Westminster Abbey. The place where history is made. Last week we got to witness the coronation. Oh, the gowns, the jewels, the clerical robes, military uniforms with epaulettes, plumes and swords.
It was a meticulously planned event, and although we might not completely grasp it, we can appreciate the traditions rarely seen elsewhere in modern life.
The Sword of State. Penny Mordaunt is not exactly an American household name, but maybe she should be. The woman is a British politician and leader of the House of Commons who carried the eight-pound jeweled sword during the coronation for 51 minutes, in a cape and headgear that made her look like a queen from medieval days. The sword was held in front of her body, which would be as heavy as holding a gallon of milk in that position for almost an hour. While walking or standing. In high heels! She became an internet sensation.
Queen Elizabeth II was crowned in 1953, representing youthful hope after the ravages of World War II. King Charles III is the oldest monarch to ever be crowned, as political and financial tensions ramp up around the world. Elizabeth was a young mother and rather mysterious, while Charles is a grandfather with a complicated past. A stark contrast. Elizabeth became queen of a largely enthralled and sprawling empire, while Charles inherited a diminishing commonwealth of nations and many skeptical subjects wondering the very need for a monarchy. Times have changed.
Americans. We cannot quite come to terms with the spectacle of what just transpired in England, but my British family points out that a coronation is a once-in-a-lifetime event of pride and a celebration of heritage. A moment in history. With almost a surreal display of a decorous pageantry inimitably crafted by one of the world’s oldest monarchies, it seemed “otherworldly.”
Much of the coronation news coverage in America has been mildly incredulous (why did tens of thousands of Brits stand for hours happily out in the rain waiting to wave at a golden carriage?) to affectionately mocking (why in God’s name would the Brits spend so much money on such a spectacle?). Perhaps the crowning of a new king is what we Americans will never quite wrap our minds around. But let’s not forget that the United Kingdom is a glorious and ancient nation where things happen that simply could not happen anywhere else.
After the solemn ceremony of crowning a new king, there were community get-togethers across the United Kingdom, known as the “big lunch.” Thousands of these luncheons, street, pub and garden parties were part of a very British tradition of uniting neighbors while honoring a new monarchy. Over a million people around the world baked the “King and Queen’s Coronation Quiche,” a recipe that went viral in time for the big lunch.
Perhaps the closest thing to unity and patriotic celebration that we Americans have occurs on July 4, when we come together to simply show our love for our country. Parades, picnics and flags flying leave politics behind and place country pride at the forefront. No crown required.