Peter Rhodes on quarrelling clerics, ancient measures and a Royal ring that didn't fit

That's it for a while. I'm off on holiday to Glastonbury and Devon. Normal service will resume on Monday, June 13 so until then, behave yourselves.

Queen Victoria – great reign, shame about the Coronation
Queen Victoria – great reign, shame about the Coronation

And, of course, enjoy the Platinum Jubilee celebrations. It's amazing how, time after time, Britain stages the most perfect national events from Trooping the Colour to opening Parliament, and the dazzling succession of royal jubilees. It must be a comfort to the organisers to know that even if something goes wrong, it's never going to be quite as bad as Queen Victoria's shambolic coronation in June 1838.

Back then, according to Charles Greville, clerk of the Privy Council: “The different actors in the ceremonial were very imperfect in their parts and had neglected to rehearse them.” The Queen looked “diminutive,” the procession was “too crowded” and “nobody knew what was to be done except the Archbishop and . . .the Queen never knew what she was to do next.” When the sacred orb was handed to her, Victoria asked: “What am I to do with it?” Finally, the coronation ruby ring was so small that it had to be forced on the monarch's finger “but it hurt her very much.” Victoria later had to bathe it in iced water to get the ring off. Apart from that, a perfect day.

Despite all the above, Greville began his notes with: “The Coronation (which, thank God, is over) went off very well.”

The religious programme Sunday (Radio 4) introduced us to two American clerics. Same religion, same Bible, same sacraments. And yet one is fiercely in favour of gun control while the other sees gun ownership and self-defence as a sacred gift from God. If the priests can't agree, what hope for the politicians?

Just as Britain was never a proper member of the European Union, so we never really shook off our Imperial measures. Nobody knows how large a hectare is or what size is a four-kilogram baby (it's a whopper, since you ask). So when Boris Johnson promises to revive our old measures, he is probably pushing at an open door.

That's a standard four-cubit door, open by about one-twelfth part of a peppercorn. Don't worry, kids, you'll get the hang of it in no time.

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