London in Coronation Fever

Very British look at Trooping the Colour in London on 8 June 2019. © 2019, Photo: Charles E. Ritterband

London, UK (Weltexpress). London is eagerly anticipating an event of the century: The coronation of Charles III. Only early last June, the nation celebrated the platinum jubilee of his mother (after 70 years on the throne, the longest-serving monarch in history) with an endless, colourful parade down the boulevard known as “The Mall” – and celebrated her funeral just three months later. Subjects waited for days in an endless queue to bid farewell to the beloved monarch. Heir to the throne Charles is said to have asked one of those patiently standing there how long he had been waiting. “Much less than you,” he replied glibly. So now the time has finally come: since 1969 as “Prince of Wales”, Charles III – at 74 the oldest monarch in British history – will be crowned on Saturday at 11 am in Westminster Abbey. It is a fact that Charles, despite (or as the translator says because of) his idealistic and ecological aspirations, has considerably less popularity than his mother. However recently he seems to have rapidly gained in stature. Just a year ago, only 39% of respondents thought he would make a good king; now 62% are of that opinion.

England remains England and the weather this weekend is supposed to be miserable – just like at the coronation of his mother. And although countless onlookers are expected in central London and the security measures, including a ban on overflights, snipers and tens of thousands of police officers, exceed anything seen before, general interest is limited: Only a third of the population is “very or fairly interested” in the multi-million dollar festivities, 64% signal “no or little interest” and among 18 to 24 year olds, three quarters well just couldn’t care less. Does the British monarchy have a future? There is still a clear majority in favour of retaining royalty. But it is considered to be in need of reform. Charles is therefore trying to “slim down” – by re-dimensioning his own coronation, for example, compared to the gigantic ceremony for his mother on 2 June 1953, as a ray of hope in those austere post-war years. Nevertheless, more than 2200 guests from 203 countries are expected at the abbey on Saturday, including 100 heads of state. US President Biden, however, will be absent.

Regent Street and Oxford Street are overflowing with countless red and blue “Union Jacks”, and on the National Gallery in Trafalgar Square there is a huge poster with congratulations: “Happy and Glorious”. A quiet irony? After all, the then heir to the throne, notorious for his backward-looking architectural ideas, had castigated the extension planned in 1984 as a “monstrous carbuncle on the face of a much-loved and elegant friend”. Some outdo each other with original ideas: Uber offers a replica of a “coronation carriage” pulled by grey horses, companies offer promotional gifts for all who bear the first name “Charles”, “Heinz” puts a limited edition “Tomato Kingchup” on the market instead of ketchup, 1-meter 70-high cardboard figures of the monarch are available for 37 pounds sterling, and a chocolatier has produced a 23-kilo chocolate bust of his majesty in four weeks of work: Those who can afford it will soon be able to nibble bits of the King. A highlight on Saturday will be the parade of 100 “King Charles Spaniels” through – where else? – “King’s Road” in Chelsea…

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