Kind Hearts and Coronets

I think the king is but a man, as I am,
the violet smells to him as it doth to me

Regular readers of this column will know I do love a parade, and a bit of pomp and circumstance. So, no surprise that I was settled on my sofa on Saturday for a good part of the day, cup of best Yorkshire Tea and sliver of Victoria Sponge in hand, watching one of the most magnificent but bizarre ceremonies ever.

We do pomp in this country so much better than other nations do it. Lots of countries have their parades and their processions of floats, but ours are better. Why? Mainly because we take it all very seriously and yet not at all seriously, all at the same time. The Coronation was always going to be a slightly odd experience to watch though, after the exuberant bonkersness of the late Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, and the solemnity of her funeral (the image of Emma the pony and the head groom watching the coffin go by still gets me right in the feels).

To be honest, I was mainly there for the music – Handel’s Zadok the Priest was, as always, wonderful,  and I can never hear I Vow to Thee My Country without singing along – and the outfits. Pretty Yende, the South Africa soprano decked out like the finest Welsh daffodil  was breath-taking, Brigitte Macron a vision on understated elegant glamour. Liz Truss somehow managed to carry off an outfit that would have made me look like a giant carrot, and Rory Stewart was loving being able to play dress-up in the uniform of the Privy Councillor. Then we had Penny Mordaunt. Oh my. More on her later. Boris Johnson looked like the bumbling old uncle that you have to invite to the wedding but just wish he’d looked in a mirror before he left the house. It’s a monumental state occasion, is it too much to ask that he tidy his barnet up a bit, for the King & Queen?

The coronation paraphernalia all seemed to have some ridiculous names, but that was all part of what made Saturday. A 700-year-old chair,  a slab of Scottish stone, a spoon, holy oil in a bottle shaped like a golden eagle, a pair of spurs that belonged to a long-dead King, the Supertunica,  a single Coronation Glove and the Sword of State. In the end, it was all about a man fulfilling a role, officially, that he’d known all his life he was supposed to do, but who knew that he would have to have lost his mother in order to do so.

It was bonkers, it was irrelevant to a great many people, it was costly, so, so costly, but it was British. It was what we do. I really loved the fact that there was so much historical flimflam, in one of the Church of England’s most magnificent churches, coupled with  representatives from so many different faiths.  And, the moment when 4,000 service personnel set off to match to the palace in unison was actually quite something. You could see the Master at Arms counting it down and then they all moved, like clockwork. Better than clockwork. It was perfect.

As were the divine Penny’s arms. She may have a had a halter thingy to help but carrying that sword – it weighs 3.2kg – for that long, at right angles without wobbling makes her my new girl-crush. Apparently, she’d been doing press-ups for months – she must have biceps of steel by now. Mordaunt may have lost out twice in the race to be Prime Minister, but do any of us remember Rishi Sunak’s reading? Saturday could well have been part one of her audition to be next Leader of the Opposition post-general election.

Right, I’m off to the gym to get me some of those Penny arms.

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About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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