal look. With her stately robes, natural beauty and upswept hairdo crowned by a glittering headpiece of silver laurel leaves, she outshone the most glamorous guests by a country mile.
There was no nervousness in her dignified walk down the aisle, despite knowing that her three young children were integral to the occasion and had the eyes of the world focused on them. Perhaps some bribery was offered to persuade them all to behave with the decorum required for such an occasion, but whatever the inducement, they all did their grandfather proud.
The crowds lining the Mall and celebrating throughout the weekend showed that Britain is a country that is still proud of its monarchy. Of course, there were protestors, aren’t there always? And some were clearly aggrieved that they were prevented from disrupting an occasion being watched and enjoyed by millions around the world, but their numbers were insubstantial compared to the masses who turned out to show support for their new King.
And after all the pomp and ceremony of Saturday, Sunday’s concert was informal and fun. Lionel Ritchie managed somehow to look like someone wearing a cheap Lionel Ritchie mask that had been left too close to the fire, while Katie Perry, in her gown of glistening gold, resembled nothing more than the toffee penny in a box of Quality Street. Regardless, the concert was diverse, glamorous and entertaining.
Love ’em or hate ’em, the Royals put on a weekend to remember, and our new Carolean era got off to an impressive start.