It is taking me some time to get used to referring to my wonderful former ‘boss’ as The King, but I do it with an enormous sense of pride! Whilst the nation continues to mourn the loss of one of the most remarkable leaders and figureheads in history, there is also an air of optimistic anticipation as our new monarch begins his long-awaited reign. His Majesty King Charles III has an incredibly tough act to follow; his mother set the bar impossibly high but that will be no barrier to him being equally as remarkable in the role; doing things in his own inimitable style.
King Charles is a man of immense compassion, kindness, wisdom and generosity of spirit. He is thoughtful, on so many levels, both personally and on much wider issues. For decades he has devoted himself to raising awareness about the increasingly fragile state of the environment. Having battled against a tide of apathy and disbelievers for so many years, it is heartening, that finally his incredible foresight has been recognised and that his persistence has resulted in many innovative practices and schemes being implemented around the globe. Prince William, like his father, is enormously passionate about the environment – we are in very good hands!
His Majesty has a wonderful sense of humour and fun, a trait which seems to run in the family and one which is much needed when living life in the unrelenting glare of the world press. Anyone who meets King Charles in person is always struck by his ready laugh and the lovely twinkle in his eye; something which, sadly, is seldom reflected in the media. He is gracious and always appreciative; my collection of wonderful hand-written thank you notes from His Majesty, pays testament to this. These notes would have been written late at night, at a desk always stacked with piles of paperwork demanding his attention, which makes me treasure them all the more. The King’s sense of duty and devotion to the role are paralleled only by how unbelievably hard he works.
The last coronation, that of Queen Elizabeth II, took place on June 2nd 1953, just two months shy of a staggering 70 years ago. Coming just 8 years after the end of World War II, Britain was still recovering from the ravages of the war and, like the wedding of The Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh, in 1947, it was a cause for great national celebration. The scale of the coronation was immense, but as with all royal occasions (weddings, jubilees, coronations and funerals) the attention to detail was unrivalled, the precision was absolute and the pomp and ceremony truly British.
In 1937, the 11 year-old Princess Elizabeth watched the crowing of her father, King George VI, in the elaborate ceremony and just 16 years later her own official coronation was to take place. For the last 900 years Coronations have been held at Westminster Abbey and the Coronation service used for Queen Elizabeth descends directly from that of King Edgar in 973! The service falls into six parts; the recognition, the oath, the anointing (using a blend of oils of orange, roses, cinnamon, musk and ambergris), the investiture (which includes the crowning), the enthronement and the homage.
The Coronation of 1953 was ground-breaking in many ways. It was the first ever to be televised, the BBC coverage was a breakthrough for the history of broadcasting. The service, which lasted for 3 hours, was attended by 8251 guests, representing 129 nations and territories. Queen and The Duke of Edinburgh travelled in the Gold State Coach (which is known to be a notoriously uncomfortable ride.) The return route that it followed from Westminster Abbey back to Buckingham Palace was 4.5 miles long, designed so that the procession could be seen by as many people in London as possible. The route took the 16,000 participants two hours to complete and it took 45 minutes for the whole procession to pass any one spot.
The planning of the Coronation of HM King Charles III will have been underway for many years. Just as The King’s vision for the future of the monarchy is of a ‘slimmed-down’ royal family, his vision for his Coronation is of a simplified occasion, cognisant of the times we live in. A statement released by Buckingham Palace has described the Coronation service as ‘reflecting the Monarch’s role today and looking towards the future, while being rooted in longstanding traditions and pageantry.’
The design of the Coronation invitation is very befitting of His Majaesty and clearly points to his great love of nature and the environment. Central to the design is the motif of the Green Man, an ancient figure from British folklore, symbolic of spring and rebirth, to celebrate the new reign. The invitation is, of course, printed on recycled card!
It is fascinating to look back at invitations from previous Coronations, going back as far as 1761and King George III.
The Coronation of King Charles III and Queen Camilla will take place over the weekend of May 6th–8th, which includes a special Bank Holiday on Monday 8th to mark the occasion. The Coronation service will take place on Saturday May 6th. ‘The Coronation Big Lunch’, designed to bring together neighbourhoods and communities, across the entire country, will take place on Sunday followed by a fabulous concert at Windsor Castle in the evening. In tribute to His Majesty’s public service, ‘The Big Help Out’, on Monday May 8th, will encourage people to try volunteering for themselves. The aim is to use volunteering to bring communities together and create a lasting volunteering legacy from the Coronation Weekend.
The guest list for the Coronation service will be limited to just over 2000 guests and almost half of those will be drawn from charity and community representatives. (Just a quarter of the number of guests that were invited to the Queen’s Coronation.) No other crowned monarchs attended Queen Elizabeth’s Coronation, but many are expected to attend on May 6th.
Two golden coaches will be used for the Coronation. The royal couple will travel to Westminster Abbey in the newer Diamond Jubilee State Coach and later return to Buckingham Palace in the Gold State Coach, which has been used in every coronation since the 1830s. However, the 1.3 mile route will be much shorter than that of The Queen’s Coronation. The procession back to Buckingham Palace, celebrating the newly crowned King and Queen will be on a far grander and larger scale than the journey to Westminster Abbey. It will comprise thousands of members of the armed services from the UK, Commonwealth and British Overseas Territories who will be marching and lining the route, along with the Sovereign’s Bodyguard and Royal Watermen.
The food served at such events is always of great interest to me! In advance of The Queen’s Coronation, florist and cook, Constance Spry proposed a dish of cold chicken in a curry cream sauce with a dressed rice salad. This won the approval of the Ministry of Works and over 7 decades later ‘Coronation Chicken’ and endless variations thereof, is still a popular choice for picnics, street parties and royal celebrations. We will have to wait until after the event to catch sight of any menus celebrating this Coronation. Three recipes by three different chefs have been released by Buckingham Palace as suggested ‘Coronation food’ for people to serve at their street parties, however, having cooked for His Majesty for 11 years I can say with certainty that he would not be delighted to have any of the dishes served to him! Many might imagine or assume that the food served at the royal table would be rich, extravagant, complex, made with ingredients drawn from far and wide (involving thousands of food miles) and exotic – this could not be further from the truth! Just a few words describe the food that His Majesty would most enjoy on this momentous occasion, (and any other day) …simple, seasonal, sustainable, local, fresh, organic and, if at all possible, ‘home-grown’ on one of the royal estates. I look forward to putting out the Union Jacks, stringing up the bunting and treating friends and family to a truly authentic ‘royal’ celebration lunch on May 6th – and it will most certainly be simple and seasonal!
There has always has been debate about the ‘value’ and ‘relevance’ of the Royal Family, and there always will be. At times like this the debate becomes more vocal and visible. Her Majesty the Queen was a monarch unlike any other and even many of those who are not ‘royalists’ still had great admiration for her statesmanship and her unbelievable work ethic. For all generations, from the ‘greatest generation’ (1901-1924) and ‘silent generation’ (1925-1945) right though to ‘baby boomers’, ‘gen X’, ‘millennials’ ‘gen Z’ and even ‘gen A’ (2013 onwards) The Queen has been one of the few constants throughout our lives. The legacy she leaves behind from her seven decades on the throne is incredible.
On September 8th 2022, when Prince Charles became King, following the death of his mother, he had served as heir apparent to the British Throne for 70 years and 214 days. King Charles III could not be better prepared to take on the mantle from his mother. He has a tough road ahead as he continues to modernise the monarchy and ensure its relevance in the lives of everyday people and win over those who question the institution, but I have no doubt that he will succeed. His wisdom, wit, compassion, genuine interest in the lives of others, heart-felt and hands-on support of so many vital charities and organisations and his devotion to his role will make him a wonderful king.
The Coronation weekend will be a great opportunity for families, neighbourhoods and communities to come together and welcome in a new era. Regardless of age, gender, ethnicity, religion or politics every true ‘Brit’ loves to get the bunting up and enjoy a good street party!
GOD SAVE THE KING!