Voices: Don’t be fooled by King Charles’s ‘slimmed down’ coronation

·5-min read

I sometimes feel a little bad for King Charles III. Not that bad, obviously; an accident of birth basically made him a minor God to an island nation, like if one of those Easter Island heads lived in the biggest house you’ve ever seen and had a hat made out of stolen diamonds. But speaking purely on a relative scale, he’s definitely the most pitiable of the royals.

Imagine waiting 73 years to be crowned king, and when it finally happens, the country is too constantly-on-fire for you to actually enjoy it. You want all the serfs to get all excited about your new hat and your big chair, but they’re too busy crying about how their children might not make it through the winter to give you the time of day. It’s selfish, is what it is.

Credit where it’s due: according to a royal source, the new king has reportedly said that when the time comes for him to officially take the throne, he will have a “slimmed down” version of the ceremony. The smaller-scale proceedings are intended to demonstrate to the nation that its new ruler understands the difficulties it is currently facing, including the cost of living crisis.

There haven’t really been any details yet on what a “slimmed down” coronation will entail. But unless it’s literally Camilla filming Charles with a GoPro as he slowly lowers a baseball cap onto his own head, I’m pretty confident that it’s still going to cost more than most of us will make in 10 lifetimes. There have been reports that the ceremony “will retain the pomp that people would expect from a major royal event,” so it’s probably going to cost a fair bit more than your average office Christmas party. I assume it just means they’ll be making the cape out of velvet, instead of the usual unicorn fur.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s better than nothing. But that’s all it is. We’ve already had a mandatory week-and-a-half of bleating excess after the death of the previous monarch, so saying they’re going to pare back the welcome party for the next one feels a little hollow. It’s like giving a tenner to the NSPCC after burning down an orphanage. I mean, I’d rather have it than not, but it’s going to cost more than that to replace all this gruel.

Promising to “retain the pomp” also kind of misses the point of cutting back in the first place. In many cases, it’s the pomp that makes people angry. When it comes to this type of event, I don’t really know where that money goes. I don’t think I’ve been out of my overdraft since 2018, so I don’t know the difference between a coronation that costs a million quid and one that costs 10 million.

But I do know that it looks like to put on a servile, fawning display for somebody just because they hit the jackpot in the birth lottery. And I damn sure know what it’s like to watch that display while a voice in the back of my mind asks whether I’ll be able to make rent come December. Hell, I spent most of Monday doing that.

There’s also something kind of sad about the fact that it needs to be slimmed down at all. I know that sounds kind of weird, given the context of this article, but I mean it. Here’s the thing about dirty lefty socialists: we don’t actually want to live in a country where we have to scrutinise every disgusting display of wealth by our self-appointed overlords.

I’d love to live in a version of Britain where something as potentially uplifting and historically significant as a coronation could go by without my first thought being “but what about all the people who are going to freeze to death?”

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I sometimes think that royalists believe people like me get off on complaining about this sort of stuff, but we really don’t. I just find it so sad that we can see a financial disaster on the horizon that’s going to impact millions of working class people, and the guys who aren’t going to be affected by it at all feel comfortable enough to say: “You know what this country needs right now? A party where everything is made of gold.”

The fact is that the existence of a monarchy in 21st century Britain – or at least, in this version of 21st century Britain – is already a big enough slap in the face that promises like Charles’s end up meaning very little. You can’t really remedy the fact that we arbitrarily elevate a single family to the status of deities while letting millions of others live and die in poverty by promising to spend slightly less on that family’s next big shindig.

I know that people like to argue that these sorts of events have a much deeper symbolic value, but as somebody who spent the past eight years teaching poetry, I promise you this: symbolism doesn’t feed hungry kids. It doesn’t keep the lights on. It also doesn’t retain its intended meaning when presented in the wrong context.

In a happy, prosperous nation, a coronation can be one of those things that we tell our kids about. It’s a synecdoche of what it means to live here in the UK, and to participate in this country’s shared history. But we don’t live in a happy, prosperous nation. We live here, and we’re struggling, and the last thing we need is a visual representation of just how good most of us will never have it.