Coronation musings

One day when I was in primary school, back in the mid-1970s, we were all loaded on to buses and taken to the cinema, which was a pretty big deal, since such extracurricular excitement was a rare event in those days. The film we saw was A Queen Is Crowned, the 1953 documentary of the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II. Presented in glorious Technicolor, and narrated by Laurence Olivier no less, it was quite a spectacle, and must have been even more impressive when it was first released to a nation only just emerging from postwar austerity. I’m not sure why we were taken to see it; the obvious reason would be the Silver Jubilee of 1977, but I’m fairly sure this trip was a couple of years before that. Anyway, whatever the occasion, Liz’s big day was clearly grand enough, even at second hand, that I can recall it nearly half a century later.

There has been plenty of comment over the last few weeks noting the contrast between the forward-looking, vibrant country which welcomed a modern young Queen, and the insular, sclerotic nation, obsessed with past glories, that her elderly son has inherited. There’s no doubt that the excitement that greeted Elizabeth’s ascension has not been replicated; popular reaction to today’s events has predominantly been one of indifference. Even staunch republicans like myself are mostly irritated rather than outraged, and we’re not complaining about the extra holiday on Monday.

The gloominess may be overstated though, and it is probably confined to observers of my generation, who are looking back on their lives with vague regret. Younger citizens, who still have a future ahead of them, see a Britain that, for all its troubles, is infinitely more diverse and socially progressive than it was in the 1950s. The fact that we are no longer psychologically in thrall to the monarchy is sign of how far the nation has come. We probably won’t have to wait 70 years for another coronation, but I’m sure that next time around it will be even more of a minority interest.

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