Spectacular, epic…but don’t expect King Charles’s coronation to have the grandeur of 1953: ROBERT HARDMAN looks forward to three days of celebrations to celebrate the new monarch’s coronation
Although it will not have an occupation on the order of 1953 – and will no doubt be better organized than, say, the chaos of 1821 – the coronation of Charles III will Certainly setting a new record in one respect: inclusivity.
Both inside and outside of Westminster Abbey, this event will break new ground.
Historically, coronations have limited audience participation to the odd affirmation of aristocracy.
In fact, the congregation (mainly hereditary peers) were not allowed to sing at all until the last coronation. They were allowed to sing into a single anthem – All People That On Earth Do Dwell.
ROBERT HARDMAN: The Coronation of Charles III. will surely set a new record in one respect: inclusivity. Both inside and outside of Westminster Abbey, this event will break new ground
Only after a long campaign by the press and others did the authorities reluctantly agree to allow television cameras to capture the proceedings for the first time.
With a view to May, a clear emphasis on the thinning out of the VIP quota to a large cross-section from the voluntary sector can already be seen.
There has been much talk that the community will number about 2,000 people, a quarter of the more than 8,000 in 1953.
Westminster Abbey authorities last time erected miles of scaffolding to create internal grandstands. Not only would these go against all modern health and safety codes. They would also diminish the majesty and grandeur of the event for the average television viewer.
Alongside the orchestras, community choirs will be part of Charles’ coronation
Give colleagues, MPs and the civil service a modest ration of tickets and a lottery. Then the numbers will shrink in one fell swoop anyway.
However, the content of this weekend’s latest announcements from the Palace relates to events outside the Abbey.
We are told that there will be two separate processions – one to and one from the service. As far as I know, the slow and unwieldy Gold State Coach will only be featured in one of them and the return trip won’t retrace the 1953 path.
At that time the procession home to the Palace meandered five miles around London’s West End. It took 45 minutes to pass at one point, as almost 35,000 marching troops and another 16,000 lined the route.
Modern Britain certainly expects something spectacular and epic – plus the obligatory balcony gig – but we have neither the inclination nor the manpower for a 1953-style post-imperial military carnival.
The day after the coronation, communities everywhere are encouraged to host a grand coronation dinner to reflect the Queen’s platinum jubilee
Instead, there will be a big focus on national celebrations over the following two days. In 1953 the celebrations were limited to one day. This time the events will be coordinated over a long weekend and will conclude with The Big Help Out, a celebration of the whole voluntary sector. The day after the coronation, communities everywhere are encouraged to host a grand coronation dinner to reflect the Queen’s platinum jubilee.
That evening, Windsor Castle will host a spectacular coronation concert, broadcast live by the BBC, followed by a drone light show (fireworks seem to have had their day unfortunately).
“Expect some Shakespeare,” says one of the organizers, aware of the King’s ties to the Royal Shakespeare Company.
Every type of community choir – from refugees to the LGBTQ+ world – will be there along with some of our leading orchestras. “Think of classic FM rather than Radio 1 or 2,” I’m told.
We may even see a member of the 1953 Westminster Abbey Choir still making public appearances from time to time. I’m sure the organizers could find a place for Keith Richards from the Rolling Stones.