Saturday, 6th May, 2023

[Day 1146]

Today is Coronation Day and, true to form, it promised to rain practically all day. On the day of the last Coronation in June, 1953, it rained practically all day long and the same may have been true of the coronation in 1937. I think one has to go back to the coronation of George V for a coronation in which it is not raining. After Meg and I got up, we went quickly down to pick up our copy of the newspaper before proceedings were due to ‘kick off’ at about 10.20. Despite myself, I watched nearly all of the proceedings and those inside the Abbey were particularly interesting. As a sign of changing times, we had a gospel choir complete with energetic body movements but there was a fair mixture of music both traditional and newly commissioned. The service was schedued to last for two hours and although the proceedings were said to be scaled back, all of the traditional ingredients were there and whatever scaling back was done was seen to be apposite. For example, back in 1953, each attending peer (hundreds) had to kneel before their monarch pledging obedience and this must have taken forever and a day. The innovations brought into the service I must say I liked. For example, Bryn Terfel sang the Kyrie in Welsh, which is the first time Welsh had been sung in the Abbey. The modern compositions by Debbie Wiseman and Andrew Lloyd Webber seemed to blend almost seemlessly into the old such as Parry’s ‘I was glad’, Handel’s ‘Zadoc the Priest’, some William Boyce, Orlando Gibbons and two offerings from Byrd. One particular hymn that was sung heartily by everybody was ‘Christ is made the sure foundation’, composed by Purcell and predates the Reformation. Although I do not remember singing this hymn as a boy, it was sung at our own wedding in 1967. When I was recreating this for an archive of our 50th wedding anniversary celebrations, I found a video of this hymn known as a ‘processional Hymn’ because of its time structure and this hymn was played when Pope Benedict participated in Ecumenical Celebration at Westminster Abbey, City of Westminster, on 17 September 2010. The text (in Latin) dates from c7th-c8th century so may well be sung by many denominations. I must say that the newly crowned king seemed tired on occasions and even, occasionally, a little frail although he is 4 years younger than I am.

So we came to the procession down from the Abbey to Buckingham Place in the Coronation coach in which Queen Victoria was said to refuse to travel becaus it was so uncomfortable. I must say that when the TV cameras focussed on it it seemed to jolt in every conceivable angle and is apparently unsprung. I would imagine that a ride in any distance would induce something akin to sea sickness so Charles and Camilla were probably sensible to travel to the Abbey Service in a more modern and air conditioned coach so that they did not spend two hours in the Abbey feeling queasy after the ride (although Queen Elizabeth managed it but did say how uncomfortable it was). The by now traditional fly-past ceremony when the royals were parading on the balcony of Buckingham Palace had to be curtailed because of the dangers posed by low cloud. So we had an initial flypast by some helicopters followed, almost immediately, by the Red Arrows and the red, white and blue streamers but the much more ambitious flypast by several other aircraft which constituted the ‘meat in the sandwich’ had to be abandoned because of the weather conditions.

After the disastrous election showing for the Tories, Rishi Sunak must have been counting his lucky stars that we had a Coronation today to delay much forensic examination of the results and then we have Sunday followed by a Bank Holiday in Monday so all of this may delay, or blunt, the effects of any post mortems. The Tories thought they might be quite clever in letting it be known that up to 1,000 seats might be at risk as part of a strategy of ‘expectation mamagement’ and then if only about 700 seats were lost then they claim the results were nowhere near as bad as predicted. But this strategy backfired as the actual results (1,061 seats lost) were even worse than their ‘worst possible’ scenario. The newspaper accounts seemed to confirm what was pretty obvious as the results unfolded that there was an unofficial tactical voting going on on the ground as people seem to be voting in any way that they could to ditch the Tories. This behaviour may well work very well in local elections but will probably not work as well when it comes to a general Election. As a prominent, left-of-centre journalist, Suzie Boniface explained ‘In local elections, you vote with your heart but in general elections, you vote with your head’ She subsequently explained how she often voted ‘Green’ in a local election but would never do so in a General Election because the Green candidate was most unlikely to win the constituency. These local elections cannot be taken as a very good guide to a General Election as people do vote differently when voting in a General Election.