I was, coincidentally, in England right after the death of Queen Elizabeth. It was a most strange and eerie time in the country. The nation was in mourning well after the nation was officially mourning, as it were. I happened to walk along the Mall to Buckingham Palace at night, when all the barricades were still up and the roads blocked off. Flowers were littering the roadway and the palace looked grey and vacant, sad and lost.
I was again in the United Kingdom for the Coronation of King Charles III — less coincidental, truthfully, since I always come over to the U.K. for father’s birthday and, this time, it happened to cross over with the coronation. As one monarch passes, the heir to the throne takes their rightful place in succession — a near seamless passing of the traditional gauntlet in these parts over hundreds of years.
And yet, it didn’t feel seamless, since Elizabeth had been the only monarch most of us ever knew — her passing felt like the death of a beloved Granny, and I know many, many people who were surprised by her death (she had looked so good the day before all made up in her pearls!). They grieved heavily at her passing.
This did not feel the same. Were people turning away from the monarchy, looking for change in all the right places? Was the universally half damp reaction to King Charles heralding a change in the importance and direction of the Royal Family? I did wonder.
I wandered into the tourist shop at the airport, hoping to find a nice Coronation mug for father. There was one available — a rather quiet one in a muted color. I found this a bit surprising. You could still find souvenirs of Queen Elizabeth and even the Prince and Princess of Wales; but for the Coronation that was happening just around the corner, there was very little. At least the cup was made in England, I thought to myself, as I forked out the 22 pounds at the cash till.
It became clear that Father very much wanted to watch the Coronation that was being televised from early to quite late on May 6. Sister said she would put it on the TV for a bit and I soon found myself absolutely riveted by the pomp and circumstance. The immaculately groomed and bedecked horses and carriages paraded out of the courtyards of Buckingham Palace and along the Mall, as regally as they ever did.
The King and Queen consort were escorted by the appropriate Guards in a gold carriage, a gift from the Silver Jubilee in 1977 apparently. Despite the drizzle, everything was bright and sparkly, the mood on the streets one of good humor and happiness. I had forgotten how well the English do these things.
At Westminster Abbey, heads of State, Kings, Queens, Prime Ministers and more were welcomed to the 1,000-year-old abbey. I enjoyed watching all the visitors who came to pay their country’s respects in all manner of shapes, colors and hats. The choir boys were as delightful as the gospel singers. It really was quite a fun party, wrapped in oodles of historical ceremony and delicious diversity.
The few minutes I had planned to spend watching the occasion quickly turned into hours. I missed the actual crowning of the King and had to revisit on Messers Google a bit later — but I have to say I really enjoyed watching the best of the British at work. I came away a little heartened by the wonderful procession and occasion that it might rather serve to solidify the relationship of the Royal Family with the world and remind all of us that theirs are wonderful and deeply established traditions that will be going nowhere in a hurry. I imagine I may yet see another Coronation in my lifetime! Who knows.
Of course, my most favorite part was the clinking, clanking and most beautifully dressed horses, especially the naughty greys. Of course, that’s always my favorite part.
Randomly, in other news, I got to visit some other gorgeous horses this week, as my inaugural visit to the Isle of Man Home for Old Horses was on the agenda. I had been wanting to visit this special place for some time. The rescue sanctuary was founded in the 1950s for retiring dram horses (shires) that were an important part of the Douglas promenade scene, as they pulled carts of tourists back and forth along the seafront.
These days, the home also embraces pit ponies and other equines in need of rescue. The lush meadows and wonderful staff made me so happy I had paid them a visit. I spent some money in their café and gift shop and fed carrots and apples to the old souls, including some very fun donkeys I would like to have shipped back to California. I shall return again soon, and most definitely over the holiday season when Christmas cards and other goodies can be purchased, and the home is bedecked with cheer.
In further Commonwealth news, father turned 94 this week and how amazing is that. We had a nice dinner out in his honor, we enjoyed tea and cake in the sun, and we will enjoy yet another favored cake on the actual day. I managed to find a nice china piece in a junk shop for him — the coronation of Edward VIII in 1937, when dad was only 8 years old. He was talking about that day only today — the third Coronation of his lifetime. I expect he will use it for his olive pips.
With all the horses I enjoyed observing, and birthdays and coronations that occurred this week, it has been a really wonderful few days.
“We are steeped in irony as a nation, and we wear our patriotism and loyalty privately and secretively. I love the way it bursts out for royal occasions. An extraordinary fluorescence, then it’s gone.” —Emma Bridgewater, Potter