Camilla, the Queen Consort, will not wear the crown inherited from Queen Victoria at the coronation ceremony
“O Bachchoo why rely on saints
To perform miracles and prove
That there’s a place of no complaints
With life in an eternal groove?
Isn’t it sufficient that seeds
Can turn mud into mighty oaks
The miracle of this world needs
No outer supernatural hoax!
From The Appetite of Jam Joe G, by Bachchoo
I thought I knew most older English words. I must admit I stumble over the ones invented in the social media age. I’ve just about learnt what a Gif or a Meem is (It’s spelt “meme”, you fool --Ed), and I always thought emoji was an old Parsi gentleman’s name.
But I come across the word “flummery” now to describe the preparations for King Charles’ coronation in May, the preparations for which are even now proceeding with announcements from Buckingham Palace to the media about these, often ousting the news about austerity measures, the transgender debate, Hedgie Sunak’s compromises in government, the crisis in the National Health Service, the outrageous increases in the mortgage payments of people who can’t afford them, the strikes of lower-paid essential workers such as nurses and ambulance-personnel….
Why then, gentle reader, are you about to be imposed upon with news of just such preparations for the coronation instead of developments and issues listed and not listed above? Let this columnist attempt a simple excuse. The progress of preparations for this coronation is a sort of resume of what this great British nation -- “This royal throne of kings, this sceptered isle, This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars, This other Eden, demi-paradise, This fortress built by Nature for herself against infection and the hand of war, This happy breed of men, this little world, This precious stone set in the silver sea, Which serves it in the office of a wall… Or as a moat defensive to a house, Against the envy of less happier lands… This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England” -- thinks of itself or is. (Long bloody Shakespeare quote, is it really needed? --Ed. Wow, you recognised it??? Shabaash yaar... Yes, please keep it in. --fd)
You see, merey jaan, there is a concerted movement to redefine British history.
For years now, the presence of Caribbean and African immigrants in this country, some of whom have deservedly climbed into the British meritocracy, has generated demands for the redefinition of colonial history. One of the mildest forms this demand takes is that an autumn month in British schools is declared “Black History Month” and that teachers are encouraged to deal in a “progressive”, if not totally woke, way with the story of slavery, of black resistance and of the black contributions to culture, past and present. Good stuff, mostly.
Then, in the past few years, there is the revolt of Harry Windsor, Duke of Sussex, and his wife Meghan Markle, who have launched several tirades against the “racist” monarchy. I won’t repeat their accusations about someone in the family enquiring about the colour of their children.
Bo-oring! But I will note that the palace and the royal family, while not directly refuting the claim or the accusation, have certainly made attempts to demonstrate that the royal establishment (I won’t call them the “monarchy” as I believe that ended when Cromwell chopped off Charles Stuart’s head) is not racist but modern and contemporary.
In keeping with that ideological conceit, on inheriting the throne from his mother, Charles III announced that his coronation would be a multi-faith, multi-cultural affair. There were even some reports that it would be a toned-down simple ceremony. No pomp, no circumstance, no flummery. When that was first announced, I thought: “Fair enough”.
But then another traditional tide of the British identity began to assert itself. Brits will reject the label, but I identify it very clearly as British tribalism. So what… the flip is “flummery”?
Press reports said: “Modernisers in his court wanted him to cut through the pomp and flummery…” The Collins dictionary doesn’t define the word but the Internet tells me that it’s an elaborate pudding. So that’s a metaphor, but King Charles III has rejected the advice to avoid it and has now clearly made a choice to celebrate his coronation with elaborate flummery in order to assert the popular nationalistic “tribalism” of this realm. He has even insisted on a ceremonial dating back to 1377 called a Court of Claims. It involves people at his coronation carrying out rituals in possession of spurs, swords and hammers. These celebrants must prove that their ancestors did the same.
So, the coronation will be “flummeried” with televised oil anointing, military parades, multi-faith prayers and the whole shebang will be put online.
The coronation announcement which I find significant is that Camilla, the Queen Consort, will not wear the crown inherited from Queen Victoria at the ceremony. This crown contains the Kohinoor diamond. She will instead be crowned with a re-sized head-fit of the crown of Queen Mary, the wife of George V.
The announcement doesn’t say that this may be due to the curse that the Kohinoor diamond carries with it. The decision, the palace says, is owing to the sensibility about the ownership of the Kohinoor. Indians may be offended if the Kohinoor, which rightfully belongs to it, is used in an imperial ceremony of ownership and tribal triumph. Is Shashi Tharoor watching?