Peter Rhodes on a 'low-key' birthday, a 'modest' Coronation and why smartphones depressed the Queen
You may remember that after the late Queen's death, King Charles let it be known that his Coronation would be less grand than his mother's 1953 Coronation. I seem to recall we all swallowed this line.
One royal source told the Daily Mirror that “His Majesty is very attuned to the public mood on these things and has always had an instinctive aversion to pomp in the wrong circumstance.” Even the Guardian was moved to comment on “the king’s reported preference for a more modest ceremony.”
Well, that didn't last long, did it? Having been briefed to expect a Poundland sort of event, the nation was treated to the full pomp-and-circumstance shebang from the massed bands of what remains of the British Army to the gold state coach and the RAF flypast. How much did it all cost? No-one knows. The Palace and Whitehall have been remarkably vague about the budget but estimates range from £50 million to £100 million. By way of comparison, the Queen's 1953 Coronation cost £912,000 – that's about £20.5m in today's money.
The moral? Be aware that when King Charles and his courtiers use the word “modest,” large bills may follow.
I merely mention this because, according to the latest crop of Palace leaks, the King has “vetoed any major public celebration” for his 75th birthday in November and decided his own celebrations should be “minimal and family-orientated.” Bring on the Red Arrows?
Still on the Windsors, according to a private conversation, the late Queen found the spread of mobile phones depressing. She adored looking out on a crowd of smiling faces. But in the digital age the crowd became a sea of mobiles and she missed the eye contact. It also struck me during the Jubilee celebrations that a forest of extended arms looked more like Munich 1936 than Windsor 2022.
But the battle for mobile-phone etiquette has been lost. At a pilgrimage to Ypres a dozen years ago, I attended the evening ceremony when buglers sound The Last Post beneath the Menin Gate. An official reminded the crowd that this was a sacred ceremony and asked them to put away their mobiles and other devices. They snapped away, heartless and regardless.