The King’s Coronation May 6 2023

May 6 2023 Coronation Day.

Written and Produced by Muriel Murch – with WSM by my side.

It was raining – of course it was – with the steadiness that puts up umbrellas and gives rise to the English complexion. It was not cold.

But in the Diamond Jubilee State Coach, the King and Queen looked cold as they emerged from the Buckingham Palace archway driven through the gates and onto the Mall. The coach hangs like Cinderella’s coach. The eight Windsor Gray horses are harnessed with gleaming leather, brass, and heavy blue ribbon braids. The King and Queen are both dressed in white, Camilla wearing a more than striking diamond necklace, and their long ermine trains are tucked up around them. They look almost naked and shy of the mixed reception that could greet them, taking turns nervously waving at the crowds lining the Mall who are wishing them well. Watching the coach leaving the Palace I couldn’t help wondering what was passing through their minds. Their lives together and apart, have been fraught with protocols followed, mistakes made, anguish, remorse and family ripped asunder and patched back up again. Now they are here entering their final chapter of devoting their lives to service.

Graeme Robertson/The Guardian

The Household Cavalry Mounted Band of 48 horses and musicians joined the procession. Either Atlas or Apollo, one of the two drum horses, insistently did a half-pass along the Mall rather than a working walk. But they made it – along the Mall, around Trafalgar Square, and down Whitehall to Westminster Abbey where the first William, Duke of Normandy, was crowned 957 years ago.

Special Bunting on Regent’s Street London as seen from the 88 bus (Photo by Beatrice Murch)

It is perhaps special to see all of this through a child’s eyes. Four days before the coronation Granny took seven-year-old David – and his mother – on the number 88 bus down to the Mall to see the preparations and flags and bunting going up. And we lucked out with a fish and chip lunch at the Admiralty Pub just off of Trafalgar Square. But no desert – as surely – with so many politicians around there would be an ice cream van at every corner on our way to Westminster. But we were wrong. There were far too many policemen and women, barricades going up everywhere and there was not an Ice cream van in site – such was the security already put in place. We had to walk down to the river for our vanilla smoothie with a chocolate stick before getting back onto the number 88 bus and home.   

Watching from home – with millions of others. (Photo by Beatrice Murch)

Saturday came – with the rain – and pancakes for breakfast – as we watched along with millions around the world the pageant unfold before us.  Some of us remember watching the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II in 1953 on a new television set with family and friends and sandwiches in the drawing room. Much has changed in those 70 years and the new King knows it. 

‘Give all the money to the people’ say the Americans but lord knows no pounds would reach the people, never improve services in schools and hospitals, only dribble into and linger in the pockets of politicians and bureaucrats. The Monarchy knows this as they keep their enemies close by inviting so many to this day. We caught glimpses of arrivals; the French president Emmanuel Macron and his hatless wife Brigitte, Jill Biden with her granddaughter Finnegan. Jill Biden sat beside Olena Zelenska, the first lady of Ukraine. Two Arab Skeiks seemed a little lost as they looked for their seats.

But then along came the past British Prime Ministers with their partners.

After the beauty and dignity of the Commonwealth, World, and European leaders, they seemed a scurrilous lot. John Major led, looking almost like an elder statesman before being joined by Tony Blair – who took us to war. Gordon Brown, who tried to speak the unpopular truths of our country, stood a little aside of David Cameron, who tossed us out of the European Union. Teresa May was followed closely by the Johnsons – Boris was having another bad hair day – and Liz Truss, who had both ushered the Queen to her death bed.

T. May, B. Johnson, and D. Cameron have their partners and Front Row seats.
The First Minister of Scotland Humza Yousaf arrives with his wife at Westminster.

The sudden departure of Nicola Sturgeon as Scotland’s First Minister left the new Humza Yousaf to scramble a bit for his kit. He came up with a Slanj Asian fusion-style jacket and a mighty sporran bouncing along with his stride all actually quite becoming.

The First Minister of Wales and his wife both looked so very – Welsh. Then the non-working Royals arrived. Prince Harry a little unsteady but carefully flanked fore and aft by his cousins Eugenie and Beatrice whose father Prince Andrew was slipped between an uncle and an aunt. Next came the working royals but the four front chairs were empty. It appeared that the new Prince and Princess of Wales were stuck in traffic! A little rushed they showed up wearing the formal robes of state. Prince George was away helping with Grandpa’s train while Charlotte and Louis were tucked neatly in beside their parents. Beyond the world leaders, the over 2000 guests seated in the Abbey came from the not-so-great but surely the good among the British people. Charity leaders, leaders in conservation, ecology, medicine, science, education, and youth programs. 

Finally, the King and Queen arrived at the Great West Door of Westminster Abbey. There was a little robe shaking and adjustment here and there before they were escorted along the nave, through the choir to the sanctuary to take their oaths – swearing to serve the people of The United Kingdom and his territories, whatever they may be in the foreseeable future.  It is here that maybe tradition and history serves us best. As godparents, we swear to guide our godchildren into the way of Christian faith – not that I was so good about that. At marriages, we swear in front of our Gods – or the state – family, and friends to ‘plight thee my troth’. And when we say those vows we mean to keep them. The king swore on his Bible that “The things which I have here before promised, I will perform and keep. So help me God.” There was a fifty-page ‘order of Service’ to follow to keep everyone on track and explain every moment, every gesture, every act, and there was a lot to get through. The coronation service has evolved over almost a thousand years, changing with each monarch. Today there was music old and new, there were women priests and religious leaders from all faiths in this country. 

The king is stripped – very carefully – of his ermine robe and jerkin and left kneeling in a cotton shirt and trousers with what at first appears to be the most incongruous black buckled shoes. It is time for the King to be hidden behind a screen and be anointed. This part of the service is the most sacred time. A King, his God, and oath to that God.

And then comes the crowning. The day before, Friday, the King and Queen had gone to the Abbey with – presumably almost everyone else – from Bishops to choristers and pages – and walked through the service. But still, there are tricky bits. The Saint Edward’s Crown has always been a problem. The new King remembers how his mother – the late Queen – would wear it, coming to kiss him goodnight, as she practiced carrying its 2.25 Kilograms on her head. Physically and metaphorically it is a heavy burden. 

“Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown”. William Shakespeare gave these words to King Henry IV in that play, as he ponders and accepts the duties and responsibilities of Kingship.

Ben Stansall/WPA/Getty Images

The Archbishop of Canterbury swears allegiance to the King and the crown. He is followed by Prince William who comes forward, and kneels as he swears his allegiance, kissing the crown and then the king –  his father. ‘Amen’ says Charles and it is here that we miss the brother, Harry, to be a part of this – helping support and care for the king and his people.  

Gary Calton/The Observer

Now it is the turn of Queen Camilla whose crown was made for Queen Mary in 1911. When the Queen joins the king they are presented, united by their oaths and commitment before God. The Archbishop prays again, telling the monarch to: “Stand firm and hold fast from henceforth.” He will need to.

Those familiar with the Anglican Eucharist Service know we are now on the home stretch. It is time for holy communion, a few more prayers and singing followed by the blessing and procession out of the Abbey and – into more rain. But there are smiles of relief. It has gone well. The King is crowned, the family more or less in one piece, and though the demonstrators can be heard calling ‘Not my King’ the police are using their – new and improved – from their point of view – powers to arrest the leaders. 

Christian Sinibaldi/The Guardian

The King and Queen are helped into the old Gold State Coach, a beautiful but uncomfortable vehicle. They process at a walking pace and it is clear that though the crowds are thrilled, the footmen are getting weary. They will be glad to get those black pumps off of their feet and be out of their heavy tunics. A full pint of beer will go down a treat. 

Upstairs in the Palace lunch must be ready but there is still the balcony performance. The police slowly guide the crowds down to Buck House, letting them build around the gates for the balcony appearance showing who is working and who has been retired. But before that happens there is another quiet touch. The soldiers who marched in procession are on parade in the Palace Gardens. They want to play the national anthem, sing God Save the King and give three cheers for His Majesty. And the King wants to see them and by his presence say ‘Thank you.’ It is a small thing, and turns the schedule a little on its heels – lunch may be tea-time sandwiches. But it is of such small things that this monarchy may stand firm and survive. 

The Working Family from the official website

This has been A Letter From A. Broad. Written and read for you by Muriel Murch 

Fair Winds and Following Seas

Recorded and Knit together by WSM

On Friday Prince Philip, the Duke of Edinburgh aged 99, quietly slipped away from his berth on this Earth leaving Her Majesty our Queen alone after 73 years of marriage. The Queen was by his side. But as Princess Anne said, “You know this is coming but you are never fully prepared for it.” Death can do that, arriving punctually at a given time, as we know it must, while remaining an unbelievable mystery. Yet, with an unbounded love, the loved one remains in our hearts and minds while the physical presence is lost to us. We grieve for our Queen, for the loss of her husband. Some of us know this loss and some of us have it yet ahead of us. There is a week of National mourning for the Duke in which to reflect on the effect of his life and work within the Royal Family, as a Prince, Duke, husband, father, grand and great grandfather. That was his job and no other man could have done it as well. He was the best he could be which is what we all strive for. The COVID restrictions that the Palace is adhering to, would actually suit the Duke, wherever his spirit is. He did not want his funeral to be a state occasion, but a ceremonial royal funeral in line with the Queen Mother’s in 2002. His earthly body will be privately interred in the Royal Vault of St George’s Chapel until such time as The Queen joins him. Then they will be laid to rest together, in the medieval manor to which they were born.

HRH Prince Philip The Duke of Edinburgh

Pages have been written about all aspects of The Duke’s royal and private life. Some papers have devoted columns to his life history, his charities, his sports and his gaffes or plain-speaking. Some of which were funny, some were exasperating, a few plain thoughtless, not something he was necessarily proud of. But this quote in 1966 says more than the words when he was speaking with a Hospital matron in the Caribbean, ‘You have mosquitoes, I have the press.’ 

Meanwhile, not pausing for the Duke’s passing, political shenanigans continue. Past Prime Minister David Cameron, has been caught out with a little private personal lobbying of the Chancellor Rishi Sunak and other members of Parliament, including Health Secretary Matt Hancock, (oh Matty why were you so matey?). Cameron wished to help out with a wee business that was in a spot of bother, owned by his pal, Mr. Greensill. Named the Supply Chain Finance Company – you just know that it must shuffle pounds, shillings and pence around like the ‘Keep your eye on the Ace’ card games set out on street corners to catch out tourists. 

When stumping in 2010 to be Prime Minister, Cameron ‘Call me Dave’ gave a speech about lobbying, “We all know how it works.” He said, “The lunches, the hospitality, the quiet word in your ear, the ex-ministers and ex-advisers for hire, helping big business find the right way to get its way. I believe that secret corporate lobbying, like the expenses scandal, goes to the heart of why people are so fed up with politics,’ he said. “It’s an issue that… has tainted our politics for too long, an issue that exposes the far-too-cosy relationship between politics, government, business and money.”

Well, yes it does Dave.

Yesterday a somewhat contrite Cameron admitted, “There have been various charges leveled against me these past weeks, mainly that I made representations to the government on behalf of a company I worked for. I did.” Cameron began working for Greensill two years and one month after leaving office – a month past the legal time period permitted.

Boris Johnson and Dave Cameron

The government is to a launch an independent investigation. Prime Minister Johnson could have rubbed his hands with glee catching out his old school-mate as he calls for the review to ensure government is completely transparent about such activities, and that the public can see for themselves if “good value was secured for taxpayers money”. Hang on “Good value for money,” isn’t the issue really was this legal or ethical? ‘Call me Dave’ has responded with:

“Well maybe I should have gone through channels and done this another way. Lessons have been learnt.” But have they, and shouldn’t by now he not need those lessons? It could seem that the lessons that such schools as his and Johnson’s teach is not so much about team spirit as how not to get caught out. This is a class that both of them may have to repeat in the years to come.

Mr. Minn, Myanmar’s UK ambassador locked out of London embassy in a ‘kind of coup’.

Last Wednesday we were able to briefly look over the parapet of The British Isles just down the street to the Myanmar Embassy in London. The Military coup that continues in that country has taken a shot over the prow of its ship. Myanmar’s now ex-ambassador, Mr. Minn, was locked out of his embassy in Mayfair and spent Wednesday night in his car. Staff had been asked to leave the building by Myanmar’s military attaché, and he was dismissed as the country’s representative.

At first the British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab condemned the “bullying actions,” but quietly the UK has now accepted the change. Will the government offer Mr. Minn diplomatic immunity? For if he returns to Myanmar the Junta will surely arrest him. As Burma became Myanmar, its history is fraught with British interference and political maneuvering. It is no wonder that the country is in an uproar and no wonder that we, in some distant memory, care what happens there.

This has been a Letter from A. Broad. 

Written and read for you by Muriel Murch 

First aired on Swimming Upstream – KWMR.org

Web support by murchstudio.com