I’ve been in Scotland in recent weeks looking at some buildings for sale and was an unintended bemused TV spectator of the coronation, a farcical Gilbert and Sullivan event overlaid with some Verdi flippery.
All week, Britain’s best newspaper, Rupert Murdoch’s The Times ridiculed it as a mindless anachronism. Their cartoons were brutally hard-hitting and sometimes bordering on cruelty, Charles for example being portrayed as a bewildered chinless dithering simpleton, his pockets overflowing with banknotes.
I’d tuned in on Saturday morning hoping to watch a boxing match live from Mexico and was surprised to see the coronation was underway, having assumed it would be an afternoon event. It was all so outrageously ludicrous we ended up watching it, fascinated by its relentless tedium.
The two principal players were of course first Charles who looked bewildered and on the verge of tears throughout, plus that world-class blowhard Justin Welby who dominated proceedings talking more sustained nonsense than I’ve ever heard from a single figure over such a duration. Both head dying organisations, respectively the Monarchy and the Church of England.
Throughout the tedium, dominated by an army of dubious looking blokes in ballgowns delivering supposedly meaningful gestures in response to Welby’s rubbish, I couldn’t help thinking of Evelyn Waugh’s wonderfully funny 1932 novel “Black Mischief.”
Drawing from his experience of witnessing Haile Selassie’s equally tedious coronation in then Abyssinia, Waugh wrote of a revolution in which the long hidden, elderly real Emperor was brought out from hiding and subject to a lengthy coronation ritual, during which it was discovered he’d died. Charles certainly looked on the verge of death at times as he endured all of this superstitious Welby rubbish.
A glaringly ludicrous intrusion to proceedings was the introduction of six obese black so-called gospel singers clad in body-hugging white attire, who bent at the waist, formed a circle and jigged and droned. They didn’t ring true as they lacked the pre-requisite dark glasses of all black performers.
That said and notwithstanding a fast growing republican movement, there’s no doubt the English enjoy this stuff, albeit certainly not the Scots.
Later, out for dinner and walking through the usual crowded and zany Glasgow city streets, there was not a single sign of the Coronation in the shops, restaurants or public buildings.
The Sunday Times subsequently produced, probably for financial reasons, a spectacular issue recording the previous day’s event and doubtless sold huge quantities to be put away for future generations to gaze at. There’s a big market for old newspapers recording the likes of V Day etc. That said their cartoonist still portrayed a chinless goofy Charles looking bewildered as Welby, showing distaste, holding a tiny crown between thumb and finger, lowered it from as far away as possible.
Private Eye dismissed the spectacle with an amusing single cover message, “Man in Hat Sits on a Chair”, which summed things up pretty well.
One of the delights of my regular trips to Britain is buying the Morning Star newspaper, the successor of the Daily Worker. I bring them home for our Wellington office foyer where they give much pleasure. “Not Our King” its cover proclaimed in bold type. Their lead editorial was headed “Charles III is a gormless halfwit” and a sub-heading, “Britain is humiliated, infantilised and disgraced by its enduring tolerance of the monarchy”. Trust me, that was moderate compared to the editorial’s contents. “Over £100 million of taxpayer money being wasted on a pageant of semi-feudal garbage” gives you the tone of its contents. Still, it was a refreshing change from the Daily Worker’s usual contents urging everyone to go on strike.
One amusing slap-in-the-face response to this “semi-feudal garbage” was for six Commonwealth Caribbean mini-states to announce their immediate Republic intention, as indeed is the case with the vast majority of the 52 Commonwealth states.
Noteworthy was that weekend’s Weekend Financial Times, widely recognised as the world’s best newspaper, which ignored the coronation completely.
If Charles survives another 20 years, I suspect he will be the last British monarchy, English polls showing its support lying largely with older generations.
P.S (1) I was incorrect to write there was no Glasgow reaction. In fact, on Saturday an estimated 20,000 people gathered at the wonderful Kelvingrove Park lying below my home as waving Scottish flags they marched to Glasgow Green in a call for Independence.
P.S (2) The BBC have now published the Coronation viewing figures which were surprisingly low, specifically about 25% of the British public. However, I suspect the English figures would have been much higher when allowing for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland’s indifference.