This coronation is making me a republican again


Julie Burchill

King Charles III (Credit: Getty images)

Julie Burchill

2 May 2023

2:48 AM

I was never a monarchist. One of my earliest memories is of being a bolshy little girl refusing to stand up for the national anthem played (as was the custom in places of public performance back in the twentieth century) after a showing of ‘Born Free’ at Bristol Gaumont in 1966. Still howling at the travails of Elsa the Lion, I resisted my mothers pleas to get to my feet. I’d like to think that even at the tender age of 7 I was already a keen meritocrat and a loather of nepotism – but I think it more likely that I was already an attention-seeking diva.

Imagine my surprise when a couple of years back I became quite the fan of the Royal Family. I could be found singing the praises of Duchess Kate and mourning the passing of Duke Phil.

It’s hardly an egalitarian twist to have millions of poor people bowing down to a man who is where he is through an accident of birth

After the death of the Queen, I came over completely full-English, snarling in this magazine in an essay about Harry and Meghan’s Netflix show. Driven by the sheer ghastliness of the Sussexes, for once in my life I started to give Charles the benefit of the doubt. Being one of Diana’s most hysterical cheerleaders, this wasn’t easy.

But in the past week I’ve become a wild-eyed highness-heckler all over again, due to the astonishingly tone-deaf suggestion that those watching the ceremony on television utter the words ‘I swear that I will pay true allegiance to Your Majesty, and to your heirs and successors according to law. So help me God’.

This preposterous demand has been quite rightly mocked as more suitable to every ancestor-worshipping fiefdom from Game Of Thrones to North Korea than a chummy little democracy in Western Europe.

A populist spin has been attempted, reframing this sumptuous self-abasement as a trendy new ‘Homage of the People’, replacing the stuffy old Homage of Peers in which a line of hereditary knights knelt and pledged loyalty to the newly coronated monarch. But it’s hardly an egalitarian twist to have millions of poor people bowing down to a man who is where he is through an accident of birth, rather than a few fawners, flatterers and ring kissers. Was it really the Archbishop of Canterbury who dreamed this up?

He’s daft enough, but it seems a bit grand for him. Even if it didn’t come from Charles’s camp, I bet he likes the idea – it would be in keeping with the vanity and insecurity of the man. But this seems a spectacular own-goal.

And though it has crystallised my distaste for the whole overblown roadshow, there have been quite a few mis-steps along the way. The anti-monarchy demonstrator Symon Hill, who was arrested last year merely for shouting ‘Who elected him?’ in the princely presence – accurately described it as akin to a scene from 1984.

The eviction of Angela Kelly, the Queen’s working-class dresser, confidante and essentially carer towards the end of her life, from her grace-and-favour home. The casual humiliation of the 94-year-old Lady Pamela Mountbatten Hicks, left out to dry while the leader of Sinn Fein and the Butcher of Hong Kong are cordially invited.

The commissioning for the coronation of an ornate three-sided screen – which it took a whopping 150 people to make – to hide the king from prying eyes when he is anointed with ‘holy’ oil and is transformed from mere man to monarch before the Lord. In 1953, a canopy was suspended above the Queen’s head, open on all sides, so all could see her. Once again, one feels that whereas the Queen had nothing to hide, the King has quite a bit about him that too much daylight would not cast in a blameless light.

It’s lovely to have the heads of different faiths present but why do I get a nasty feeling that the creepy Green Man on the invitations is far nearer to Charles’s heart than any monotheistic religion? I will miss the Queen’s no-nonsense Protestantism; Damian Thompson writing in this magazine recalled an occasion when ‘a new incumbent of the chapel attached to Royal Lodge asked if he could wear a chasuble, the Catholic eucharistic vestment. ‘If you like,’ said the Queen, ‘so long as it doesn’t happen while I’m here.’

A slimmed-down ceremony to show sensitivity towards his increasingly impoverished subjects? That may be the excuse for snubbing nonagenarians but he’s certainly not stinting himself in the slightest with a gold-leaf Bible and a Stone of Destiny (there’s something so Spinal Tap about this object) weighing 125kg. This ceremony will be about as slimmed-down and low-key as Sam Smith shaking his money-maker on a Pride float.

Most of all, the business with the rebranding of Queen Consort – now to be ‘Queen Camilla’ – seems sneaky; paradoxically, it makes Diana’s absence more strongly felt. We all have our memories of our beloved Ghost Queen: I’m thinking now of my friend who was a West End shopgirl when she was told that the swish department store where she worked would be open that evening after closing to the public so that the young Princess of Wales could shop in peace.

The shopgirls were told to curtesy but not to make eye-contact. Diana walked straight up to my friend, giggled ‘Don’t you dare curtsey!’ and asked her what she thought of blue mascara.

Diana liked people; I just don’t believe that Charles does, in common with many extreme Greenies. But even more than being less personable than his dead wife, he doesn’t measure up to his mother.

We were tremendously lucky to have had the Queen. It’s interesting that she wasn’t born to rule, neither was her father, so maybe that’s why that grotesque air of entitlement which distorts so many monarchs was missing. But in a way, her perfection was her poisoned chalice passed on unwittingly to her son.

So I won’t be adding to the intemperate gushing about a New Carolean Age; I won’t be celebrating on Saturday, and that’s saying quite a lot as I’ve been known to celebrate the day for simply having a Y in it. I’m sure it’ll be very ‘inclusive’ but I’ll pass on Dylan Mulvaney jumping out of a vegan cake and Diversity dancing to a ‘grime’ track as they caper around the ultimate nepo-baby in his grotesquely over-gilded play-pen.

And I’ve decided that the ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend’ shtick is a really dumb way to make decisions about who and what one likes and dislikes, so I’m going to leave the Sussexes out of the equation in the future. I don’t hate him, but I do dislike many things that King Charles has done.

So once more, I suppose I’m a republican. Mind you, when it’s King William and Queen Kate’s turn, all bets are off.

Got something to add? Join the discussion and comment below.

Comment by Nelle-Although I disapprove of Charles I will never be a republican -the Westminster system of government has served us well and a republic would not if you note other republics in the world-corrupt and dictators in charge

Published by Nelle

I am interested in writing short stories for my pleasure and my family's but although I have published four family books I will not go down that path again but still want what I write out there so I will see how this goes

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