Minding the Gaps

The author and his wife at Coronation of King Charles III

Professor Joe Goldblatt

Just like King Charles III, I know how to make a big entrance at a major event.  When my wife and I arrived at Buckingham Palace to view the Coronation processions featuring over 4000 troops and hundreds of horses I immediately took my seat.  Actually, first, the wind accidentally and forcefully flipped up l the back side of my kilt with it and causing a young woman seated  behind me to loudly shriek in horror.  I quickly apologised and managed to control it again until after the final singing of “God Save the King”.

My accident was the only malfunction in a day of perfectly seamless pageantry.  Prior to the processions around the fountain at Buckingham Palace the “Voice of God” announcer reminded the thousands assembled along the Mall and in the bleachers that horses are easily spooked and therefore we should refrain from waving our flags or using loud hailers so as not to upset our equine friends. 

4000 troops entered the the oval in front of Buckingham Palace I was amazed by the variety of the uniforms, the armoury, and the precision movements of the men and women of our armed forces.  The organisers kindly provided a simultaneous live audio feed of the Westminster Abbey ceremony so as Scotland’s revered Black Watch entered the oval I also heard “The Lord’s Prayer” being recited from the Abbey.  The juxtaposition between the defence forces and a prayer for peace was a moment I shall remember for the rest of my life as I witnessed by eye and ear our daily freedoms held in the balance by faith.

The Royal family departed their Palace precisely on time to attend the Coronation at the nearby Abbey.  The King and Queen Consort were among the first to depart in their coach drawn by six horses and received loud and long cheers from the spectators.  Other members of the Royal family followed in more conventional automobiles.

I was particularly impressed by the youthfulness of my fellow audience members.  The median age appeared to be under 40 and I suppose this is because the King had invited his guests based upon their devotion to public service.  However, the larger lot that lined the Mall, often camping overnight in hundreds of small tents, were mostly young folks and not the traditional silver haired royalists I had experienced in the past.  Perhaps this indicates that just as in the Royal family itself, succession planning is working within the supporters of this institution.

During the Abbey service the entire nation was asked to show their support of the new King by reciting an oath.  I was surprised and even startled by how forcefully positive the reply was to this request from not only those seated in around me, as well as from the voices of the audio feed, and seemingly most of the nation, commonwealth, and even former empire.     

When the Royal family returned to the Palace from the Abbey this time the golden State Coach was driven by eight white horses and the King and Queen seemed very comfortable despite the reported discomfort of this eighteenth century vehicle.  However, my favourite moment of the return procession was when the Duke and Duchess of Wales and their young family followed the State coach in their own horse drawn vehicle.

HRH Princess Charlotte was seated beside the coach window nearest where I was observing the procession.  Although only eight years of age, she was genuinely enjoying  herself and just like her mother, grandmother, and all those who have come before her enthusiastically smiled and provided a Royal wave to onlookers.  As I watched this child performing her duty so early in her life I wondered what she might remember from this day when her grandfather became a King?  I am certain one memory will be the warm reception she and her family received from those assembled to celebrate this historic event and wish her family well.

As the Royal family and troops disappeared through the giant Palace gates the announcer helpfully reminded us that in 45 minutes the family would appear on the balcony and thanked us for our patience.  As the rain turned from a smirr (gentle rain) to a stoating (bounce) our fellow guests demonstrating polite stoicism as they waited for what would be yet another historic event.

If there was any doubt that there is a demand for the Royal family now and perhaps for the future, it was dispelled when the Met Police carefully allowed the spectators from the Mall to enter the Buckingham Palace oval and confidently walked toward the giant gates.  Tens of thousands of people, mostly thirty and forty somethings with many young children, moved forward and without incident began to wave their flags and await the appearance of the King, Queen and Royal family upon the storied balcony high atop the Palace façade.

The white doors onto the balcony opened dramatically and two crowned figures soon appeared followed by companions, pages and family members and a further deafening roar rose up from the crowd below.  Soon, multiple helicopters hovered overhead causing the ground to rumble and then in the blink of an eye the famed Red Arrows painted the sky red, white and blue as the Royal family and their guests raised their heads in silent admiration.

As the Royal family bid their admirer’s adieu and returned to within the palace we made our way to nearest tube stop.  Once again, the crowd control, wayfinding signs, comfort stations and other amenities confidently  demonstrated that the organisers had succeeded in creating a positive and memorable experience for thousands of attendees. 

Upon entering the tube station I was surprised to hear the King’s actual voice coming from the tannoy telling me “I hope you enjoy the Coronation weekend and please do mind the gaps.”  In my view, there were no visible gaps in the planning and delivery of this historic event and in fact, having studied planned events for over sixty years, in my view, this one will be remembered for its overall success and achievement in both honouring historic tradition as well as expanding the narrative through a focus upon greater inclusion for all.  In this regard, there was a conscientious attempt, at least for this one special day, to close as many previous gaps as possible.

Professor Joe Goldblatt is Emeritus Professor of Planned Events Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh.  His views are his own.  To learn more about his views visit www.joegoldblatt.scot

The Scotsman version of this article may be viewed at https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/columnists/king-charles-coronation-this-historic-occasion-saw-a-new-focus-on-greater-inclusion-for-all-professor-joe-goldblatt-4134484

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