Long live the bling
By Douglas Parker
Well, that splendacious brocade, the coronation of King Charles III, has now been relegated to the annals of history. Many of you, I imagine, watched the coronation ceremony, sacrificing sleep to indulge in every second of it. For some reason, I wanted to watch the ceremony live rather than taped, fooling myself into pretending that I was actually there. I chose the BBC because it is deeply steeped in the ancient traditions and symbolism upon which regality rests; the BEEB is also adept at identifying the privileged and dolled-up guests as they entered the magnificent Westminster Abbey. It was an ideal occasion for celebrity gawking even through the filter of the television screen. Vicariously, we all had an opportunity to be there.
During the ceremony, the network wisely knew when to stay quiet, unlike other networks who often seem to think that constant yacking, even over magnificent and magisterial music, compensates for what they don’t know.
This ancient and sacred ritual afforded Charles and Camilla permission to shine above all else amidst an eye-blurring glister of gold, crowns, precious gems and emotive poetic language and wonderful music. No occasion on this day for scene-stealing thanks to careful camera work; no need to focus on the prodigal and disgruntled child once we saw him enter the Abbey. The BEEB happily spared us any migraine-inducing commentary on that regal and tawdry soap; Meghan was home babysitting the kids and busy making Archie’s birthday cake. The Duke of York got short shrift too. From all accounts, the disgraced duke has a certain familiarity with women’s undergarments, which may explain why the monarch allowed him to don his Knight of the Garter regalia. Oh yes, Dr. Jill was there as well, but husband Joe was not. After all, Charles is not Biden’s king – that was settled centuries ago – nor is he, apparently, the king of the “Not My King” crowd, who made their opposition clear throughout coronation day, trying to simulate nature by raining on the King’s parade.
Some of you have heard that Charles has the big shoes of his tiny mom to fill. My hope is that Charles will fill his own shoes; based upon his words and actions at this early stage in his reign, he might be on the right track. But as a man committed to farming, he will know that as King, he will have a tough row to hoe.
Over 70 years, his mom, the Queen, carried out yeoman service, if by service you mean showing up. Dutifully, she attended everything she felt she was supposed to, even doing her royal duty by showing up heroically, clearly dying, to meet Liz Truss. Charles will never match his mother’s showing-up record unless he lives to be 140. Some time ago, Charles, perhaps in a moment of inappropriate candour, claimed that in her relationship with him, the Queen was “not indifferent so much as detached.” For me, that phrase might well capture the Queen’s relationship with her kingdom. She was “there” wherever “there” was, but was she ever wholly there?
My sense is that Charles will have learned a lot from both his mother and father. Son to a “detached” mother, linguistically brutalized by a macho father who saw his son as weedy, physically not up to it and lachrymose. Philip sent him off to Gordonstoun boarding school for five years where linguistic brutality was replaced by physical beatings. Several of those years must have been an annus horribilis for the boy who loved nature, literature and music. Should such an upbringing be foisted on a child today, social services would come knocking. And there were other soul-lacerating experiences as well, not least a coercive and ultimately corrosive marriage. When recently Charles appealed to his sons “not to make my final years a misery,” he may have known of what he spoke.
The early days of Charles’s reign are decidedly different from his mother’s. He is out among his people, touching them, allowing them to touch him, laughing and joking with them, encouraging his wife and family to press the flesh as well. Perhaps all of this is performative, but perhaps it isn’t. He is very much engaged with the real world: his passions are organic farming, the environment, architecture, overpopulation and so on. Maybe he’ll be encouraged to shut up or tone it down. I hope he doesn’t. The challenges he faces are enormous, maybe even impossible. The Brits seem to want a monarchy that is simultaneously both like them on some days and not like them on others. Good luck threading that needle, Your Majesty. If anyone can do it, I believe Charles can because he’s lived those two lives in his own time. And being a lover of Shakespeare, he is no doubt aware of the words that the bard’s Henry IV uttered: “Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown.”
Douglas Parker is a 30-year Glebe resident with an interest in English Reformation literature, history and theology. He also has a penchant for wry commentary on life in the here and now.