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Sunday, December 10, 2023

England: The Charleses before Charles, and England then and now – Times of India

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Charles will be crowned in a ceremony surprisingly constant since the coronation of Edgar, ‘first king of all England‘, in 973. But the gilded ritual that called a nation into being a millennium ago, now vibes like New York’s Met gala or Mumbai’s NMACC launch party. Is there any way this fancy dress party stands apart from others? Yes, it’s got a much older fandom. Not only is Charles 74 to Elizabeth’s 27 at the moment of coronation, there is now a stark generational divide in support for continuing the monarchy. For a lot of young people their fave part of the crowning is the three-day weekend, meaning extra time at the pubs.
Unfortunately, the only way some of them can pay a bigger beer tab over the weekend is by forgoing a couple of meals during the week. UK’s cost-of-living crisis has even teachers and nurses queuing up at the food banks. Even where watching the golden carriages, crimson robes, swan feathers et al in The Crown’s version of things is a happy diversion, the real-life extreme extravagance of the Windsors can rub in inequality very, very painfully.
In thinking about what this high tension between pageantry and hardship might provoke, recall the stormy fortunes of the two forefathers from whom the new king takes his name. Charles I kept rubbing parliament the wrong way and paid for that with his head. Charles II was a scandalous ‘merry monarch’ who died with at least 13 children but no legitimate heir. Between those two, 1649-60, England was a republic. Charles III’s coronation is ginormous PR theatre to cajole his country that it shouldn’t want to return to that fate. Will he succeed in looking like a ‘people’s king’? Will invites to a refugee choir and NHS workers do the needful? Maybe. Or maybe Adele and Harry Styles have read the public mood better, in RSVPing no.

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