Many stories begin with ‘Once upon a time.’ Once upon a time, there was a princess who became a queen. When Queen Elizabeth died in 2022, the world was licensed to weep for the longest-reigning Monarch in history. Seven decades after her coronation, a new Carolean era began. The life of a royal is about duty. When King Charles said, “I am here to serve, not to be served,” one could sense his allegiance in the moving Anglican ceremony. Now armed with gravitas and power, the notables in Westminster Abbey bowed and curtsied as he descended the long Gothic aisle.
At long last, the Prince of Wales was crowned King of England. It was a day of bunting, brollies, coronation quiche, and inclement weather, with many drops from heaven paying a visit. They dampened our clothes but not our spirits. Having been invited by one of the King’s royal patrons, I knew that coffee was out of the question when I saw the invitation in my inbox early one morning. The nervous excitement in my belly signaled the coronation countdown, which was my caffeine high. It stated Row W, Seat 28, in the Grandstand across from the palace. Yes, Buckingham Palace. Surprisingly, three rows from Zee (or Zed, as the Brits would say) gave me a Birdseye view of the elaborate pageantry. I couldn’t have been more excited to witness history and attend not only as a guest of the royal patronage but also as a Royal Correspondent for Haute Living San Francisco.
Civility and the British go hand-in-hand. As the rain began, coronation officials handed out full-length clear ponchos for protection. I wasn’t going to let a little rain dampen history. When the crowds thinned out, I abandoned my seat for one up close – a very American gesture. It may have been a bold move, but no one was dislodged or seemed to notice but me.
My Golden Ticket
The service, which included four wardrobe changes for the King, was solemn and sacred. Spellbinding and joyful music signaled his passion for culture. A highlight was Handel’s ‘The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba’ from Solomon, who was known for her visit to King Solomon to witness his wisdom. In the King’s words: “All the time I feel I must justify my existence.” It was the perfect metaphor for his own path to wisdom.
As for flag-waving moments, there were many. With little doubt, historians will look back on this 21st-century ceremony for its inclusiveness, multicultural and multilingual rituals, both mesmerizing and mysterious. Legions of royal fans along the Mall (London’s primary ceremonial road) were staked out for the best seats and views. The ‘jewel in the crown’ was the scarlet-themed lavish pre-show military extravaganza with 4,000 members of the United Kingdom Armed Forces. From mounted escorts and golden carriages to a slimmed-down family balcony appearance plus a thunderous gun salute flyover, it was a fitting tribute and a privilege to be invited into history. For that reason, I chanted with the crowds, “God Save the King!” It was also a golden moment to witness the King and Queen ride back to Buckingham Palace in the Gold State Coach built in 1760. They were equipped with hot water bottles and the warm cheers of a nation.
The King’s Royal Cypher: Charles Rex
The Cambridge-educated King was once a member of a drama society; he’s now front and center on the global stage. Famous for his impatience, it’s ironic that he was forced to wait 70 years to take his vows as Sovereign and 37 years to wed his first love. Country girl Camilla Shand has gone from Queen Consort to Queen Camilla in record time. She looked relaxed on the throne many years and crises later. The queen is not a material girl. Her coronation gown was not Met Ball worthy, but she owned up to her sense of modernity: images of her canine rescues, Bluebell and Beth, were embroidered on her coronation gown.
The Family Wales makes their way back to Buckingham Palace
Heads of state and royalty descended upon London from around the world. They put their best heels forward and stood out in a sea of polite pastels. At the city’s finest hotels, they stayed: Prince Albert and Princess Charlene of Monaco at The Ritz; Crown Prince Akishino and Crown Princess Kiko of Japan at Claridge’s; Spain’s King Felipe VI and Queen Letizia resided at the Spanish Embassy in Belgrave Square; and the Jordanian royals King Abdullah II and Queen Raina at The Goring. The Goring, a family-run hotel in Belgravia known for its impeccable service and discretion, paid tribute to His Majesty with a special coronation menu inspired by his passion for organic foods. When my husband and I hosted a dinner at The Goring in 2016 for the Chairman of Halcyon Days, Pamela Harper, and her husband, Dr. Peter Harper, there was over a Century of hospitality that stood out and was impossibly British: impressive yet modest.
Taking my seat in The Coronation Grandstands with Pamela Harper, Chairman of Halcyon Days
Who’s Who in the Pews.
The Prince and Princess of Wales dressed to impress, but My Fair Kate and Princess Charlotte stole the show. The ‘fab five’ were front and center, but the young royals charmed the world, especially Prince Louis, the spitting image of his grandfather Michael Middleton, holding court on the ‘Buck’ Palace balcony. Prince George, the next but one in line and one of his grandfather’s Pages, was often seen biting his lip, perhaps wondering when his destiny would come. Princess Anne rode in on horseback to her brother’s rescue and served as her nephew’s point guard in the Abbey. Prince Harry needed a shave, but he was blocked by the princess royal’s feather plume fascinator, which stood tall. As for Harry…he came, he saw, and like his cameo appearance, he departed. Both Princes Andrew and Harry were present but signaled the past.
My View of The Loyal Royal, Princess Anne
Archbishop Justin Welby said of the Monarch: “He will come before God knowing that the task is difficult because he has human frailties and vulnerabilities.” His processional Cross of Wales embodied a relic of the True Cross used in Jesus Christ’s crucifixion. It was a gift from Pope Francis to His Majesty and will be shared between the Anglican and Catholic churches in Wales. Fittingly, words from the 6th Century Welsh Bishop, Saint David, are engraved on the cross: “Be joyful. Keep the faith. Do the little things.”
Holy Land Lineage.
The newly crowned King has been called a ‘royal mensch’ because of his Holy Land pilgrimages. His paternal grandmother, Princess Alice of Battenberg, was an Orthodox nun who was born in Windsor Castle and buried at St. Mary Magdalene in Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives, Jerusalem (the site where Christ was arrested before his crucifixion). Having visited this sacred part of Christianity last spring, knowing that the anointing oil was harvested from his grandmother’s final resting place in the most sacred part of the coronation ceremony was astonishing. Shrouded by a screen in plain sight, it was a moment when Charles stopped being King: he was stripped bare in his shirt to pray to the Lord and ask Him to help prepare for his role as Sovereign.
Iconography Runs through It.
On coronation day, a YouTube crash course was needed on ceremonial symbolism. I’m still in a Google state of mind from the vestments, swords, orbs, emblems, regalia, insignias, crowns, and gowns. To some, it might appear as folderol, but coronation traditions can be traced back 1,000 years, and the Brits are masters of pageantry. Especially impressive is how they queue, even in densely packed crowds. As an Officer in the Order of St John, a British order of chivalry founded by Queen Victoria in 1888, I was thrilled to meet so many volunteers from the St John Ambulance Corps with the Maltese Cross emblem (one I knew), the international sign for first aid. Over 300 were on hand to provide first aid to the throngs.
Order of St John Ambulance Volunteers
While it may be difficult to change the British diet of Yorkshire pudding and roast beef, here’s the dirt: the King has advocated for healthy living long before it was a movement. He was holding down a day job at the palace, but his passion project became a successful business. He built an organic food brand called Duchy Originals, which later sold to the Waitrose supermarket chain. Initially, to market produce from his farm, it has since grown into one of the largest brands in the UK, earning over four million pounds annually with all proceeds donated to charitable causes.
The King is also a defender of the planet, advocating for environmental causes. He has been called an environmental activist because of his commitment to improving the natural world. He uses electric vehicles and solar panels on his estates. His prized Aston Martin has been modified to run on bioethanol derived from fermented cheese whey. The King’s eco-wakening will play a role in his ongoing support of sustainability.
The King and I.
In 2021 when he was still Prince of Wales, I attended a dinner at Windsor Castle for The Royal Drawing School. HRH was affable and charming and said in his notable accent: “My dear, it’s so brave of you to come to Europe during Covid.”
“Your Royal Highness,” I replied, “this is the most fun I’ve had in years.” Until May 6, 2023.
All Stories Come to an End.
The end of one very long chapter for His Majesty King Charles is just the beginning of a marriage between God and the throne. Like his mother before him, he must execute the Holy Commandments, which he swore an oath to. While he takes on the burdens of a ruling nation, he does so without making laws which is a great privilege but also a great burden. It won’t be without significant effort, but it is one that he has had ample time to prepare for. Now as the defender of the faith, he crossed the finish line to take hold of the reins. Long May He Live. Long May He Reign.
The King and I