Save articles for later
Add articles to your saved list and come back to them any time.
London: As historic soap operas go, the state occasions of the royal family have a tendency to go badly. Edward V vanished before he could be crowned, most likely bumped off by Uncle Dickie. Lady Jane Grey turned up for her coronation, but was locked in shackles and executed instead. And Edward VIII abdicated before they could even lock in a date.
The fact that Charles and Camilla turned up to Westminster Abbey alive and with all four limbs intact is a miracle in itself. Which is not to imply that the day was without the requisite moments of heraldic absurdity, just that by the Windsor Scale of Weirdness, things actually went rather well.
Backstage, you can imagine them all dressing in the dim light of Buckingham Palace. The frugality of the late queen prompted her to order low-wattage bulbs in the lamps to keep the electricity bill down, forcing everyone’s favourite failed royal, Fergie, to famously keep a 100-watt bulb in a drawer in case she needed to read or find a half-finished glass of champagne in the half-light.
What followed was an exercise in public relations intended to set the stage for the next generation of the House of Windsor, with the emphasis on King Charles III, Queen Camilla, and the Prince and Princess of Wales. But the mosaic of the royal family is complicated, thanks to a pantheon of lesser royals notable for more than just convoluted titles, dubious job descriptions, big hair and impressive dental overdevelopment.
With storm clouds gathering over the palace the evening before – the weather report promised damp, with soggy periods – there was a split second between rumbles of thunder. And through the drizzle, they came: the Windsors-at-large, led by Prince Andrew swirling in his garter robes, relieved that his formal de-frocking by Prince Charles – “No military uniform, Andy!” Charles shrieked – was not as entire as he’d feared. No official role, but still allowed to play dress-ups. What a relief it must have been.
Why isn’t anyone talking to me? Prince Harry, adrift in a sea of indifferent relatives.Credit: Getty
Prince Harry, exiled to a nine-bedroom, 16-bathroom maisonette in the celebrity slums of Montecito, California, came, too, cutting a lonely figure seated between his cousin’s untitled husband, Jack Brooksbank, who spoke to him, and Princess Alexandra, who pointedly did not.
Watching, you felt acute pain for Harry. Invited, attending alone and with hardly anybody talking to him. Even Princess Alexandra didn’t have the energy to voice her disapproval. Either that, or she was asleep, which is entirely possible, particularly as the coronation glided into its dirge-like middle third. (Note to self: email the palace with suggested cuts for the DVD.)
And Princess Michael of Kent, the “and Joan Collins as Alexis” of the royal family’s imaginary opening title sequence, complete with an enormous hat, freshly shot royal plumage, and the kind of withering glance that could skin a footman at 40 paces. Compared to her, the young royal scandal-magnets are mere essays in the craft.
Princess Michael is first among equals among the demi-royals. The Queen, according to a delicious rumour, used to call her Our Val, Val being short for Valkyrie, a nod to her formidable height, her forceful personality and her glacial way of reminding you just how talented she is.
Still, she can take some comfort that she got invited to the coronation at all. Meg scored a ticket, but then had the good sense to decline. Fergie, Andrew’s ex-wife and Budgie the Little Helicopter author, didn’t even get one. Not that that seemed to bother her too much.
Huffing and puffing her way onto British morning television this week, Fergie said one “must not sit on the fence. You’re either in or out, don’t muck around”. And if that isn’t a shot fired across the bow of the still-hovering-in-the-palace-doorway Sussexes, you don’t know how soap operas work.
As pantomimes go, Camillalocks and the Three Crowns was a doozy. There were magical swords with names like the Bladely Chambersword of Azkaban, sweeping trains made out of animals so exotic nobody remembers their names, and glittery crowns festooned with jewels.
Shrewdly, as though the King was trying to avoid a culture war erupting while a couple of billion people around the world were watching, the controversial 105.6-carat Koh-i-Noor diamond was shrewdly left in the Tower of London. It has historically adorned the crowns of queens consort, as if Camilla wasn’t coming to the gig with enough baggage already.
Well, at any rate it kept out the rain. Spain’s King Felipe and Queen Letizia attend the coronation.Credit: Jamie Lorriman/Pool Photo via AP
Meanwhile, Zadok the Priest blasted from the orchestra and the spectral hand of God all but reached down into proceedings. The only thing that missing was the Archbishop of Canterbury opening his monologue with the word “Mawiage …” Now, that would have been an Oscar-winning moment.
In commonsense terms, it was ludicrous but in television terms, it was riveting. It’s difficult to explain how something so unexpectedly flimsy – two old folks, a couple of glittery hats and countless trumpets – can be transformed into something so compelling. Like bin fires and car accidents, royal families are strangely mesmerising.
Maybe it’s because we’re easily hypnotised. Maybe it’s because we’re simple. Or maybe it’s because, in a broken and increasingly miserable world, the secular alternatives on offer are the Trumps, the Kardashians, the Real Housewives and the cast of Toddlers & Tiaras.
In the face of those options, you’d take the Windsors any day of the week.
Get a note directly from our foreign correspondents on what’s making headlines around the world. Sign up for the weekly What in the World newsletter here.
Most Viewed in World
From our partners
Source: Read Full Article