England: the Charles before Charles, England yesterday and today

Charles will be crowned in a surprisingly consistent ceremony since the coronation of Edgar‘first king of all England‘, in 973. But the golden ritual that gave birth to a nation a millennium ago now vibrates like the New York Met Gala or Mumbai’s NMACC launch party. Is it possible that this fancy dress party stands out from the others? Yes, there is a much older fandom. Not only is Charles 74 compared to Elizabeth’s 27 at the time of the coronation, there is now a stark generational gap in favor of maintaining the monarchy. For many youngsters, their favorite part of the coronation is the three-day weekend, which means extra time in the pubs.
Unfortunately, the only way for some of them to pay a bigger beer bill on the weekend is to forego a few meals during the week. The UK’s cost of living crisis has even teachers and nurses lining up at food banks. Even where looking at the golden cars, crimson robes, swan feathers and the like in The Crown’s version of things is a happy diversion, the Windsors’ actual extreme extravagance can rub into unevenness very, very painfully.
As you think about what this high tension between pageantry and hardship might cause, remember the stormy fortunes of the two ancestors from whom the new king takes his name. Charles I kept rubbing Parliament the wrong way and paid for it with his head. Karl II was an outrageous “merry monarch” who died with at least 13 children but no rightful heir. Between these two, 1649-60, England was a republic. The coronation of Charles III is a gigantic public relations theater to persuade his country that he should not want to return to this fate. Will he manage to look like a “king of the people”? Will invitations to a refugee choir and NHS workers do the trick? Maybe. Or maybe Adele and Harry Styles have better read the mood of the public, in RSVPing no.


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