Wednesday 10 May 2023

Pomp and Circumstance

 Thinking about a post today, it really had to be about the Coronation of King Charles III. It was spectacular and moving and intrigued me, as an historian. As I don't have a television - long story - I walked to the library where I watched it in the company of a number of library patrons and staff. We had two big screens, comfy seats and refreshments - which all added to the enjoyment. 

I'm sure a lot of people watching who are not history nerds found some of it puzzling - all the formalities with swords and orbs, the oaths and pledges of allegiance - but it all makes sense when you consider how far back a lot of the ceremony stretches. Often the new king would have won the throne in battle, he (and it was usually a he) would be one of a group of nobles, all with family ties, any one of whom might have had some claim to the throne themselves, or thought they had. The ceremony, in a religious setting in eras where religion was a much greater part of everyday life, would have all been designed to cement the monarch's position. Awe, solemnity, oaths -  trappings designed to emphasise that the king was more than simply one of the nobles. The fascinating thing is possibly that we are still doing so much of that many centuries later, and using artifacts that are hundreds of years old. 

Equally fascinating are the changes that have taken place since the last time the ceremony was performed. Seventy years ago the Second World War had ended less than a decade before, the country was still subject to food rationing, the NHS had only just been founded. Very few people had phones, televisions or cars. TV transmissions had only just been rolled out to the Cardiff area and all broadcasts were in black and white.  Of the ceremony itself , although it was a queen who was being crowned there would have been fewer women in evidence - and certainly not in official roles. It is a very different world now. I doubt if many people in 1953 would have believed the changes that would come. 

A glimpse of the past. One of the things that makes historical fiction so popular among readers?

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