King Charles' Coronation: This historic occasion saw a new focus on greater inclusion for all – Professor Joe Goldblatt
Just like King Charles III, I know how to make a big entrance at a major event. When my wife and I arrived at Buckingham Palace to join the crowd in viewing the Coronation processions, the wind suddenly lifted up the back of my kilt, causing a young woman standing behind me to loudly shriek in horror. I quickly apologised and made certain my kilt remained firmly in place throughout the final singing of God Save the King.
My accident was the only malfunction on a day of perfectly seamless pageantry. Prior to the processions around the fountain at the palace, the announcer reminded the thousands assembled along the Mall and in the bleachers that horses are easily spooked and therefore we should refrain from waving our flags or using loud hailers so as not to upset our equine friends.
As some 4,000 troops entered the oval that frames the Queen Victoria Memorial, I was amazed by the variety of the uniforms, the armoury, and the precision movements of the men and women of our armed forces. The organisers kindly provided a simultaneous live audio feed of the Westminster Abbey ceremony so, as Scotland’s revered Black Watch entered the oval, I also heard the Lord’s Prayer being recited from the abbey. The juxtaposition between the defence forces and a prayer for peace was a moment I shall remember for the rest of my life as I witnessed, by eye and ear, our daily freedoms held in balance by faith.
The Royal Family departed the palace precisely on time to attend the Coronation at the nearby abbey. The King and Queen were among the first to depart in their coach, drawn by six horses, and received loud and long cheers from the spectators. Other members of the Royal Family followed in more conventional automobiles.
I was particularly impressed by the youthfulness of my fellow audience members. The average age of the invited guests in the seats around me appeared to be under 40, while those lining the Mall, many of whom had camped overnight in small tents, were mostly young folks and not the traditional silver-haired royalists I had experienced in the past. Perhaps this indicates that, just as in the Royal Family itself, succession planning is working within the supporters of this institution.
During the abbey service, the entire nation was asked to show their support for the new King by reciting an oath. I was surprised and startled by how forcefully positive the reply was to this request from not only those near me, but seemingly most of the nation.
When the Royal Family returned to the palace from the abbey, this time the golden state coach was driven by eight white horses and the King and Queen seemed very comfortable despite the reported discomfort of this 18th-century vehicle. However, my favourite moment of the return procession was when the Duke and Duchess of Wales and their young family passed by in their own horse-drawn vehicle.
HRH Princess Charlotte was seated beside the coach window nearest to me. Although only eight years of age, she was genuinely enjoying herself and, just like her mother, and all those who have come before her, she enthusiastically smiled and provided a royal wave to onlookers. As I watched this child performing her duty so early in her life, I wondered what she might remember from the day that her grandfather became King. I am certain one memory will be the warm reception she and her family received from those assembled to celebrate this historic event and wish her family well.
As the Royal Family and troops disappeared through the giant palace gates, the announcer reminded us that in 45 minutes the family would appear on the balcony and thanked us for our patience. As the rain turned from a smirr to stoating down, our fellow guests demonstrated polite stoicism as they waited for what would be yet another historic event.
If there was any doubt there is a demand for the Royal Family now and perhaps for the future, it was dispelled when the Met Police carefully ushered the spectators from the Mall to Buckingham Palace. Tens of thousands of people, including many young children, confidently walked forward and, without incident, began to wave their flags and await the appearance of the King, Queen and Royal Family upon the storied balcony high on the palace façade.
The white doors onto the balcony opened dramatically and two crowned figures soon appeared followed by companions, pages and family members and a further deafening roar rose up from the crowd below. Soon, multiple helicopters hovered overhead causing the ground to rumble and then the famed Red Arrows painted the sky red, white and blue as the Royal Family and their guests raised their heads in admiration.
As the Royal Family bid their admirers adieu and returned inside, we made our way to the nearest tube stop. The crowd control, wayfinding signs, comfort stations and other amenities demonstrated the organisers had succeeded in creating a positive and memorable experience for thousands of attendees.
Upon entering the tube station, I was surprised to hear the King’s voice over the tannoy, telling me: “I hope you enjoy the Coronation weekend and please do mind the gaps.” In my view, there were no visible gaps in the planning and delivery of this historic event and, in fact, having studied planned events for over 60 years, in my view, this one will be remembered for its overall success and achievements in honouring historic tradition while expanding the narrative through a focus upon greater inclusion for all. In this regard, there was a conscientious attempt, at least for this one special day, to close as many previous gaps as possible.
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