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A Coronation homily

May 5, 2023

If I’m prepared to stand up for the Hallelujah Chorus of Handel’s Messiah, to eat savoury food before dessert, to get married in a church, to celebrate Christmas, to say “excuse me” instead of “oi you”, to close the door when I go for a pee, to eat potatoes with a knife and fork instead of my fingers and to stand up for the national anthem, without any legal compulsion to do so, then I should have no reason to object to the Coronation.

The cost? Just one week of the saving we were promised as the result of leaving the European Union, or the price of an absurd tree-destroying intersection of the M25 being ground out near me, or the profit achieved by one hedge-fund manager betting on Brexit. I have no problem spaffing a few quid on a bit of gold braid. Nor do I object to deploying the entire police forces of several counties to protect the dignitaries. What else would they be doing on a Saturday in May? Nor do I object to my patriotic fellow-citizens putting up the flags and having street parties in the rain, even though I won’t be at any of them.

I will watch the ceremony on TV when I get back from a round of golf, for one reason only: the music. No wedding, funeral or other state occasion would be anything other than crashingly dull without the exquisitely chosen and immaculately performed pieces of music, some written for the occasion, that have always stirred the soul and brought forth tears at such events. A chance to hear the works of Byrd, Tallis, Purcell, Handel, Stanford, Sullivan, Saint-Saens, Elgar, Walton, Vaughan Williams, Rutter and others in the grandest conceivable surroundings.

Do I think Charles III deserves his day? Why not? He’s of my generation. I grew up with him, saw his frailties and his quirks, but also his innate decency. I never found any reason to dislike or disapprove of him, despite his insistence that a flunky should squeeze out his toothpaste. And besides, who else would we prefer as our head of state? Prince Andrew? Some venal elected leader like Boris Johnson? Or a harmless old time-server who can be relied upon to say the right things in the right places?

So those who enjoy royal occasions should be free to revel in the sword-bearers, the clerics, the holy oil, the divine music, the military processions and the cheering thousands, while those who don’t (as well as those who do) should focus their attention on casting out of office the liars and charlatans who have thrown away more of our money in an average month than the monarchy has in a decade.

And besides, if we happily enjoy beer festivals in Germany, tomato-chucking in Spain, the Day of the Dead in Mexico and the 4th of July Parades in America, why would we poo-poo our own arcane traditions? Because tradition, positive or negative, connects us to our ancestors, defines our culture and promotes a common identity, even at a time when we seem to delight in using identity as a tool for dividing rather than for reaching across those divides.

So with that thought in mind, I wish His Majesty a happy day. The rest of us have the rare opportunity to witness a tradition that has been unchanged in its essence for more than a thousand years.

A rare thing indeed.

  1. Well said, Steve. I’ve been reading such jaded views and some rather rude ones, this is refreshing. Thank you.

  2. Well said, Steve. After reading some rather jaded views and some downright rude ones, this is refreshing.

    • Thanks Rohini. I think people in the UK have much to be jaded about, but the Coronation is a bit of an unfair target. S

  3. Caroline Rosser permalink

    Super eloquent as per & I v much enjoyed reading the above! Cxx

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