Even the Republican Catholic Sinn Fein Party is participating with their leader Michelle O’Neill in the Northern Ireland Assembly joining in
May Day! May Day!’ is supposed to be a distress signal at sea. May Day falling on the first of the month is also an international holiday. But for Londoners it is a bank holiday which gives us a long weekend. And this year it means we will have an extra day to prepare for the coronation.
Right now we have news of nothing but the splendour and the details of the coronation. It is billed as the most racially diverse gathering to reflect the way the country changed in its post imperial days. So instead of just the Anglican Church ceremony, we have many religions represented — Hindu, Sikh, Muslim, Jewish. Each person representing a religion will carry something symbolic in the procession. This is very much reflective of the new King’s desire to be inclusive.
This is also the first time women are getting more prominence. Holding the queen consort Camilla’s rod will be Baroness Helena Kennedy who is well known as a formidable human rights lawyer and as a Labour peer. A surprising participant as will be Floella Benjamin who was popular as a presenter in the children’s favourite TV programmes. As a prominent Black member of the Liberal Democratic Party, Baroness Benjamin will carry Camilla’s sceptre with dove. The ceremonial sword of offering will be carried for the first time by a woman army officer Amy Taylor.
In a gesture of solidarity, even the Republican Catholic Sinn Fein Party is participating with their leader Michelle O’Neill in the Northern Ireland Assembly joining in. Sinn Fein has thus far not let its MPs sit in the House of Commons even after winning their seats because MPs have to swear an oath (or affirm if you are not religious) to serve the monarch. They never acknowledge the primacy of the English monarch over Ireland. This is the first time in 200 years they are participating.
During the reign of Queen Elizabeth, the four regions of United Kingdom have become semi-independent. Scotland now has, of course, a leader in its parliament — a Muslim of Pakistani parentage. But even here the normal rivalries between Scotland and England are suspended as a large and historic stone weighing several kilos will be brought in for the occasion. The stone of Scone (pronounced scoon) has been part of the ceremony of the coronation of the English king since the early 14th century. Back in the 1950s the stone was stolen away by Scottish nationalists since the separate identity of Scotland was not granted. Now Scotland has its own parliament — and somehow peace and sweet friendship will prevail.
As a gesture of celebration, someone has made a statue of King Charles the Third from a variety of chocolates. The likeness is uncanny but shows that a chocolate sculpture can be beautiful. How long it will last past the ceremony is anyone’s guess. There are also statues of the queen consort at Madame Tussaud’s ready for exhibition. A statue of Charles has been there for ages but Camilla becomes a proper royal now. It is rare for a divorcee and a second wife to be queen. But we live in enlightened times.
Even so, Charles’s troubles are not over. The Guardian has just revealed that his grandmother Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother as used to be) came from a family which had owned slaves in the 17th century. This was not even in Britain. The original slave owners were in Virginia before the US became independent. Then the family returned to Britain in 1721. Even so, sins of the great-great-grandfathers are about to hit Charles (probably post-coronation if he is lucky) and no doubt the Republicans will be agog with indignation. But then they also need some consolation when everyone else is celebrating the new king.
As to the non-royal news, we continue to have strikes — of NHS, teachers and even head teachers, transport workers. Ministers keep getting into trouble. Dominic Raab who was Deputy Prime Minister and used to be foreign secretary has had to resign because he had upset some civil servants in his department and they complained about his rudeness. But at least Rishi Sunak himself has lasted more than six months as Prime Minister, though some of his ministers have not been as fortunate.
Now the chairman of the BBC has resigned. The charge against him is somewhat subtle. He was appointed, of course, by Boris Johnson. He was also during the past someone Rishi Sunak had worked with during his stint at Goldman Sachs. His only fault was that he had been a guarantor for a loan someone had given to Boris but not revealed this fact voluntarily during his interview. Being a guarantor was not wrong but not telling about it was. So Boris goes on making waves even after his departure.
Now let’s see what he manages to do at the coronation…